A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—
providing exceptional authors with exposure
and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

“I do have a choice. I won’t be swapped against my will. I decide whom I get and who gets me.”

Serialization Sunday – The Flick: Chapter 22

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.  Our first novel, the taut thriller City of Human Remainscan be found in full here

Our second novel, Hoodoo, tells a story of visionaries, heretics and lunatics in Utah, centered on a 12-year-old girl who believes that God wants her to have an affair with her guidance counselor, can be found in full here.

Our current novel, The Flick, is the correspondence between a legendary porn star of the 90′s and the girl who got away – and kept going.  Read previous chapters here.

Letter XXII

November 12, 1990

Dear Die:

I have been overcome with fear lately.  My upcoming confrontation with Galen Weiss fills me with trepidation. But I haven’t altered my plans.

Why do I continue?  By picking this fight, perhaps I will learn something and transform myself, or transform others.  Or have I picked this fight because it is a fight I hope to lose?

Can it be that I am using the powerful rhetorical weapons now at my disposal to rationalize away the truth?  What is the truth?  Is it like obscenity?  Do we know it when we see it?

Right now, I’m lying on the antique four poster we found in Lovehollow, an island of timelessness on which we lost ourselves so many nights and mornings and afternoons.  The canopy still bears a mahogany chip, the scar left by the champagne cork you so recklessly aimed on the eve of 1986.

Knowing your obsessive drive to portray only that which is true, I have tried to reach back in my mind, to plumb the recesses of my memories.  Since we have been apart, I have longed to return to the past, to relive it, to correct my old mistakes.  Especially one.

I find little fragments of moments, scattered in the darkness between synapses.  The more I reach into the darkness, the more the darkness seems as important as the little fragments.  In this bed, this museum piece of our past, I feel the accretion of past and future incidents with equal measure, the sequence being irrelevant in the darkness.  Fragments of past and future gather into the intervening darkness until the aggregation culminates in my death.

I am reaching into a void where time does not exist, to retrieve old moments.  I inhabit these old moments to find the truth for you, but while I am there, in the past, temptations overwhelm me, and I wonder if it is possible for me to connect deeply enough to change history, to find a blank space where the slate can be wiped clean.  Do I have this power within me?  Am I a goddess, as Jay used to claim.


Jay sits in the car, his fly hanging open, his face reddening in the light of the setting sun.

“This is not the right time for this kind of thing.  Not now.  Not here.  I can’t believe you, Phoenix.  For the last two months, you haven’t put out at all.  You’ve kept me wondering what I am supposed to do about us.  Should I move out?  Have an affair?  Propose?  What do you want from me?”

“You swapped me, didn’t you?  You obsessed over countless doubts, and so you sold me out for Grace.”

“I admit, I tried…”

“You tried?  Without telling me?”

“You wanted it.”

“How do you know what I want when I don’t know myself?”

“You kept telling me in every way, except directly.  That is the only way you know to tell the truth.”

“Fuck you,” She says.

“Yeah, well fuck you, too.”

“All right.”

“All right, what?”

“Fuck me.”

“I thought you wanted to roll the Die.”

“Please, put aside questions about the focus of my desires, for the moment, and appreciate simply the immensity of those desires.”

“You don’t deny it?”

“Perhaps I was being too oblique.  I wish very much to be fucked.  Right now.  I am not saying by whom I wish to be fucked– but I don’t see anyone else around.  Do you want to take advantage of the situation?  Or do you want to interrogate me further?”

Jay slowly squeezes the brakes, and the Firebird glides to rest by the side of the road.  She slithers out of her shirt.

Reaching behind her, she clicks on the radio.

“You’ll run down the battery,” he says.

“I want music.”

With a deft, unified motion, Phoenix disengages his golden belt buckle.  Jay tries to squirm away from her hands, his pants crawling down his hips.  As she works the garments, his desire curves toward her.  Free from its constraints, it leaps like a silvery fish, gills spread.

“What has gotten into you?”

“The country air.”

But it wasn’t.  It wasn’t the liquor either.  It wasn’t even her own sexual hunger which had been building during two months of abstinence.

He kisses her brutally, an insensitive thrusting and sloshing of tongue; a pugilistic kissing style, entirely unlike the slow, graceful kisses he usually delivered.  It feels as if he is trying to flex a muscle into her mouth.  Not that these kisses are entirely unpleasant; they are strong and wet, and unfamiliar, driven by a competitive edge.

Phoenix knows of a better place to receive such kisses.

With fingers locked in his hair, she steers his head down slopes of flesh.  He tarries in places worthy of attention along the way.  She permits these dalliances.  But when his head reaches its destination, guided by her gentle urging, he stops.

He stared, a bewildered expression on his face.

She feels his eyes upon her, there.  And she feels his touch, his fingers gently parting lips.  His eyes penetrate, probe.  Lubricating to admit his sight, Phoenix stares back with a Cyclopean gaze, a single dilating pupil.  The intersection of their vision completes new circuits of emotional flow.

“Why do you look at me like that?” she asks.

“I wonder who it wants.”

“If you wish it to speak to you, give it a tongue.”

He does.  He spreads out his tongue like a velvet cloak, a swirl of taste buds.  His anger has not abated; the heat of his fury palpable as he sucks a bud of flesh into a cage rimmed by teeth, delicate nerves shuddering in terror and ecstasy, a small beast in the maw of a carnivore.

He slithers his tongue deeper, writhing, tasting, burrowing.

(The memory of Jay’s touch took me.  His cold touch.  I was there, in his arms, pivoting.)

At the side of the dirt road, Phoenix tries to change Jay by using her body, as if she could rub romance through his skin and into the network of his nerves.  And even if she did not change him, at least she would not betray her loneliness and longing to Dieter Smith.

(Die, to the extent that you must explicitly depict genitals, I request you try to be aesthetic in your depiction– using hazes, or beautifully composed semi-abstract close-ups, like Georgia O’Keefe paintings.)

Jay asks, “Who do you want?”

“Why should it matter?  You get to fuck me.”

“Who do you really want?  If you had a choice…?”

“I do have a choice.  I won’t be swapped against my will.  I decide whom I get and who gets me.”

“Who do you want?”

“The truth?”

The windows of the car, chilled by the air conditioning, begin to fog.  The forms of Phoenix and Jay blur from the outside.  Tiny beads of moisture cling to the cold glass– their commingled, accumulating breath.

The beads of moisture balloon into globes.  Each magnified watery orb carries its own warped vision of bared flesh.  Abstracted forms of he and she flow into one another, changing shape as they move; like one celled protoplasmic organisms conjugating on a microscopic field, or like peach colored blobs of mercury pulling together and breaking apart.

The globes of water grow heavier as the breathing inside accelerates.  The globes turn to droplets and drizzle away, revealing the couple.  They are running out of air within that confined space.  Jay reaches for the door handle, but Phoenix claws his hand.  He gasps, but Phoenix will not relent.  The air inside was growing thin and hot and wet.  Jay’s skin turns dusky as he labors to breathe.  Phoenix rocks her hips harder and faster.

(I was back there, in the car, no longer in reverie.  I was suffocating.)

“You don’t need air,” said Jay.  “We smokers…our bodies are used to deprivation.  They thrive on it.”  He was dragging her into the airless sea that was his domain.

But no.  That’s not what he said.  He said, “We corpses don’t need air.”


“Are you willing to die for me?”

He is trying to erase all the past wrongs, to find a new beginning: to impose his essence on her, until she is what he is, until they reach a union of zeroes, a transmutation into sameness.

In their passion, they have all but exhausted the available air.  They thrive dizzily on each other’s exhalations.  They are both thinking about being dead together, a horrifying contrast to sweat and wetness, the pounding of heart against heart, the cross reflections of dilating pupils.  Death and sex have always cohabited in human consciousness.  To die is Elizabethan slang for orgasm.

That moment would have been a perfect consummation for the marriage of Phoenix and Jay.  She lost track of where she was and when she was.  It was a perfect vacuum of a moment, unable to breathe and indifferent to the consequences.  Suffocation intensified the consequences of her suspended entanglement.  She almost fell in love with Jay again, contemplating a marriage bed of death, dying in his arms, at once his widow and his bride.  It was almost as if she had sensed his tragic destiny, and found herself lured toward it.

In the midst of her death fantasy, she felt the warm flow of mucus into mucus.  She surrendered when he surrendered in the airless interior.

At that moment, the car door opened, and my lungs filled with air, simultaneously a climax and rebirth, a merger of the past and future, a fulfillment of my name.

I came to consciousness to find John Holmes lying on top of me, his cold hands upon my breasts, his lips pressed to mine, but not in a kiss.  He said he was attempting resuscitation, if you can believe that.  The Firebird’s exhaust malfunctioned, and fumes had caused me to pass out.  It was an old car, Jay’s old car, in fact, which he had bequeathed to me.  I fell out of the past, onto the pavement of the parking lot in my apartment complex.

John Holmes fell on top of me, occupying almost the same position as Jay when we fell out into the twilight, our rib cages heaving.

“Do you know what will happen if you leave me for Die?  It will be the end of me, I swear.  It will kill me, Phoenix.  And what will it mean for you?  I can tell exactly what will happen.  If you cheat on him, even once, he will never forgive you for it.  He’ll hold it over your head forever.  He will say he wants one outside fling, something just to even up the score, but after that, he will cheat on you all the time.  He won’t hide it, because he’s got this thing, this code thing about always telling the truth.  But the two of you will be stuck in an endless cycle of revenge fucking, and…”

“You know what I want,” she said to Jay, as he lay heavy and sweat soaked on top of me, his seed leaking out of her, just up the road from Lovehollow.

“Not again.”

But that wasn’t what she had wanted.  If she had said more, she would have been the one proposing, and that wasn’t acceptable.  So instead, she said this:  “I want to take part in your swapping game, but my way.  You play dead.  We’ll make Die think that you’re a ghost.”

“He would never fall for it…”

“He will, if you let me do it my way.  In a manner absurd but elegant, and horrible too, bone chilling, goose flesh prickling, something uniquely ours, to carve a message on the granite of reality, to preserve you, Jay, long after you are gone.  I know what I am saying seems meaningless and impossible now, but my words will gather their effect in the distant future, long after you are dead.  My fantasy will work a kind of resurrection for you, and total destruction for Die.  And here’s the way we’ll do our swap.  You’ll be a ghost, a dead spirit that will take possession of Die.  Wrapped in his flesh, you will take me… and…”

“Have you gone completely insane?”

John Holmes hoisted me up in his arms with an ease I would not have expected.  He carried me back to my apartment.  His fingers felt cold against my skin, eerily like Jay’s touch.  I felt as if I were being carried by some moment out of time.

John Holmes said that he had become concerned about me after I failed to show up at school for the past few days.  He had broken into my apartment and found your letters were lying around, along with an uncountable number of empty green liquor bottles.

By the time he found me, I was slumped over the wheel of the car, the engine was running, the pages of our Flick blowing around the interior.


Stuart Hopen’s writing has been published by various comic book companies, including D.C., Marvel, Eclipse, Amazing, and Fantagraphics. His science fiction novel, Warp Angel, originally published by Tor Books, will soon be reissued by the Misenchanted Press in a newly revised edition.  Cannibals, a series of six interrelated novellas, will be available online in 2014.   


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page