It’s Goodbye From Us.

Well folks, its been fun but it’s time to move on. It’s been evident for  long time that the time and inclination that were behind ExFic in the beginning just aren’t there any more.

Thank you to our readers and to all of the brilliant and talented writers we’ve had the privilege of publishing.

See you round folks.

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It Claimed It Didn’t Exist by Russ Bickerstaff

It appeared there out of nowhere insisting that it did not exist. I couldn’t get anything else out of it. I’d tried asking it a whole bunch of questions, but it seemed insistent that it was incapable of answering them due to the fact that it didn’t actually exist. It was difficult to tell whether it really legitimately thought it didn’t exist or maybe it simply wanted me to believe that. Wither way it wasn’t making a terribly compelling case to me as it quite clearly did exist otherwise it wouldn’t have tanked the job interview for me the way that it had.

Naturally, the recruiter had assumed that the sudden appearance of the thing had been something that I was responsible for in some way. It only made sense. I was there it was there. Neither of us had ever been there before. The recruiter had been there countless times before. Naturally when something appears out of nowhere and winds up in my lap, it’s a guest of mine. Naturally it’s a sign that I’m unstable what with things suddenly appearing in my lap out of nowhere and naturally it’s going to freak the recruiter out enough to basically destroy any chances that I might have had of actually getting what would have been a rather nice job with a rather decent paycheck.

So naturally I was a bit upset. I would have been furious if I hadn’t been so charmingly fascinated with this little thing that I was allowed to leave the interview room holding. (Really, what else were they going to do? They could only assume that it was mine.) So I walked out of the place and carried the thing back to my car. I put a seat belt around it in the passenger side and drove back home. It was more or less there in my car that I started trying to engage it in conversation.

“I forgive you,” I said opening a dialogue with the thing.

“No need to,” it said. “I don’t exist.”

“Oh,” I said in a tone that seemed to convey that what it said meant something more than nothing at all. “Sounds fascinating.”

“I wouldn’t know,” it said. “I don’t exist.” I nodded, took a deep breath and felt myself begin to acknowledge somewhere in the back of my mind that this was going to be a very, very long drive home. I tried my best to keep a healthy perspective on things. Yes, I lost the job, but I’d gained a mystery. Even if it disappeared on the way back home the way it had appeared while at the interview I still had the story, so I guess I could be happy about that much at the very least.

I got the thing home and considered letting it follow me to my apartment. Of course, it wasn’t moving. I asked if it wanted to follow me, but it insisted that it could not as it didn’t exist. So I elected to carry it all the way back to my apartment. I got a few strange looks from one of my neighbors on the way in. She was doing laundry and I was carrying this…thing into my apartment. Kind of an awkward couple of seconds in the elevator.

“What’s that you’re holding?” She asked.

“I don’t exist,” it replied. I smiled and chuckled lamely. The seventh floor couldn’t come fast enough. I rushed to my front door, fumbled with the keys. It was such a relief to get the thing pushed through the door and into the apartment. I slammed and locked the door behind me with a sigh. It was one thing to be inadvertently assaulted by the unknown. It was another matter altogether to have to explain it to your neighbors.

I set the little thing down on the floor as I got off my coat and boots. It wobbled around a little bit, apathetically curving around the floor in different directions. Occasionally it would bump into a wall and simply stare into it until it was turned around. Then it would slowly slouch forward in a long curve until it ran walked into another wall. After the first five or six times of turning it around, it occurred to me that it might be a bit more content simply sitting down.

The little thing was a bit goggled and dizzy sitting there on my couch. I had gotten a glass of water for it. I don’t think it knew what to do with it. I asked if it knew what the glass of water was and it gave me the same answer it gave to every question.

“I wouldn’t know,” it said. “I don’t exist.”

It was the same response I got when I asked what it was or what it wasn’t or where it came from or how it knew it didn’t exist. Always the same answer to any question: “I wouldn’t know. I don’t exist.” Right. I wasn’t frustrated. I was challenged. I felt like I was its parent and it was my job to pry it out of its listlessness. Not sure exactly where that came from but I would like to think that it was more than just the fact that it was roughly the size of a vague toddler-type of a thing.

I turned on the TV. Couldn’t tell if it was watching it or simply gazing off into space with the eyes it claimed did not exist. We shared a couple of sitcoms and a one hour drama as I ate and it ignored the food on the plate in front of it. I got ready for bed. I carried it into the bathroom and brushed what appeared to be its teeth. I put it in an old t-shirt and set it up on the couch with a little pillow and some blankets. It didn’t seem too terribly annoyed by what I was doing, but it was scarcely affectionate about the whole situation.

I settled into bed that night. I was confident that I would find work. I was confident that I would figure out what the hell the thing on my couch was. All would work out. I didn’t know why but at that moment it didn’t really matter to me. Everything seemed to be in the right place at that moment even though so much was unknown.

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. Last year his short fictions have appeared in over 30 different publications including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination. His Internarrational Where Port can be found at: http://ru3935.wix.com/russ-bickerstaff.

Dear Hiring Manager by Sarah A. O’Brien

no, I don’t really consider myself
proficient in a design program I
can’t afford

I have never met a deadline,
but I’m sure I would be polite and
we’d hit it off right away

am I the ideal candidate for
this position? well, I am experienced
in many creative… positions

skills, skills— I have some.
I hope to grow in this company,
2 whole inches, maybe

attention to detail,
except for the detail that I’m broke, but
that’s why God created credit cards

to be honest, no desire to work here,
already bored, don’t like your décor;
send prompt payments please

(living at home is a huge drag.
I’d much prefer to wake up
nude beside my boyfriend)

thank you for your time
I look forward to hearing
great news from you.

Sarah A. O’Brien enjoys dark chocolate and light wordplay. Sarah’s work has previously appeared in The Alembic, Every Writer, The Screech Owl, Snapping Twig, Ampersand Literary, Third Point Press, Unbroken Journal, and is forthcoming in Allegro Poetry Magazine. Follow her adventures: @fluent_SARAcasm.

Arriving at the Edge by A. J. Huffman

Arriving at the Edge

of a mind, I knocked twice on a door
that might have been a wall,
painted to look like a door. If it opened,
the mind was mine, and I was
free to make a home among the illusions
of cracks that were really crevices
leading nowhere in particular. If it remained
shut, the mind was a mine,
an illustrious trap set to explode at my touch,
which would also make it mine,
I guess, though in a temporary trespassing
kind of way. So I stood, fist raised like a gun,
aimed at a frame I might enter
or shatter, and I realized as the wind came
to coerce the initial contact
between flesh and focal metaphor
of stability, that in the end, follow-through
was really all that mattered.

A.J. Huffman has published twelve solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press) are now available from their respective publishers and amazon.com. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2400 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. http://www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

Living With a Boyfriend who Suffers from Depression/ Excerpts from a Self Help Novel Written by my Four Ex-Girlfriends by Steven J. Rogers

Excerpt from Chapter 1. Written by Michelle.

In college, when we first started dating, he made me mix tapes. You remember cassettes? He’d make collages out of pictures he cut out from art magazines and cover the cassette case with them. I still have some. I think they’re in my parents attic.

Even though he had the best taste in music, the tapes would veer down these bizarre esoteric paths. “Sicilienne” by Bach would be followed by “Girl from the North Country.”Midwestern indie hip-hop would follow Cuban Trova. It made listening to the tapes as cathartic as it was jarring. In retrospect, I should have known he would have trouble functioning in the world. There’s a defined order to things that I don’t think he ever understood.

After we graduated, we moved in together to save money on rent. Back then rent wasn’t as crazy as it is now, but we still had trouble paying it. I think he expected something good to happen. Like if he graduated, worked hard on his art, he could get a job with a BA in Fine Arts. I didn’t have such lofty expectations. I waitressed with my BA, but he could never hold down a job.

Once, in the middle of the day, I came home and found him asleep in the living room with the lights turned off. I assumed he lost his job at the shipyard. I woke him up and said some mean things — things I regret. At first, he didn’t respond, just sat there with a blank expression on his face. Then, out of nowhere, he punched the wall.

I cowered and put my hands over my face. I wasn’t afraid, it was just intense. It was so rare that he showed any emotion. He walked out of the apartment. He seemed as surprised as I was. The next day his stuff was gone, his key sat in the middle of the kitchen table with a bouquet of tulips, and note that read, “sorry.”

We saw each other once in a while after that. It was unavoidable, there were mutual friend’s parties, the coffee shop on the corner of eighteenth street, but we never talked. There was never any kind of finality in the break-up. I resented that. I wanted the end to mean something

I don’t know if I think he was depressed. A couple years after we split I saw an episode of The Sopranos, where the main guy is talking to his psychiatrist. She tells him that depression is just anger turned inward. Maybe that’s true, or maybe human emotion is slightly more nuanced.

Excerpt from Chapter 2. Written by Sarah.

You can’t control the way anyone else feels, but you can control your own emotions. The only thing you can do to make yourself truly happy is to live for others. Live for your community, your family, the people you love.

I know it’s silly, but I also think windows are important for happiness, or, at least, the right approach to windows. It’s more important to have a window that faces east than faces west. In the morning, when you wake, open that window up. Let in the sun. The life of the world is in the sun.

I read what I just wrote, and I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to write. Who am I to tell people how they can deal with someone who is sad? No one can be happy all the time.

Most of the time, when I try to be happy, I feel like a selfish narcissist. I lived with a boyfriend who was depressed all the time, and after a few years together, I glommed onto that sadness. In a way, it felt natural to be sad. Comfortable.

The more I think about it, the more I think my earlier advice is garbage. If you try to make a difference in your community, go to a city council meeting or something, all people do is yell at each other.

What does it even mean to live for your loved ones?

I think I’ve read too many self-help books.

Excerpt from Chapter 3. Written by Jane.

I have a dog, he’s what they call a rez mutt, mixed with so many different breeds it’s impossible to tell exactly what kind of dog he is. He’s brown, about thirty-five pounds, and the sweetest animal in the world. I found Puggy on the outskirts of the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation during a road trip when I was eighteen. There isn’t another thing in the world I love as much as this dog.

He’s seventeen now. I’ve had him by my side longer than I lived with my parents, longer than I was in school, longer than I’ll ever hold down a job. It’s hard to imagine a day when he’s gone, but that day is going to come sooner than later.

Puggy’s hips are displaced, some days they hurt so bad he can’t get out of bed. I take him to physical therapy, but it doesn’t seem to help anymore. There’s hard little balls that grow on his neck, and chest. I worry they’re cancer. He had cancer when he was eleven, but I got it treated. It cost nearly twenty thousand dollars. I’d spend that much every year if he could be healthy again, but that’s not the way mortality works.

By all accounts, Puggy should be dead. Fifteen, twenty years ago, before treatments for animals with cancer, he would have been. A hundred years before that, he probably wouldn’t have made it to five. I love him, but I really need to let him go. That’s the way it is with love, you just have to let it go.

Humans suffer a similar indignity through science. When we first crawled out of the primordial soup we’d be lucky to live for fourteen years before some wild beast had us for lunch, or the common cold killed us. People aren’t dogs, they aren’t easy to get along with. To expect people to be able to tolerate each other for long periods of time, when we weren’t even built to live much past puberty, is simply unnatural.

Appreciate your time with others, but don’t push yourself to unnatural levels of familiarity. If you have a boyfriend who has a great, creative career, a zest for life on good days, and an incredibly dark view of the world on bad days, learn to appreciate your time with him. If your dog loves him, that’s even better. Realize that it wasn’t meant to last, and when things get dark, it’s time to move on.

Excerpt from Chapter 4. Written by Sarah (a different Sarah).

Sadness makes people funny. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

He was funny. Cynicism permeated every word that dripped out of his mouth. We’d watch the Republican debates, the local news, awards shows, and he would have me rolling with dark quips about the general decay of humanity. There was a point where the cynicism was too much to be around. Every joke a little bite at the core of my soul.

I don’t think about the bad times, though. Once someone is gone —

Time is the essence from which life is made. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

Maybe I’m not making the right point here. Memory is fickle, the older I get, the more time I spend with misplaced nostalgia. Nostalgia can be as crippling as depression.

Maybe dwelling in nostalgia is better than waiting around to die. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

Steven J. Rogers is an avid canoesman and beardsman from Northern Wisconsin. Alas, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Steven is not an absolutist, so he is willing to accept the idea that there might be a hell. If there is, he’s pretty sure that it would involve writing bios. He has a BA and MFA which he’d happily trade for some beer money. To learn more about him, and his upcoming publications please visit http://www.stevenjrogers.ink.

Grim by Mitchell Grabois

I used to think Mexicans were grim. Dia de los Muertos. Skeletons driving wagons filled with avocados to market. Grinning skeletons driving hearses. But we all die, don’t we?

Eternal death joins eternal life, the cycles of nature, seed to rot.

Mexicans have their Dia de Los Muertos, but Americans worship death every day. In this militarized nation, we bow to the prosthetic device. We kiss the cold metal with our cold lips. We take our youth, make them soldiers, turn them into stick figures, make them heroes of the Paralympics.

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and Queen’s Ferry Press’s Best Small Fictions for work published in 2011 through 2015. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.

Thunder Moon by J. Archer

1. Thunder Moon

Tonight, we see the Thunder
Moon stretch a shallow arc
Across the sky. My children
Are safe in their beds, all of
Them still awake; still
Whispering summer secrets.
And that moon is the color
Of tea stains on a white
Paper napkin, where my
Mother has laid the Lipton
Tea bag to rest- the liquid
Slowly spreading to a rough
Approximation; or the color
Of her fingers, years of
Smoking Tarrytons and the
Messes of child-rearing; the
Grease and the tar and the
Sin. She found Jesus, way
Back when- when her teeth
Resembled that color, before
We were monied enough for
Cosmetic fixes- during the
Times when we were thrilled
That the essentials were
Covered- back then, we’d
Sit in the back yard on Coyle
Street- a ten by ten haven from
The ravenous city, behind our
Brick row house- with our
Neighbors all around, and we’d
Lift our arms when the wind blew
And crack jokes about the heat.
Once, while playing trivial pursuit,
My mother told me “Son,”
Over cup of Lipton tea and
In a haze of cigarette smoke,
“Be patient.” “I know, I know,”
I said, an astute six or seven
Year old, “patience is a virgin.”
And how the neighbors laughed
And laughed, because every joke
Is better when you’re outside in
The heat, below the summer moon-
Even the unintentional, or maybe
Especially. But I’ve never seen a
Moon quite the color as this.
Maybe I needed my Mother
to have died for this moon-
For the tea stained, cigarette smoked,
Kiddos-tucked-safely-but-still-
Whispering-Moon to mean what
It means tonight.

Writer, Poet, Songwriter James Archer believes that contemplation leads to revelation, and that somewhere between most and all revelations are things that are obvious, or should have been. He likes the ocean, and dislikes rules, and is very fond of both cheese and fudge, separately. He is stuck in the middle of this beautiful and terrifying culture, just like you.