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Andap, Lumabo

Fiction, Von Reyes

Spark. Ignited in the dark. This hissing crackle of the flint grinding against the lighting mechanism in a metal chamber. The consuming darkness retreats away from the flame, stretching to the edge of… Conrad isn’t sure where. He’d grown accustomed to the weight of the void in and all around him. The flicker of the orange in the distance makes his eyes ache, unused pupils dilating at an unsustainable rate. He takes a step forward and sees the floor move for the first time. The long shadows of his legs stretch behind him, back into the blackness. He holds his hands in front of him, perceiving the veins and tendons, dips of light dancing across his knuckles. He keeps walking toward the heart of the flame, his eyes adjusting to the brilliance. 

A figure comes into view: silver hair, relaxed posture, one hand in his pocket. His other palm is open, no lighter within but a flame flickering nonetheless within the cage of his fingers. His eyes sparkle, and the corner of his lip turns up in mischief. Conrad stops short, just to look for a moment. 

“Hey traveler, glad you finally made it.” The figure speaks. It echoes all around them, dark and distinct, despite the gentleness of his tone. 

Conrad swallows and tries to respond. There’s a croak spilling out between his cracked lips, and a shooting pain along his esophagus. He clears his throat to try again with the same result. 

“Take your time.” 

Conrad hums, re-engaging vocal chords long unused. Once they feel like they belong to him, he asks—“Where?” 

“Where? Consciousness, my love.” 

Conrad points to himself, an eyebrow raised. 

The illuminated figure laughs fondly. “Yes, yours.” 

“Who are you?” 

“You already know, don’t you?” The figure shrugs. 

Conrad searches his brain. He doesn’t know. He’s not entirely sure from where he even accessed his name. He only just discovered he has limbs, moments ago. 

“Hold out your hands.” 

Conrad obeys. The figure approaches him, and the orange glow washes over them both. He drops the flame into Conrad’s palms, and the world turns white. 


“Mr. Rosario, answer the question.” 

Conrad lifts his head slowly off of his folded arms. He unfurls his palm, running his thumb over the squishy muscle. A soft glimmer lingers on his skin. He hums. 

“Mr. Rosario, you must answer the question or be held in contempt of court,” the judge prompts gently. He sounds patient and matter-of-fact. 

Conrad clears his throat, and swallows. Licks his lips. He blinks, slowly.


“Can you please repeat the question?” 

“Your honor, this is ridiculous.” The district attorney throws his hands up. The glimmer in his eye lets Conrad know he’s enjoying the dramatics. 

The judge just waves his hand for him to ask his question again. He looks wholly uninterested in his performance. 

“Where were you, Mr. Rosario, on the night that Dominic Flores was found?” 

Conrad desperately searches his brain for answers. It was cold, he remembers. 

“I was at work.” 

“Why is there no record of you clocking in or out that day?” 

“I guess I just forgot.” 

The district attorney regards him smugly, picking lint off of the sleeve of his blazer. The sharp tap of his polished oxfords on the courtroom floor echoes painfully in Conrad’s ears as he paces back and forth in front of the stand. 

“So, you’re telling me that the one day you forgot to clock in—in five years of employment— happens to be the day your ‘roommate’ shows up dead in the stairwell of your apartment building?” 

“Objection, your honor. Leading question,” Conrad’s lawyer chirps from his chair. His tone is playful, and Conrad can’t figure out why. “Adam must have skipped class on that day of law school.” 

“Come on, Steven, you think every question is leading,” Adam says with an eye roll. Conrad has now identified ‘Adam’ as the district attorney. An adversary. Steven is Conrad’s lawyer, he figures. He and Steven seem to be friends. Conrad feels adrift. 

The judge gives both of the lawyers an exasperated look. “Sustained, rephrase counsel.” Adam bristles and Steven preens. 

Roommate. Roommate? 

“Why did you call him that?” Conrad asks, his voice pinched and small.

Adam whips back around to face him, a serpentine smile on his lips. 

“Because he was, wasn’t he?” 

Conrad doesn't know. He doesn’t know Dominic Flores. 

“I don’t know.” 

“Your honor, my client has been under extreme mental strain since the day of the incident. As we have stated many times to this court, he is in no position to answer questions.” 

“Then you shouldn’t have put him on the stand, counsel.” 

The rest of the courtroom expands in Conrad’s purview. Rows and rows of brown pews with brown suits and brown notepads. Cameras flashing, keys tapping, pencils flying furiously. The oak of the chair beneath him is straining his back. There’s a low static rumbling in his brain stem, fizzling as the memories flood forward. 

It was cold. There was ice on the stairs. Conrad forgot his jacket. 

“I forgot to clock in because I was late to work that day. I forgot my jacket and had to run back to get it because it was snowing. I ran in the door and went straight to my station, so I just forgot.” 

Adam abandons his banter with Steven to re-engage his target. And he is locked on. 

“Is that the first time you’ve ever been late to work?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

The Oxfords clack again as the pacing resumes. 

“Never been late to work in five years. Why is that?” 

“It’s important to me that I’m on time.” 

“Was being on time also important to Dominic?” 

“I don’t know. I don’t really remember.” 

The backdoor of the courtroom opens and shuts softly, the creak of the hinges muted by the dingy carpet on the floor. It distracts Conrad for a moment, but the crowd is too thick for him to see who entered. Why are there so many people here? 

“You don’t remember Dominic’s habits?” 


“Is it true you’ve lived with him for a year?” 

“I don’t know.” 

Adam slides a stack of documents onto the podium in front of Conrad. 

“Isn’t this a rental agreement with both yours and Dominic’s signatures, dated for?” 

The date disappears in Conrad’s ears. He watches Adam’s lips, trying to find the shape of the month or the year as he speaks. His mouth is obscured by a buzzing static, echoing the one in Conrad’s brain stem. Conrad can’t hear him anymore, all that’s left in his ears is the methodical thump of someone new approaching the bench. He stares past Adam’s fuzzy lips at broad, tense shoulders angled forward with intention. The world slows down as the lawyer is shoved to the ground. 

Conrad looks Dominic in the eyes, just as the metal of the baseball bat in his hands collides with Conrad’s skull. 


Spark. Ignited in the dark. This hissing crackle of the flint grinding against the lighting mechanism in a metal chamber. The consuming darkness retreats away from the flame, stretching to the edge of… Conrad isn’t sure where. He’s been here before. 

This time, the slow strobe of the flame is disorienting as the figure ignites and extinguishes it in sequence. His silver hair appears and disappears, absorbing the warmth of the little light in his palm. His features are familiar, in a way they weren’t the last time. The grin is gone. 

Conrad gets to his feet a little quicker, his limbs half-feel like they belong to him. The figure stabilizes the flame, casting the warmth of its dispersion around Conrad’s body. 

“Not your best work, traveler.” 

Conrad blinks rapidly, unused pupils dilating at an unsustainable rate. The figure’s eyes are obscured, the same way the lawyer’s were. 

“What’s happening to me?” 

The figure tilts his head. 

“Why are you asking me?”


Conrad wrings his hands, the anxiety welling up from his core into his chest. He needs grounding, anything tactile. Physical sensation feels so out of reach in the vast nothing beyond the flame. He has half a mind to reach for the billowing fabric of the figure’s sleeve, but his hand stops short. 

“I um…I don’t know who else I would ask.” 

The figure sucks his teeth, an impatient exasperation was weighty in the inhale. 

“You should ask the creator.” 

Conrad can tell it was said in jest, but he’s not in on the joke. There’s a part of him that knows he should be afraid, but there’s something intimate about the cavernous darkness. If he closes his eyes, the opacity undulates to the rhythm of the pulse in his veins. It quiets under the luminous halo of the figure’s fire. 

“Creator of what?” 

The figure’s eyes widen and he takes a step back, away from Conrad. Instead of the gentle caress of transfer between hands, he throws the flame at Conrad. It lands in his chest, and he cups his hands over it. The world turns white. 


The hands on his chest are sticky and warm, steam floats up off of his fingers in the winter air. He can feel it seeping into his pores, a metallic taste settling on the back of his tongue through his nostrils. Concrete digs into his skin through his work pants, scratching his knees. He lets himself take a deep breath, just to know that his lungs work. He lets his eyes open, slowly. 

The blood on his hands isn’t his. He must have been putting pressure on the side of Dominic’s head, because he’s covered in it, up to his elbows. Dominic’s eyes are open, but Conrad knows he isn’t home. There’s a 9mm a few stairs below, abandoned. There’s a muzzle print on the entry wound against Dominic’s left temple. The skin is singed around the opening. 

Was this me? 

Red and blue lights flash in the parking lot. Conrad looks up and sees a girl standing at the top of the stairs. She stares at him, transfixed. 

“What happened?” he asks her. 

She chokes on a squeal and runs, slamming the door of her apartment behind her. Conrad follows her lead. He takes off down the stairs, scooping up the firearm on his way. Dominic’s body slumps down after him, no longer supported by Conrad’s frame. His stomach lurches in his throat, Conrad’s lifeless eyes locked on to him as he goes. He runs in the opposite direction of the parking lot, away from the sirens, down toward the river bank. He shields his eyes from wayward branches and runs and runs until his bare feet splash in the water. 

It’s quiet, and it’s cold. Pinpricks turn into sharp needles in his flesh from the icy riverbank. It doesn’t seem like he’s been followed, but he knows this oasis is temporary. He tosses the 9mm into the river and watches it sink. A flame appears in the center of the river. It swells and shrinks, seemingly contained, though fragile. Conrad wades into the water toward it, oxygen stolen from his chest from the cold. His knees brush against something soft as he comes upon the flame, stopping him short. Dominic’s body, waterlogged and swollen, hovers beneath the flicker. Conrad does retch then, oily and human. He tries to swim away, back to the shore, but with each kick of his legs the distance yawns further. Dominic’s fattened fingers grip his ankle and pull him under. The ice fills his throat. 


Spark. Ignited in the dark. This hissing crackle of the flint grinding against the lighting mechanism in a metal chamber. The sound makes Conrad panic this time. He sprints toward it, pulling his ankles away from the tendrils of the void. He lands on his knees in front of the figure. 

“Please. Help me.” 

The figure laughs, acidic. 

“Help you? I’m trapped here because of you, what am I supposed to do to help you?” 

He kneels, eye level with Conrad. His next words are cruel-sounding, but they poorly mask the fear beneath the surface. What is he afraid of? 

“How long are you going to keep us in this loop?” 

“I don’t – I’m not – I don’t understand.” 

The figure's expression turns pained. Agonized even. He sets the flame on the ground between them, where it hovers. It swells and shrinks, seemingly contained, though fragile. He drops down to a sitting position, crossing his feet at the ankles. The shoulder of his cardigan slips down his arms and gathers at his waist;  his neck is long and elegant. His eyes sparkle behind the flame, and Conrad yearns suddenly. 

“I would never have agreed to this immortal eternity with you if I knew you’d end up so irresponsible.” His voice is wet and raw, though he laughs. “I wish that were actually true.” 

“Can you tell me your name?” Conrad asks, entranced. He ignores his ignorance of the context of the words, more focused on the shape of the man’s lips. 

“Sadly, no. You must remember.”


Conrad leans in, outstretched hand toward the figure’s jaw. He waits for the man to pull away, but he doesn't. He lets himself be touched, leaning forward half an inch to meet Conrad in the middle. When Conrad’s fingers make contact with the fire-warmed skin of his face, sparks tingle up his arm and down his spine, through his nerve endings. He sees the orange glow pulse under his skin. He presses his thumb to the figure’s bottom lip and watches as his mouth parts with no resistance. 

“Oh. It’s you,” Conrad breathes. 

Dominic breaks and smiles then, with all of his teeth. It lifts up his now tear-stained cheeks and crinkles his eyes closed. The flame expands rapidly, consuming both of them and all the darkness around it. Scorching the void from the inside out. The world turns white. 


Von Reyes is an emerging author, focused on uplifting the intersections of queer and trans masculinity and Asian diasporic identity. His background in Sociology and community organizing heavily inspires his writing. He focuses on themes of surrealism, queer sexuality, existentialism, and optimistic nihilism. He hopes to tell stories that don't shy away from the horrors but allow us to find the light within them. He has been published in Chill Mag and The Good Men Project and is forthcoming in the Anthology Other Worlds by A Coup of Owls Press.


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