I am considering changing The Chamber’s logo from this one, whom I call Orly (picked by a random name generator) for ease of reference:
to this one, which I am calling Damnatia until I come up with something better:
Though I have always liked Orly for her stare, mysterious look, simple composition, and the unusual element of her hand as she leans against an unseen wall (which I cropped out). I can imagine that many viewers are perplexed by the hand and may not be able to see all the details that are obscured by the dark composition. Another reason is that I am acquiring business cards for The Chamber and to have Orly on them might confuse people, not having seen me, might think she is me or my daughter or wife or mistress or something. Whereas, it is fairly obvious that Damnatia is not an actual person (at least in this dimension). So, if I retain Orly for the face of The Chamber, I will use one of my own photos on the business cards.
Therefore, I am thinking of replacing Orly with Damnatia (though this image will be cropped a little), all of whose details can be seen and which has a more horrifying appearance, though the image itself is beautiful.
The final logo will appear on all Chamber publications and announcements
However, before I switch them, I want to hear what you, my readers, have to say. Let me know your thoughts. I am also taking this opportunity to experiment with the polling feature of WordPress. If you would like to share your thoughts or suggest someone else, use the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the page.
I prefer to use the image of a person looking at the viewer as I feel it is more attention-gabbing than the standard logo design consisting of inanimate objects or letters. I think that a person’s face is also more memorable than the image of an object as (so I have heard) the human brain has evolved to notice and remember faces and also to capture their details. Besides, which would you prefer to view, some letters and designs as in the Amazon or Nike logos, or a person’s face?
If you think the picture of another figure on this site would be more suitable, please let me know which one.
Just a reminder, not everything submitted to The Chamber must be a story or a poem. We (that’s the imperial “we”) would like to experiment with other media as well. We would welcome short videos (non-documentary) on an experimental basis. WordPress has ways to embed media from many platforms into a post. Some examples are: YouTube, Spotify, Flickr, Vimeo, Animoto, Redditt, Issuu, and several more. If you are in doubt, contact us via the submissions page or the submissions email address. We usually respond in a reasonable amount of time.
The play was first presented in a downtown bodega, closed due to the crisis. Rent was cheap, so this spattering of diaspora Asian artists could afford to establish their theater company in this space. The name of the company was Angina. It was a play on words referring to the nearby famous off off off Broadway company of Hispanic bards, La Mama. Ina was Filipino for mother, ang translating as the article The. No matter that it was, scientifically, a heart condition or that it sounded very close to the Italian/Yiddish NY slang agita, meaning heartburn.
The director, he was pretty much famous back in The Philippines. Notable because he produced Marat/Sade, that play about inmates in an asylum who prosecute some guy Marat. It is a play within a play. The Marquis de Sade directs the play, yeah, the S & M guy. Loosely, it is about class struggle, suffering, and whether the revolution comes from changing society or within the individual. Not your Bye Bye Birdie or Sound of Music.
This director produced this in The Philippines under Martial Law. Marcos kicked him out, and he ends up at Angina Theater. This play he is directing is called “The Man with the Mole in the Shape of a Cross.” The cross is on his left cheek above his lip.
As with many downtown productions, the theater is not just on the stage. The audience is part of the theater. In the end, everyone spills into the street as the cast marches around the corner of Lafayette and causes a traffic jam in The East Village, a significant feat if you know how busy the streets of East Village are at 11 PM.
Director, he is very effeminate, heavy mascara, a Dorthy Hamill bob, wears long shirts that look like dresses over pants that look like palazzos. He is dramatic in that way and passionate to the extreme, the Enfant Terrible of the theater season, partly because he was kicked out of a country under Martial Law with an autocrat who crushed artistic freedom.
The play is brilliant, we are told. Innovative. Revolutionary. In hindsight, it is wannabe Bertolt Brecht, Antonin.
In an interview, the director talks very big with his arms. The idea came to him in a dream.
Many people in a house. They search, room to room. They are looking for what, who knows. But they must explore, pushed forward by some absent leader whose voice eggs them on.
One main character is a glamourous one, model type, thin. The second main falls for him. He is ordinary and big. It is the ruling class versus the working/middle class.
The big one, he has a cross, on his face, on his left cheek, a mole, only it is not. It is simple, black. Yet it shines, bright. Stunning. The two main characters are attracted to each other. They talk opposite views. In the end, the fat boy wins over the glamour boy. In live performance, the skinny guy kisses him passionately, on the mole, the cross that is so beautiful. They get naked and start making love as the lights go down—the audience gasps. The music at the end is distorted white noise from a guitar; it almost sounds like that terrible Lou Reed album. There are accompanying fireworks at the end. Brings to mind a KISS concert. The crowd approves.
Director talks about the use of new lighting technology. Using special paint for the cross/mole, he can enhance it to shine so brightly, illuminating, and enlarging. They do this pyrotechnic effect; the couple lights up, on fire, seemingly. His inspiration is from an obscure short story he read as a child and that newish novel about combustible twins who destroy their father’s career, a senator who suddenly becomes VP.
As the curtain falls, the cast walks offstage, down the aisles into the street. The audience follows and exits. Many say they are caught up and willingly do so.
Rumors circulate. The press talks about how the two main characters are so into their roles they genuinely fire up. They flame on their own, without the benefit of special effects. They have become comic book anti-heroes, like The Torch of The Fantastic Four of The Marvel Comics universe.
Randi from upstate New York is a down-and-out Broadway freak. The theater is everything to her, especially the American musical. She hates all the attention this play is getting. The sermons of her pastor, they fan her hatred. All this celebration of gayness, the homo sex on stage. She hates the mole that is a cross, the symbolism of that. She is whipped into a frenzy with talk that Josh Gadd, Olaf’s voice from Frozen, or James Corden’s baker from Into The Woods will take on the big guy role on the big screen. Although, she is okay with Josh Groban as glamor boy.
When her friends get caught up in the adulation, cheering the play to newer heights, she makes a decision. She takes a shotgun from her hunting dad’s rack. She hides it in her red portable chair case she usually slings over her shoulder when she lines up for hours for Broadway lottery discount tix. She takes the Greyhound to Manhattan and attends the last downtown performance. As the cast turns the corner at Lafayette, she rushes the actors and aims at the cross, the mole on the upper left lip. She laughs in madness as the body twitches, a bloody hole where the face used to be. An easy target, how could she miss?
Ben Umayam moved to NYC to write the Great American Filipino Short Story. He worked for political consultants, then was a chef at a fancy hotel, and then worked cooking for priests. He has since retired and is working on that short story again. He has been published by Maudlin House, 34th Parallel, Digging Through The Fat, Southeast Asian Drabbles Anthology, Anak Sastra, Corvus Review, Lotus-eaters, and Ethelzine.
Perculus knelt in the center of a patch of dense reeds, his trousers undone and Sophia’s bodice clutched in his fist, when he heard the rustling to his left. He dropped the lacy thing and reached for his belt. Yanking it far too tight, so it cinched slicing lines into his stomach, he stood and looked around.
“Hello?” His voice quivered with shame that teetered on fright. “Mr. Halopen?”
He waited in the quiet, unsure that he could continue the act after a fright like that, but there was still a chance. Her scent clung to the garment, overpowering his senses, filling his chest with each inhalation, not even the repugnance of the swamp could cool his lust. Soon, he thought. Soon he would smell her again.
Perculus knelt back down and began adjusting his belt, easing the tension that constricted his abdomen, when he heard it again. The crack of a branch, followed by something else. A slithering. It was behind him now. Thoughts of the noble girl were flushed from his mind, the vats of lust refilled with cool dread. Slowly, he adjusted his posture, straightening his back until his eyes peaked above the fluttering tips of the reeds.
Sight of the swirling green stalks faded to the swampy landscape. Black barked trees, some standing, some fallen, all covered in flaky, parasitic moss. Ground absorbent and wet. The occasional rock or stump. As he scanned the swampland, Perculus passed a tree that seemed to be a few years from folding over upon itself under the weight of accumulated moss. He continued his searching when a shadow shifted. He looked back at the tree. His heart pulsed. Yes, there was something hiding behind there.
Perculus kept his eyes trained on the trunk and felt amongst the soggy ground, searching for something to strike with. His fingers came across the bodice and the rock it rested upon to keep the marshy ground from staining the lace perfection. Perculus swore beneath his breath. He knelt down, snatched up the bodice, and hung it atop the patch of reeds. Then, he grabbed the rock, a fist sized chunk of limestone, and stood.
Slowly, he eased his way through the reeds, trying to contain the noise of the shivering stalks, but when his boot met the muddy ground and gave a loud squelch, he abandoned the silent plan and darted forward as fast as his legs would go. He swung around the trunk, raised the rock, and brought it crashing down. The blow gouged an ugly chunk of dead wood and the tree groaned in protest. Perculus sucked in a deep breath. What was this foolishness consuming his heart? He, the son of a hero of the 3rd Comets War was afraid of things in the swamp?
Perculus felt a soft tap on his hip and he spun with the rock raised. He brought it hurtling down and stopped inches from her face.
“Oh by The Ancients Cassandra,” he said, tossing the stone. “What are you doing out here?”
The blacksmith’s youngest daughter stared up at him. She flashed a wide toothy grin and waved her pudgy, muck stained fingers. Perculus looked out at the swamp. They were some two miles from the outskirts of the village. There was no footpath that led here, no old horse trail. This place was useless and empty. He choose it for that reason. Because if anyone were to find him here… He remembered the bodice. He could see it amongst the mess of reeds. What if someone went looking for Cassy? They would follow her tracks here. They would search for her and they would find it.
“Okay,” he said, putting his hands on her shoulders. “I need you to do this for me Cassy. Put your hands over your eyes and don’t move until I come back. Understand?”
Cassandra nodded and moved her hands to her face, leaving black smudges across her cheeks. That was fine, he could fix that on the walk back.
Perculus picked up the rock again and entered the reeds. He took the bodice, knelt down, and placed it upon the rock. Then, he pulled a handful of stalks from the patch and covered it best he could. It was an unconvincing disguise but it would do for now. They needed to get out of here before someone came looking.
Perculus stood back up. Cassandra was where he’d left her, eyes still covered. Good. Now he just had to follow the tracks back home. As he exited the reeds, he looked at the footprints leading back towards the village. Cutting through the mud, he could see his as clear as the stars on a cloudless night, but there, next to them, a path of massive, three pronged impressions stained the mud, leading all the way back to where Cassandra stood, her hands now hanging down by her side.
Cassandra smiled and her face rippled inwards, the mask peeling away to the black thing beneath. Perculus screamed and stumbled backward into the reeds, his head striking the rock. As the black thing filled his vision, he took in a final inhalation of Sophia.
Mr. Hughes notes that “The Collector” is part of a larger work in progress.
Andrew Hughes has been writing and publishing short stories for the past decade. One of these, The Crab Catcher, was recently reprinted in Brilliant Flash Fiction’s Best Of anthology. He currently lives in Arizona, working as a criminologist, and taking care of the world’s most adorable white husky.