f u g u e   s t a t e    p r e s s
p.o. box 80, cooper station
new york, ny 10276
208-693-6152 fax

from The Failure Six

by Shane Jones

Antun struck a match and read from the pamphlet.

His hands trembled.

He felt the air, with its swirling scents of turpentine, beeswax, and smoke, being sucked from his throat.

One of the cats began playing a guitar. Another opened a book by Lewis Carroll and the spinning face of color sighed, causing a large cloud of white smoke to puff out and float up to the ceiling.

Antun thought about the dignity that owls possess.

He lit another match and read the first section of the pamphlet before the tiny flame went out. In his mind what he read aloud sounded like:

Your name is Foe. You are a seamstress who earns a decent living through your ways with linen and silk. Your mother died in an automobile accident in the countryside when you were twelve and your father lost a duel to a man with a green mustache. Your father was drunk during this duel. He would have won. You cried a lot. There was no one to comfort you so you began your lonely apprenticeship in sewing.

The girl didnít move. Her head was cocked to the side and for a moment Antun thought she was dead. Then she yawned and wiped some blood from her exposed legs and onto some papers.


Partial List for Messengers

# Do only as instructed by given cover note.
# Emotional interaction with recipient is frowned upon.
# Once message is delivered leave the household.
# Appear stoic.
# Dress appropriately for the delivering of bad news.
# Almost all messages will be passed by written note.
# In rare cases, the messenger will be required to become orator.
# The hunting of animals is encouraged.
# A messenger must possess an excellent memory.
# Payment will come in the form of gold doubloons placed upon your pillow.


An honest mistake, Antun had read the second page of the pamphlet instead of the first. He felt a terrible guilt and in the process of striking another match nearly lit the entire pamphlet aflame.

He straightened the triangles on his face. One was upside down against the other.

Without a doubt, he thought, he would be stripped of his title as messenger when he got back to his room.

He imagined it now, the black note flicked under his door followed by a dream cough to wake him. It will happen later tonight, Antun thought.

Your name is Foe, Antun heard in his mind. Your last name is Lovell. You were born in the country but your parents moved to the city when your father took a position as a steel worker. Youíre twenty years old.

The girl stood up. She walked over to a table where a violin was. She picked up the violin and started playing along with the guitar-playing cat. They performed a little song together, nodding their heads and stomping their feet.

After a minute, they stopped.

          Why are you wearing a cape, the girl wrote on a sheet of paper.

Antun struck another match. The girl brought over a lamp and held it near Antunís face so they could read what they were saying.

          My name is Foe.

          Yes, wrote Antun.

          My parents are dead.

          Iím afraid so.

          Can you tell me why.

Antun re-read the section on how her mother and father had passed. The girl sat back down on the floor. The blood was gone. The cats were outside silently meowing. There were clouds on the ceiling and there were little black crosses bobbing up and down in the clouds.

          But who are you, the girl wrote.

          Iím a messenger.

          Whatís my name.


          Oh good, the girl wrote.

Foe walked to a long table at the far side of the room. Antun could only see a vague outline of her dress. Then he saw a candlestick angled in mid-air.

When Foe came back across the room she handed him a small square of brown paper with a wax seal, the initials DH pressed. In smaller writing, at the very bottom, The Nightmare Papers.

Upon returning to his room, Antun opened the message and read Please tell my parents to come and take me home. Then he stopped himself from reading any more.

For the remainder of the night Antun waited for the black note to be pushed under his door but it never came.