Notes for the Living and the Dead Ken O'Steen Macro-Fiction

map Notes for the Living and the Dead

by Ken O'Steen

Published in Issue No. 265 ~ June, 2019

I’m frightened Iryna. But I feel myself becoming calmer as I’m writing this. I know there is little chance you, or tiny Yulia, or brother Ihor will ever read it, but it’s not impossible. There’s no connection here, no signal, the towers were destroyed on the first day. I wish I could hear your voices again, or text with you at least.

So I’m writing this down in the Notes app. The Kalashnikov went flying out of my hands when I jumped out of a window on the first floor of a building that had started to burn after a rocket hit. All I could do after I landed in the street was to run. Russian soldiers were right there in the street behind us. Some of the others managed to fight their way through a roadblock and get away into the forest, I think. All I had time to do was to get out of the street and to hide. They haven’t found me yet but they will soon. Anyone telling the world the Russians aren’t here Iryna, let them know they damn well are, right alongside the Russia-loving stooges from Donetsk and Luhansk. We’ve been up to our necks in Russian paramilitary, and their convoys are going everywhere. Their shells pour down on us from their artillery right across the border.


The Russian soldiers are going from building to building clearing them now. I’m not going to panic. I hope I can remain calm, or at least seem calm when the Russians get here. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing me terrified. They’re going to find me here in what’s left of this storage freezer in this shelled out market or store. These Russian fuckers are liable to do anything once they get a hold of me. Maybe I’ll get a nicer one who will shoot me right away. To think I used to get along with them exceptionally well, even in Novoazovsk. I ought not to have written that about the Russians being liable to do anything. It’s unfair to put that kind of horrible image in your head. Since they’re telling the world they’re not here they won’t be keeping any prisoners, I know that. I’m still going to beg them to send the phone to you if they give me time, and they aren’t the worst kind of Russian bastards. The only other hope is that our guys get back here at some point and are able to recover the body and send my belongings out. I’d make a video for you Iryna, but it might upset you more to see and hear what is going on here. I can’t stand the thought of you having to witness the end.


I hear them, maybe two, maybe three buildings away. It takes a little while for them to clear a building. At least I did what a patriot does, coming here. I wasn’t setting the world on fire, teaching history lessons to adolescents. I daydreamed about as much as the students did. I don’t know why I stopped writing the poems. Thanks for always encouraging me though Iryna.


I’m trying to think about everything I love about the world right at this moment. It makes me calmer as if the borrowed time might go on forever. It’s getting late in August, and I was already looking forward to the fall. It’s going to get here with or without me. I have so many autumns stored away in my memory. I can picture a thousand details. I wish I could have one more day in Novoazovsk, the kind of day I love, the sky gray and the wind blowing the gold and red leaves off the trees when the cold comes sweeping in. I tried to open my weather app and see if there’s a cool day anywhere ahead in the forecast, but it’s useless now without a connection.


I can hear them next door yelling. Their radio bursts are really loud. I guess I could run out into the street and make them shoot me. But I’d rather have the time talking to you. Remember the time in Kiev, I think it was in April, and we built a fire beside the Dnieper and warmed ourselves looking out at the river? I think of that a lot. We made a pit out of a hole there beside the riverbank. I walked all around looking for kindling and then came back with more than you thought I would.


They’re finishing up in the building next to me I think. I’m a little more afraid than before Iryna. I don’t want this to happen, but I can’t stop it. It’s such a strange thing to know exactly when you’re going to die. Your brain starts to think about every conceivable situation.


I’m trying to concentrate on the ducks gliding down the Dnieper. I know death is only oblivion, just nothingness, and there’s nothing to worry about. But it’s so strange when you think about it that you won’t be anywhere anymore. I want Yulia to have the poetry books someday if she wants them. They’re something that’s a part of me she can always have. I can’t bear to think about her now, though. I wouldn’t mind if Ihor had any of the history books he wants. You mostly like the biographies anyhow.


I hear them out in the street in front of the building. They’re swearing a lot and shouting. You’re the most beautiful woman in the world Iryna, and I mean it with all my heart. Remember the New Year’s Eve when we threw up on each other trying to make out after the party at Anton’s? Somebody told me that when you go to a party, always hide your bottle in the oven when you get there. No one ever looks there, and when the rest of the booze runs out, you can keep drinking. And it worked!


I hate the idea of you being alone forever. Find someone else and be happy. Do it for me, Iryna. You’re the most resilient person I’ve ever known. But if somehow something is coming after the death we are always going to be together. I love you so much, Iryna. I’m sorry that you and Yulia and my good brother Ihor will have to grieve for me the way we all grieved for our mothers and fathers. It’s lousy finding out how little difference the passage of time makes.


They’re coming into the building now.













account_box More About

I’m Ken O’Steen from Los Angeles, California, currently residing in Proctor, Vermont. “Godsent Vermin,” which appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Sleet Magazine, has been nominated by the magazine for a Best of the Net Award. “Dinner at Musso and Frank,” was included in the anthology, “The Muse in the Bottle: Great Writers on the Joys of Drinking” edited by Charles Coulombe, published by Citadel. “Prattlegate,” appeared in the June 2016 issue of New Pop Lit. “Fierce Bombardier of the Vast Imperial Skies,” appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of British publication The Wolfian, published by the Wolfian Press. “A Few Quirks of Surrender,” appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Cleaver Magazine. “The Invisibility of Wealth,” appeared in the October 2016 issue of Litbreak. The flash fiction piece, "The Thing That Ate Cars and Avatars," appeared in the May 2017 issue of British publication Litro. "Dialogue in a Dead Zone," appeared in the September 2017 issue of Connotation Press. “Sex Bomb,” appeared in the December 2017 edition of Literary Juice. “The Projectionist,” appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Whistling Shade. “Sweeper of the Blue Star,” appeared in the April 2018 issue of Blue Lake Review. “The Rains of Abracadabra,” appeared in the August 2018 issue of Quail Bell Magazine. “Shelter,” appeared in the October 2018 issue of Scarlet Leaf Review. “Pills vs. Decapitation,” is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine. “The Organization,” is forthcoming in Switchback. “Movie Life,” is forthcoming in Adelaide.