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"Telephone Line" • Electric Light Orchestra (by Mallory Smart)

Alfie roamed the streets of L.A. at twilight, adrift in a sea of memories, searching for the faintest echo of music since her gentle words for him were there no longer. The city sprawled before him and for the first time, he felt a total lack of object permanence. It all just looked like muddled colors mirroring the complexity of his emotions.


He continued to wander through the streets crammed with tourists and Los Angelenos when he noticed a mbira and mandolin for sale on a sidewalk blanket staring back at him.


Stevie often used the word "serendipity" to describe the joy of unexpected moments. These simple memories clung to him like the familiar scent of her side of the bed. Dragging his memories by both ears, he retraced their steps past all items that made him think of her. Stevie was gone and it was his fault, but he still somehow felt her gaze fixed on him before disappearing.


The image of her fingers tracing the contours of broken instruments danced in his mind, a cryptic message he longed to decipher.


In the theatre across the street, the memories of their hesitant love remained, as vivid as the day they had first met. People stood like mannequins, silent witnesses to his unspoken emotions. The sound of a ringing phone filled the auditorium, like soothing ASMR, echoed through the void—a plea for connection. He waited for response. An answer. Anything. And then the curtains opened.




Mallory Smart is a Chicago-based writer and Editor-in-Chief of Maudlin House. She is the host of the literary/music podcast Textual Healing and cohost of the horror movie podcast That Horrorcast. Her latest book, I Keep My Visions To Myself, comes out November 25, 2023 from With an X Books. Find her on Twitter: @malsmart, Instagram: @malsmart, website: mallorysmart.com.



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