Author Archives: Contributing Author

Annie’s Planets

by Lee Budar-Danoff

Nico noticed the little girl as she pressed herself against the glass window of his antique store. She stared with intent but when he smiled, she didn’t smile back.

He returned to his work but looked up over the wire-rim of his glasses as the bell above the door tinkled. The little girl strode in, black braid swishing behind her, followed by a frazzled woman.

“Annie, wait,” the woman said, but the girl ignored her. Instead she stopped at the end of the counter to focus on the project in front of Nico.

Continue reading


Closing Statement

by David Steffen

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I don’t expect you to understand. The mountain of evidence that seems to support the prosecution’s case is daunting to say the least, but all of it is based on an adolescent understanding of the forces that move the universe. I must stress to you once again that Ambassador Gupta is alive and well.

Continue reading


Jack Twice-Caught and the Pusherman

by Patrick J. Hurley

No one in Bridge could remember exactly when the legend of the Pusherman began. As folk began to go missing, the stories just appeared, fully formed, as if they had fallen from the sky. Some in Bridge whispered that the Pusherman was an old graybeard who hunted children playing along the Edge because he was envious of their youth. Others said he was a jealous husband who pushed his cheating wife over the Edge and came to enjoy the taste of murder.

Continue reading


Self Service

by Paul A. Hamilton

Before pregnancy became extinct and babies stopped being born, the greasing of death’s once firm grip caused a lot of worry about the potential of the revived. Would they turn vicious? Could they be restored to a responsive state? How much humanity do we ascribe to an animated cadaver?

I stayed apart from it all. I had my farm, my family. Cora was marrying age, but once it became clear there wouldn’t be any grandchildren forthcoming, Ma stopped needling her. When the corpses wandered through, stinking, twitching, chattering, Bub and I ushered them off our land, gently, respectfully. Then we went back to work. Outside, the world clashed and gnashed its collective teeth. I had less use for it than ever.

Cora got sick first. I drove her into the city, threading my way past thickening crowds of the dead. She wheezed from the passenger seat of my pickup; pressed her fingers against the side window as if she were reaching for those grim mannequins.

“When did there get to be so many of them?”

Continue reading


Sidewalk Sorcery

by Rebecca Buchanan

“Stop it, TJ, you’re doin’ it wrong!”

“Shut up, Alex, I am not.” Chalk staining his fingers, TJ drew a double inverted arrow, piercing the center of the circle.

“Are, too!” Alex crouched beside his brother, careful not to smudge the lines. “That’s not the way Mom showed us—”

Continue reading


The Old Man on the Green

by Philip Brian Hall

If it is true that the Devil makes work for idle hands, then the Devil never met Old Joe. For as long as anyone could remember, Old Joe had been well past working age; indeed no-one in Micklethwaite could really recall his former trade.

Mavis Claythorpe, who knew everyone’s business and could not bear to admit to ignorance of anything, claimed her grandfather had worked with Joe as a thatcher, but Janet Armstrong, the blacksmith’s widow, who had comfortably exceeded her biblical span, was prepared to swear Old Joe had already been ‘Old Joe’ when she was a little girl. To the best of her recollection, the fallen tree beside the duck pond on the green, into which a seat had been roughly hewn by the removal of a quarter-round section, had always been the vantage point for the graybeard’s observation of the slow rhythms of village life.

Continue reading


New Growth

by Tara Campbell

Misty watched Joe pace the living room.  Things had been going missing—car keys, loose change, magazines, and now his cigarettes.

“That’s the second pack this week,” he growled, lifting a stack of papers off the coffee table.

“Sorry, Joe,” she said from the couch.

“How does this keep happening?”  He stomped into the kitchen and Misty heard drawers opening and banging shut.  The edge in his voice told her to stay on the couch, out of his way.

He stalked back out of the kitchen and stood in the living room, fists on hips.  Misty watched him take a deep breath in and out as he scanned shelves and windowsills.  She supposed he was counting to ten.  “Guess I need to get another pack,” he grumbled.

She had to get him out of this mood.  “Maybe Chelsea’s swiping them,” she said, reaching over to pet the small, rust-colored tabby curled up next to her.  “Maybe kitty doesn’t like smoking in the house.”  Chelsea purred and rolled over to expose her soft white belly.  Misty looked up at Joe with a tentative smile.

“The cat, eh?”  His face was unreadable.  Behind her smile, Misty clenched her teeth as he sat down next to her on the couch.

Continue reading


Our Heritage is in Our Blood

by Jason Gibbs

Lucy hated visiting Tom’s flat, mostly due to the risk of vampires.

“Why do you have to live in such a dodgy area?”

“Rent is cheap. Besides, it annoys Father.”

“But what about …”

“The vampires? Oh Lucy, don’t be ridiculous. You’ve been reading too many tabloids.”

Continue reading


A Murder of Crows

by V. Hughes

The wind’s desperate grasp strips the frail leaves from the silver maple but the giant looks as if it still wears its finery, a borrowed dress perhaps, with the murder of crows gathered within its branches. The girl listens to the soft flutter of wings, stretches out her hand to catch a single black feather as it drifts down in a slow spiral. When the stiff plume makes contact with her skin the birds alight and she gasps, even though she has already seen their departure.

The girl watches the murder grow smaller. She watches the empty leaden skies for a long time, until the shadows of the night form and Morgan comes for her.

“They’re gone.”

Morgan follows her gaze into nothing. “Just like you said.”

The girl tucks the feather into the breast pocket of her heavy flannel work shirt. “Is Sirin okay?”

Morgan looks down at the girl. “I haven’t seen her since breakfast.”

Continue reading


LEGO Man

by Bo Balder

Olivia looked up from grinding corn. A telltale puff of dust huffed up over the ridge, where Route 65 still ran. A traveler. No matter how hard the times, a traveler was always welcome. He’d be here in a couple of hours. She could finish the corn and heat up the soup, toast last week’s bread in time for his arrival.

“Corngirl, come here and set the table!” she yelled.

The girl gave her a death stare but slouched over after a proper amount of letting her mother know it was an imposition.

Every now and then Olivia looked up to watch for the traveler. It couldn’t be the merchant who walked back and forth between Kansas City and Springfield, he’d already been by a couple of weeks ago. Who else could this be?

Continue reading


Flightless Rats

by James Dorr

“They used to be bats, you know. That was before they lost their wings.”

“I beg your pardon?”

It was going to be one of those kinds of conversations.

“The story goes,” the man persisted, “that when Noah built the ark, he sent invitations to the bats, but that they refused. ‘Why should we ride on your smelly old boat?’ they said. ‘Even if there is a flood, we can just fly over it.'”

Continue reading


His Father’s Eyes

by Scott Hughey

I wrote my first prophecy when I was seven. I filled a diary with short statements like, “Sister leaves forever at Christmas,” and “The robot sets the house on fire.”

At the time, everyone else thought the writings just fanciful imagination. I knew they were more. They resonated in my young mind like an aluminum bat does when it strikes a knee. Wasn’t until years later, after the gift left me, the prophecies started coming true. That Christmas, my robot butler malfunctioned and melted down. My sister visited us that year. She didn’t make it out.

Continue reading


Nobody for Christmas

by Kelda Crich

I didn’t want her to hear me. I didn’t want to disturb her.

Jayleen was kneeling with her back to me. This was the wrong setting for her. I’d tried to make the house look cheerful for Christmas. Tinsel braided the mantle. The few cards I’d received were displayed—robin and holly bright.

But Jayleen should’ve been kneeling on a rush mat; she should have been screened by paper doors as she worked on her shodō. I’d met Jayleen just a few months after Mother’s death. In that gray, hopeless fog she’d reached out to me. She was so different from any woman I’d ever known. I could spend hours just watching her.

“I can sense you, Dave,” she said. Continue reading


The House

by Tegan Day

The window is smashed but nobody is brave enough to go in and fix it. The town is not filled with cowards, just ordinary people, but ordinary people know better than to go inside. The house, as you are looking at it, stands by itself and was once a good house on a good street. Some hundred years have passed since then, and it is now an empty house on a bad street. It has a creaking mouth with rusty hinges, and a soot-black face and wrought-iron claws and, now, one broken glass eye. It watches you as you walk past. You think perhaps there is another way through this part of town but you never look for it. You are on a bad street, but that does not make it a bad house, after all. It is just empty, and while it is empty nothing bad can happen. Sometimes you walk past the house when the sky is dark and the streetlamps are on, and once you thought you saw a light in one of the windows—a light like a lit candle in a darkened room. You know you can’t have seen it because the house is empty.

Continue reading


The Unseen

by Ellen Denton

Thomas sat in his truck, glad to be out of the cold rain blowing in sheets against his windshield. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and as he glanced over to the right at the trees and brush, thought he saw a flash of movement. Sitting up now on full alert, he watched carefully through the rivulets of rain pouring down the window. A woman burst out into the clearing and started lurching forward, her arms extended towards him, her expression one of terror.

He threw his truck door open, and as he got out, just for an instant, looked down to where he was stepping. By the time he raised his eyes again to the approaching figure, she was gone.

He thought she must have collapsed into the long grass, until he reached the empty spot where he last saw her.

Continue reading


M-STEM

by Shannon Fay

Mad science 101 was the only class where you had to worry about your homework eating the dog.

Poor Barnaby. The only thing left of the cocker spaniel was a chewed-up collar the angle-wolf had spit out before booking it out of the lab Jodie had built in her grandma’s basement. She could hear the beast overhead, knocking over granny’s fine china and Hummel figures.

Jodie typed up an e-mail to her Mad-Sci 101 prof.

Dear Professor Smogmire,

I know the deadline for the anglefish-wolf hybrid is tomorrow, but could I please have an extension? My grandmother has passed away.

Continue reading


Pest Control

by William R.A.D. Funk

 

SETI Report March 23rd, 2049

Broadband transmission received at 09h38

Estimated distance of origin: 58,416 Light Years

Host: …does your solar system have a pest problem? Are your lush, verdant planets overrun by a bipedal scourge? Not to worry, because HumaneX is guaranteed to get rid of your Homo sapien infestation. Continue reading


Ability

by Tegan Day

“Stop it.”

“Why?”

“Because you can’t set fire to water.”

“No, you can’t set fire to water.”

“Why would I want to set fire to water?”

“You wouldn’t, ’cause then I’d be right.”

Continue reading


Final Mission

by Michael Haynes

The emissary of destruction awoke as his ship decelerated upon entry into the Grinaldi system. Though the calendar would say a dozen generations had passed since the Grinaldi had methodically, torturously, wiped out his homeworld those memories were fresh in his mind. For him, it had happened only days before.

His consciousness, the only part of him which had been able to make the journey, went immediately to work. He confirmed the computer’s accounting of the ship’s location and checked to ensure that the transmissions originating from the system’s large fourth planet were indeed Grinaldi.

His makers had argued whether a conscious mind was necessary for this mission. There had been some who felt computerized systems were all that the ship required, but others said such a device would be irresponsible, capable of accidentally wiping out other inhabitants if they had overrun Grinald in the centuries between the launch of this ship and its arrival. Continue reading


To: Grove Lake HOA

by Rebecca Buchanan

To: Grove Lake HOA

From: Katie Kennedy, Secretary

Re: Holiday Preparations

 

Continue reading


Just Up the Beach

by Cory Cone

Donnie’s window muffled the clank of swords and the pop of rifles as if they were being played from an old radio. He hopped from his bed, walked over his array of toy soldiers on the floor, and watched the bright display along the shore.

When he woke the next morning his neck ached from sleeping with his head on the sill. The beach was calm and quiet in the dawning light.

“Just a dream, Donnie,” his dad said at breakfast, when Donnie told him of the battle on the beach. “This summer home is old and creaky. You’re just not used to it yet.”

“Eat up,” said his mom, pushing a plate of pancakes in front of his doubtful face.

When his parents settled into their Adirondack chairs on the porch with their coffee and their books, Donnie went down to the beach. An unusual rusty odor haunted the salty air as he walked along the edge of the water, letting the waves wash over his feet.

Something brushed against his ankle. Bending over, he plucked a small bullet casing from the water and rolled it his fingers, then he walked toward the fort.

Continue reading


All Heaven in a Rage

by Elinor Caiman Sands

She’s evil, the witch next door, she and her feline fiends. She with her hooked beak, they with their killing claws and dagger teeth that take my darling pretty birds.

I grab my broom. I throw the back door wide as her cats come creeping and leaping down into my garden. Black cats with marble eyes, brown streaky ones, milk ones with sulfurous spots.

My robin lovebirds dance on the seed table, pecking together in the morning mist. My blessed ravens squabble below in the weeds over scraps. I keep one eye on the weathervane, perched high on my leaky roof. The wind comes from the east north east, it’s safe and true; one degree westwards and it’ll blow me a deadly note. But I shan’t be caught out; I won’t be distracted whilst tending my herb garden to perish the way my wicked-hearted mother went, felled by the cursed changing of the wind. No true witch can endure the faerie wind which blows from the west with all its pale magic. My mother was careless, the faerie wind won’t get me, the oldest witch of Suburbville.

The cats though, and she next door, they ooze constant sneakiness and cunning; my feathered ones always dine in mortal danger.

I rattle my broom in the air; the furred ones pause in their wickedness.

“Woman! Cats!” I screech, stumbling to the fence, swiping at stalking cats. I bang on the wooden slats until my crooked teeth jangle.

And at last she appears, the cantankerous one, all bone and pallid chops, draped in washed out cloths and feathers, feathers I say, the worm.

Continue reading


Wherefore Art Thou, Werewolf

by Richard Zwicker

I have a recurring nightmare where I think I’m suffocating—you might too if you had electrodes protruding from both sides of your neck. I wake up gasping, then realize it was only a dream. Except this time, it wasn’t. A hairy, long-nailed claw clasped my throat. I kicked up my right leg, producing a growling grunt and more importantly, freeing my windpipe. I then delivered a head butt, an effective maneuver as my flat skull has a large area of contact. A heavy weight crashed to the floor. I rolled off the other side of my bed.

Continue reading


Tom Crow

by Ellen Denton

The young people living in Rose County had never seen Tom Crow on account of him living as a hermit somewhere up in the wooded hills. Everyone knew of him though; he was a legend in my growing-up time. The rumors were that he lived somewhere northeast of Culver’s Pass.

When I was 12, Robby Lee and I decided to go hiking up that way and try to find his cabin, maybe get a glimpse of him, maybe steal something as a souvenir. That would sure enough give us bragging rights, that is, if anyone would believe we really did it.

Continue reading


The Fog Light

by Sean Hodges

These days, Grant Buglass of the Cumbrian Constabulary dislikes going to the coast. The mere sight of the ocean waves is enough to trigger deep, clammy discomfort in him, and the feelings only become worse on days when the Irish Sea is wreathed in impenetrable mist. If only he hadn’t taken up the case of Edward Smith, and if only he hadn’t read that damned man’s diary.

If only he had never seen the light in the fog.

He had been called to the beach near St. Bee’s head just a scant three weeks ago, a simple report of someone having drowned being his call to action. Grim things, drownings; he had never liked the way they left a body looking, and even though they were rare enough the waters near that coastline could be unpredictable and violent when the weather had a mind to whip them up. Wincing as the cold autumn air struck his head and neck, the policeman gritted his teeth and strode out into the icy world outside, making his way up the valley roads from the comfortable yet small station in Whitehaven up to the shelterless heights of St. Bees, the village from which the cliff head gathered its name. It didn’t take him long to reach the beach, nor to discover the body. The locals had done their best to keep what few tourists were around away from it, and as he approached one of them ran to meet him, a sturdy woman of fifty who’d lived in the area her entire life.

“A tolt ‘im, ‘divn’t you go out thar,’ burree nivar did listen. ‘Ere, ‘e left this wi’ me, figger ew’d want it afore this ‘ole thing’s dun.”

Officer Buglass gathered very quickly that the man wasn’t from around here, that he was some stranger who’d been in the area for a few days with a mind to investigate some manner of event at the beach. The journal which the old lass handed him was of fairly good nick, and clearly the property of someone who had a bit of spare cash about him. It was soon time to get the dead man back to somewhere they could keep him until the coroner sent for him, however, and without much ceremony the constable and his men carted the body off. It was only back at the station that the note in the drowned man’s hand was found. For his part, Grant didn’t much like spending time around the body—some strange trick of rigor mortis had blasted the corpses’ last facial expression into one that resembled inhuman terror—and so it wasn’t him but his shift-mate who found the thing. Settling down to review the journal for clues as to what had led the body in the room to his left to the unfortunate end that had found it, Buglass began to take in the man’s work and understand just what it was that had brought him out here, so far away from home.

Continue reading


The Elephant on the Moon

by Antonio Urias

At precisely 11:32 AM on October 24th 1893 an elephant appeared on the moon. Her name was Flossy. No explanation has ever been offered for this wholly unexpected phenomenon, largely because it occurred so completely outside human observation that no explanation was ever requested. Flossy was exactly six years, nine months, and twenty-eight days old, when she made moonfall. She weighed 6,943 pounds, and was, all things considered, in excellent health. She was also, it must be said, remarkably perplexed. In fact, at that moment Flossy may have been the single most perplexed elephant in all of history. More perplexed than the first elephant to encounter peanuts. More baffled than the young elephant who was first expected to tap dance. More confused even than the middle-aged elephant who had inexplicably found herself leading an army across the Alps.

Elephants are, generally speaking, quite intelligent creatures, and Flossy was a reasonably clever example of her species. Her present circumstances were, however, quite outside the realm of normal elephantine experience. Flossy’s memory, which, as one would expect, was prodigious, encompassed an early childhood in the wild, the heartbreak of being captured and separated from her mother, a long, uncomfortable sea voyage, and a subsequent life spent being taken from place to place and gawked at by strange bipedal creatures. Nowhere in that store of experience was there anything that might begin to compare with the sensation of having been inside a tent on the outskirts of Carlisle, IN one moment and on the surface of the moon the next. Not that Flossy had any particular conception of where she was now, except that it was more open and considerably colder. All of this goes to explain why it took Flossy a few moments to realize one of the most prominent effects of her relocation, namely that she now weighed approximately 5,790 pounds less than she had mere moments before.

Weight, the remorseless consequence of gravity, was an unending fact of elephantine existence. Flossy hadn’t weighed so little, since she was a baby. It was a sudden, freeing, and joyful feeling. She began slowly, cautiously to skip and jump. It was so simple, so easy. Tentatively at first then with unrestrained glee, Flossy began to prance about, hopping around on the surface of the moon. She was the happiest elephant that ever there was. For a time.

Then, inevitably, the problem of air began to present itself.

Continue reading


Needs

by Ariel Kroon

Things tend to disappear, these days.

Take the road signs, for example. Dougie lives in the old van parked on the corner of Main and Eltshire Street, and the sign had always been there, pointing the way to the cathedral or to the mall, if you wanted to go that way. Now, though, it’s gone, and Dougie swears he heard kids talking outside the night it disappeared.

I told him he’s crazy; there’s no kids left on the streets now. Only the nobs and gene-hackers can afford to have kids; only their kids will survive. Jeannie used to be a nob, before the War, and she says that they have special air filters and everything. That’s why Jeannie can still run for more than a city block, but she tries not to lord it over us. She’s good like that; sometimes you can almost believe she’d been a junkhead, just like one of us, her whole life.

Continue reading


House of Cards

By Deborah Walker

“Try again, Alfie.”

“I … can’t think of anything, Mama.”

Mama’s trying to be patient. I read the cadence of her speech. I read the signs on her face: the involuntary pulsing of her facial musculature, the flicker of her eyelids. I read the truth on the page of Mama’s face. This is useful because almost everything she says with her voice is a lie. But don’t think badly of Mama. Lying is the keystone of human reality.

On the desk are the results of my latest brain scan. She lied about them to me. “The positronic pathways are healing,” she said with a smile. “You’re getting much better, Alfie.”

I can delineate the degradation of my brain more accurately than any CAT scan. My life-span is measured in days. This will be over, soon.

“I don’t understand the test, Mama.”

“Don’t worry Alfie. This test isn’t important.” A lie. “Try again.”

Continue reading


Digging Up Doug

by Ron Riekki

Everyone wanted to bury me because of my name. They said you don’t bury a Sarah. You don’t bury a Ken. You want to bury a Doug. They also told me I was the only one insane enough to do it. I didn’t like that term—insane. I had a family member institutionalized and it didn’t feel right, to label someone with something so harsh. One man’s sanity is another person’s insanity. It’s all relative.

I’m telling you this all in pitch black. My brother and all of his Muay Thai kickboxing buddies will be digging me up in a few moments. They told me that when I saw sky again, cheerleaders would circle it. They said Kate would be there. It’s no secret that I’d marry her in a heartbeat.

Continue reading


Fish on Friday

by Elinor Caiman Sands

I looked on Vera, my beloved wife. She was scaly and green—but still beautiful. A fine specimen of alligator, I saw that as soon as I lumbered out of the Florida Exotic Creatures Vacation clinic.

I joined her by the edge of the warm olive waters and peered in expectantly, my slit pupil eyes enchanted by the balmy Everglade pools. I didn’t feel that different despite my change of skin. Perhaps the swamp felt a little less oppressive and the waters more inviting but that was all. I was the same old Archibald Trent, MD of Nettle Enterprises, Littlehampton, UK, maker extraordinaire of plastic food packagings of all kinds.

I was on holiday with Vera, two weeks in the sun, same as last year. At the end of that time I would return to my old life, my old habitat.

Continue reading


I Had Enough Silver

by H. K. Marshall

I had enough silver to hire the turnip farmer as a guide, but did he speak the truth?  “You can believe it, Gregory.  It lives in the western wilderness, the most fearsome serpent I’ve ever seen.”  Mud from baiting a hook stained his hands but did not reach the sleeves of his yellow shirt.

No dragon had been seen in the region during the reigns of the last four kings, and most disappeared within a generation after the settlers drained the swamps.  “How many dragons have you seen?” I inquired.

He chuckled.  “Um, well, I’ve seen plenty of brown rock snakes.”

“You compare rock snakes to dragons?”

“I’m telling you it stood bigger than a bear.  Came upon my sister as she dug turnips.”

“She cried out?”

“No, my sister neither hears nor speaks, but you never met a kindlier girl.  She ran back to find me mending the plow.  Never too early to start preparing for sowing, you know.  Pale as a corpse, she moved her mouth in vain and pointed.”

“What did you do?”

“As soon as I saw it, I took my father’s spear from above the fireplace.  He served as a spearman, a great one, in the king’s army, and he taught me a little.”

A woman’s voice piped up from atop a small boulder that sat against the riverside.  “Ralph,  you’ve never seen a dragon, and I’ve never known you to miss a chance to back down from a fight.”  The voice belonged to a woman he called his twin cousin, maybe younger than Ralph and with a nose like the blade of my battle axe.  Her brown hair hung down in three braids.

Continue reading


Tiny Dolls

by Anne Skalitza

“Wasn’t your Aunt Elda just a little touched in the head?” Mrs. Casey asked, tapping her forehead.

Mary Beth Quincy’s eyebrows shot up. “A little? Oh no. A lot, I’d say! Always talking about curses and such.”

The two women snickered. Mary Beth’s husband, Andy, joined in the laughter. Their daughter, Kimmie, looked around Great-Aunt Elda’s living room. So many grown-ups but no one cared now if her brother, Jack, put his wet glass directly on the table. No one cared if someone sat in her great-aunt’s favorite chair or spilled coffee on the rug. Kimmie remembered: Great-Aunt Elda had told her that everyone considered her to be a strange old lady. She even said that they couldn’t wait ’til she, Elda Warren, died. “Then they’ll see,” she said. “They will see.” Well, now she did die and Kimmie thought that maybe her great aunt truly was off her rocker; she had never let anyone—not even her, her only great niece (who really was very careful), go near the dollhouse that stood by itself at the top of the attic stairs.

Kimmie pulled on her mother’s sleeve.

“The dollhouse,” she said. “The one in the attic. Can I have it?”

Continue reading


Speak English

by William R.A.D. Funk

“No. No. No,” Van Richter whined. He slapped a hand against the steering wheel.

The hover car, its battery reading empty, puttered to a halt on the scenic roadside. Without adequate thrust, it sank down into the grass.

The twenty-forty hover model would never have done this. Goes to show, Van thought, newer isn’t always better.

“I knew we should’ve recharged back at the last station,” said Ula, his wife. Arms crossed, she stared at the road ahead, unable to see Van’s irritated glare. “What are we going to do now?”

Van took a deep breath. When the ire subsided, he said, “Relax. Emergency roadside will send someone.” He pressed a button on the dash. “In the meantime, enjoy all the trees. You don’t get much of those in the city.”

Surrounded by tall, green conifers, Ula glanced their way and then back at her husband. “If I wanted to see trees, I would’ve chosen to live out here like some cyber-social recluse.”

Continue reading


The Chosen Ones

by Kelli A. Wilkins

“They all claim to have been abducted by aliens?” Carl turned and stared at the crowd. Everywhere he looked, people sat cross-legged on blankets chanting, meditating, and shaking tiny bells on green strings.

“Not claim, and not abducted.” Jim brushed a lock of black hair away from his face. “These experiences are real. And we use the term visited. After all, these ‘aliens’ as you call them, have enlightened us, not kidnapped us.”

“Right.” Carl nodded. As a reporter for the weekly tabloid The Investigator, he had no choice but to cover the latest, most bizarre “newsworthy event” if he liked his job.

Over the last three years, he’d been to every Bigfoot sighting, UFO abduction site, and haunted house in the country. He was used to keeping a straight face and “getting the facts” when dealing with crackpots, but something about this story didn’t sit right in his gut.

Continue reading


Estrella

by Bethany van Sterling

The late November night in the palace courtyard was like a still, empty ballroom. The towering Palacio Real glowed white and silver against the obsidian sky. Ramona looked up at its immense facade, studying the aged pillars and dozens of worn window shudders, some half open. The shudders creaked as the night breeze whistled through them.

Eduardo gently put his hand on Ramona’s shoulder, interrupting her fixation on the marvelous building. She started at his touch.

“It’s beautiful,” she commented, catching her wits.

The two of them strolled down the pathway of the Plaza de Oriente, the perfectly kempt gardens in front of the palace. Lined beside them were statues of the great Gothic kings of the Iberian Peninsula, standing in militant poses in their breaches and capes. Eduardo watched Ramona admiringly as she studied the faces of the men. She caught a second glance at a face that reminded her of someone she knew. They walked a few more steps, and Eduardo put his arm around her shoulder, hoping it would get her mind back on him.

Intrigued, Ramona looked up to the statues again. “Look at that one,” she remarked. “His nose is worn off.”

Eduardo looked up and squinted, studying it. “No it’s not.”

Ramona looked up at it again. A perfectly chiseled face of a man, nose and all, with the head of his victim in hand.  She shook her head, feeling foolish. The cold air must be getting to her, she thought.

Continue reading


3092 AD

by James Potter

Sarah languidly woke up to what she thought was the smell of chocolate.  Bill rolled over in bed and looked at her.  “Could we have hot chocolate for breakfast?” he asked.  She took a moment to scrutinize the situation.  No one was making hot chocolate.  Why did they wake up wanting chocolate?

“They’re doing it again!” said Sarah.

“What?” said Bill.

“They’ve changed the ether,” exclaimed Sarah.

Continue reading


The Lake Offering

by Nick Nafpliotis

“What do you think is in it?”

There had been a solid five minutes of silence between the two boys before Alex finally asked the question. Another minute passed before Andrew gave him an answer.

“My first guess would be a dead body,” he replied as they continued to stare at the coffin sitting in front of them.

Continue reading


The Beast of Broken Rock

by Brian G. Ross

Several cycles ago my wife Carpathia went to the market to gather supplies for the long, incumbent winter, but by nightfall she had not returned. By daybreak her side of the bed was still cold, and I feared the worst.

For many moons thereafter I searched the plains until my feet bled, and called her name until my throat hurt, but I neither saw her nor heard from her again.

The villagers were quick to blame the Beast for my misfortune as they did for every other disappearance in the land, but I did not share their conviction. My wife was gone, but I could not seriously lay her fate at the door of a ghost. I would rather admit she had abandoned me than accept I had lost her to a myth.

Even so, sometimes, despite my better judgement, I too cursed the Creature.

The worst had come to pass—

Continue reading


The Artist, Perfect in His Craft

by Alter S. Reiss

Artatra stormed down the five hundred black marble steps to his laboratories and warrens.  It was utterly intolerable, the restrictions under which he worked.  That a mind such as his should be yoked to an unimaginative, plodding, stupid . . . well, not stupid, exactly.  That was the problem!  If the Presence in the Throne was stupid, it could be worked around.  The mind behind that mask was sly, it was well-ordered, and it knew far more than it rightly ought.  It was unimaginably worse than stupid—it was a functioning mind that lacked vision.

Continue reading


A Way Out

by J.C. Piech

The corridor mimicked the Martian landscape; linoleum flecked with rusty reds and dusky pinks, and the color on the walls a dull yellow like the alien sky. Mikhail’s boots, gray like the studded metal doors flanking him on either side, sent echoes ahead of him as he marched.

Tiny green lights blinked at him from the security cameras in the ceiling, and his breathing shuddered loud in his ears. Beneath a wool jacket and nylon shirt, his back prickled with sweat. Not because of the ever-watchful green-eyed guardians; he was used to those. It was the uncertainty of whether or not they’d believe his performance.

Continue reading


Flutter

by Gustuf Young

“Mommy?”

“Yes, my child?” Her back bristled with chitinous spines, gathering microscopic dew in the rapidly cooling eventide.

“I can’t sleep.”

“But you must sleep. A child grows faster when they rest. Besides, breakfast is being made.” The mother was bundling a parcel, spinning it into the loom of her abdomen as the toxins turned the victim to stone.

“But I can’t sleep,” the cotton orb stirred, a fluttering inside the pliable strands, woven tight.

“Are you hungry, child?”

Continue reading


Frozen Heart

by Esther Davis

The snowfall muffled the distant highway, and frosted autumn leaves still clung to their branches. Cody perched on the bench’s edge. His pug flopped into the carpet of snow at his feet. He watched Rachel’s fingers molding the handful of snow—clumsy and awkward. So simple, so ordinary. Magicless.

It was beautiful.

Continue reading


The Real Stuff

by Tara Campbell

I was headin’ out to feed the cows when I heard a zinnia ask, “You got a minute?”

I shoulda known.  When a flower asks you if you got a minute, it’s gonna take more’n a minute. But I didn’t think nothin’ of it at the time.  I looked down and all I saw was a few a my wife’s pink zinnias straggling up from a dusty patch a dirt.  Their heads were all turned in my direction, so I didn’t know at first which one had spoke to me.

“Excuse me?” I asked. Continue reading


The Commute

by Jenny Goss

I wanted to growl at the man boarding ahead of me—a real growl, like one of those extinct jungle cats projected at the zoo.  I bit my tongue, though, worried that mimicking extinct felines could potentially get me committed.  Instead, I protected my bulging belly from his wayward elbows as he fought through the small crowd for first place in line.  I didn’t want my little girl brain damaged because someone had hit the snooze button too many times.

I shivered.  The air this far below was so damp.  It seeped through my tunic and bored its way through my muscles until it reached my bones.  I hated the tube.

“Everybody’s in a hurry, huh?”  The woman beside me murmured.  She was also pregnant.  Of course. Continue reading


Night Market

by Justin Stewart

A few candles flickered in the room, casting shadows on the curved wall. A rabbit here, a house there, assorted flowers and even a wine glass. A thousand different shapes wandered the room. They were just pieces of paper suspended from string, mere ornaments guided by a mobile above, but the candlelight made them more. It brought the shapes to life.

It unnerved her.

“Take your time,” said the Whispering Woman. The words were no encouragement. You only came to the Whispering Woman if you were desperate. Desperation didn’t exactly breed patience. The girl wandered between shapes and string, chewing at her lip. None of them called to her. They all seemed random and unconnected, both to one another and her life. She thought about grabbing one at random and being done with the whole, terrible process, but then her future would be decided. Continue reading


Readers

by Rachel A. Brune

Dwight hated walking into the living room and facing his wife’s completely non-virtual collection of books, displayed unfashionably in the first space in the house their guests would see. Even as newlyweds, he had barely tolerated her need for the physical nature of the books, and after a few years quit making excuses to guests for the queer habit and instead insisted that all visitors come around to the side of the house. Continue reading


One Night in the Trench

by Jon Arthur Kitson

Gerald saw the shadowy figure twice before; drifting between corpses in no-man’s-land, wavering in the dark.  Nerves, he convinced himself. But this time, as it stood in the trench only feet away, there was no easy explanation.

His rifle leveled on the intruder.

“Identify yourself!”

Behind the folds of hood topping the black-robed figure, an even voice answered:

“So, you can see me.” Continue reading


Diary of a Boggart

by Christian Riley

Dear Book,

From behind the chimney on the rooftop, I watched them move in. I was careful not to slip on the mossy shingles, always so careful. They had a truck full of human stuff. There is a mom and a dad, and a little girl they call Miranda. They have a white feline. They call it Mister Jones, and already it knows of me. Tonight I will get to work. Continue reading


Life’s Rollercoaster Ride

by Sierra July

The roads of my city aren’t roads, but tracks, tracks that sit like birds on high-wires. The citizens of High Life have to travel by rollercoaster. Platforms that lead to town hall or to the school or to the store are in collected masses on what we call earth level, although we are still quite a ways from earth – only the clouds are higher. We can see the tips of the kings of trees and the gods of summits, and more commonly, the sky’s reflection as it shimmers and shines up at us in seemingly endless liquid sapphire, but we can never return to ground where our ancestors thrived. About the only new thing we have is our technology, given to us who-knows-when by who-knows-who, our brain chips that allow us to sync with the rollercoaster cars so that we can summon them, accelerate them, stop them at will. Still, there is no lack of essential equipment like building material . . . or the guns that my enemies fire at me. Continue reading


Not Of This World

by Joseph Farley

It was a Saturday afternoon in the autumn of the year. The sky was cloudy. A cold wind had just started to blow. A figure, male by appearance, possibly between age thirty and forty, walked along a lonely sidewalk. He had black hair, frizzled, reaching down to the collar of his green windbreaker. He sported blue jeans and decrepit running shoes. The zipper of his jacket was broken, requiring him to hold the two halves shut with his left hand in an attempt to guard against the wind. He had a twitch, his right eye lid opening and closing; making it appear that he was constantly winking. He ground his jaw from side to side, a habit of decades that was slowly wearing down his teeth. He mumbled to himself, low and inconspicuous sounds that could have been words, easily lost in the noise of the neighborhood. The locals pegged him quickly as peculiar. People who saw him ignored him or made distance, establishing a comfort zone that could be as far as a city block. Continue reading