Tag Archives: short story

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.

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Heart Patent

by T. Gene Davis

“Owen! You’ve got snail mail!”

“What’s that?” Owen asked, taking the envelope from his father.

“Don’t they teach you kids anything at college?”

Owen opened the envelope, and read the single sheet of paper. His father whistled from over his shoulder. “That looks official. Is it a scam?”

You are hereby ordered by the court to appear in civil hearing of copyright infringement, patent infringement, smuggling, and bootlegging of a human organ.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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Unlikely Things

by T. Gene Davis

“I can dream, even if I can’t sleep.” -Ishmael, Borne at Sea

 

“Help me get convicted.”

“No.”

“You don’t feel I need to go to jail?”

Ruby groaned. “Being a defense attorney shouldn’t be this complex.”

“I will die if they put me back on that ship. How would that make you feel?” Ishmael’s plump face projected patience and interest, rather than fear and hope.

“I know you are innocent, and if I prove you are in court I’ll never forgive myself.”

“I agree. You can’t tell them what I’ve told you. You have to get me convicted.”

She threw her pile of legal documents across the room, spreading papers and breaking tablets. “I hate you! I’ll be disbarred for this! I hate you!” She glanced up to see the prison guard looking through the observation window inquisitively. Ruby discreetly wiped her eye, careful not to smear any makeup. Satisfied that he did not need to intervene, the guard disappeared from the small window.

Ishmael leaned back in his aluminum chair, crossing his arms with a broad smile. “Thank you.”

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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


Not a Spade

by T. Gene Davis

Gusting face-freezing wind displaced Sister Wendy Riley’s bonnet, pushing it nearly off her dirty brown hair. No matter how many steps Wendy made toward Zion in the Great Salt Lake Valley, the wind seemed determine to blow her back to Liverpool. The annoying and ill timed gust that finally dislodged her bonnet came as she pulled her handcart up a rise. Releasing one hand from the crossbar to fix the errant bonnet meant losing the cart and her few belongings to the hill. With hair whipping her face, she prayed the tie string kept the bonnet around her neck until she reached flat ground ahead.

Wendy stood to one side while pulling the handcart, as though her husband still might join her on his side of the cart. She turned down offers, even from the Wilson boys, to help her pull the handcart. She did not want anyone in his spot. It was silly, but a week was still too soon.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Intervention

by T. Gene Davis

Most parents impose on their grown children by asking them to run to the store and buy green beans at a quarter past midnight. The dutiful adult child having just begun a restful doze is awakened by the cell they did not dare turn off, and the request is made among reminders of how much labor the parent suffered on the child’s behalf.

My father puts all these parental units to shame. You see, he’s been a widower for years, and feels the need to make up for the missing parent’s requests. So, when he makes a request it isn’t by vocalization but by outrageous, though terse, 140 character commands.

“Matt joined the crew of a space liner. Go get your brother back.” My father’s text implied the unwritten, “Or, don’t come back, either.” So here I stood, facing this close-to-light ship floating in the bay along side normal sea freighters wondering how I’d find Matt on a ship that size.

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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.”

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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.

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Fiddler’s Tale

by T. Gene Davis

Ivy clung to thick stone walls surrounding the cottage entry. Shade from the castle’s high turreted tower gave some relief from the summer sun. An herb patch rested to the left of the entry providing a scent to the thick muggy air. Smoke curled from the cobblestone chimney defying the summer morning’s warmth.

Entertaining a fire in the cottage was unpleasant, but the baker lived in the castle. Letal and Mary lived outside the castle. Taking their cooking to the baker took a lot of time. On days when Letal entertained the king with his music, Mary took the bread out to the baker. However, with Letal home she chose to endure the heat of the fire. He was glad for it. They were still sappy newly weds, and felt near physical pain at separation.

“Letal,” Mary called from the fire’s hearth laying thick her best damsel in distress tone of voice.

“Yes, my wife?” Letal responded, enjoying the playful attitude of his wife.

“When are you going to stop adding, ‘my wife,’ to everything you say?”

“I like the sound of it. So, never, … my wife.” He smiled at her as he spoke, showing imperfect yellow teeth. However, he had all of his teeth and was proud of it. He showed his teeth whenever he smiled.

“Do you have a tune in that fiddle of yours for getting rid of flies from the kitchen?” She teased Letal, knowing he hated anyone calling his viola a fiddle.

“My viola? Yes, my wife.”

“Well play it, my husband.”

He pulled the bow across the finely tuned cords, playing a simple tune composed of three repeating notes. The tune did not sound like much. However, the flies fled for the window.

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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.

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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?”

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

by T. Gene Davis

I barely finished writing the note, Mom, I promise I still remember your birthday. I hope you had a happy one! before Heidi joined me in good old conference room 812.

“What’s that?” Heidi interrogated as she flopped into the conference room chair next to mine. She gasped the words, like it was the last chore she could manage before succumbing to overwork and collapsing into unconsciousness. She still managed to point accusingly at the birthday card. I wanted to say, none of your business, but she had already snatched it from my lap.

“Do we need another talk about personal space, Heidi?”

“This is nice.” She examined the glitter covered front with candles and cake, then she examined the interior. “You forgot your mama’s birthday. Oooo, you really forgot her birthday. Just a tip, … putting the date of her birthday inside the card doesn’t make it any less late.”

I reached for the card, not really in the mood, but she gave me a hands-off kind of look, and moved the card just out of reach.

“I’m not done looking yet. Don’t be so grabby! Sheesh.” 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.

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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.

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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—

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Erosion

by T. Gene Davis

Fred looked down on her burnt form. His squinting eyes bookmarked a crumpled expression and one twitching nostril that threatened to make his voluminous mustache crawl away to find a more appetizing site. Smokey smells replaced the expected morning scent of sagebrush after rain. Her right arm flung wildly above her reposed form, clawed at the scorched bark of an ancient pinyon destroyed by the previous night’s fire.

He scratched his back and rubbed his fingers through the mustache to calm its twitching, then cleared his throat. He looked at the late morning sun, as if to burn the image of her reddened flesh out of his mind.

She opened one eye slightly. Her voice rasped, “I must have slipped out. It won’t let me back in.” Her left fist unclenched, but the right hand kept rubbing raw burnt fingers against the remains of the pinyon.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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Sponsored

by T. Gene Davis

Brandon

If it’s sold, the Man chips it. HDTV? Chipped. Shoes? Chipped. Cats and dogs? Chipped. Underwear? Chipped.

That’s life. Who cares? Everything has chips.

When the student loan bubble burst, average folk like me needed new tuition sources. I decided to go with sponsorship. The Man pays my tuition, books, and rent until I get my diploma. In return, I became a walking chip-activated billboard. 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


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


Don’t Open That Box

by T. Gene Davis

I’ve known Kimball since I was a kid. He lived in the abandoned space between my building and the red brick one on the left. Kimball slept under a mattress that he propped up against the alley’s old chain link fence that kept us kids from getting to school on time.

Kimball was harmless enough. He didn’t talk or scream at ghosts or people on fake cell phones. His arms were clean—no needle tracks. No one ever saw him even drink coffee. But, he was still a bum, and mom hated us talking to him. 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


When Helpful Turns Ugly

by T. Gene Davis

Carrie fingered her reprimand collar at the library table. Her legal guardian, the house AI, kept one on her and her sister for discipline purposes. The shogi game in front of her awaited her move. She ran her fingers between her collar and the flesh of her neck, avoiding the sharp pointed electrodes that held it in place. She tried imagining not wearing it.

“Any month now.” Keith’s voice jolted her. He whisked her away to the library for a game of shogi any time the house AI became too annoying.

“I know. I’m excited to get it off.”

“The game. It’s your turn. You know I’ll have your king. No shame in resigning.”

“It’s just not in me.”

“Even John the waiter couldn’t save you now.”

“‘John the waiter’?” 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