She stood on the edge of somewhere and it was dark no stars just scudding clouds toes gripping needles and blades of damp grass. Eyes closed she could smell dirt and stone and moss. Could hear and feel the wind screaming and roaring and purring curling round and through her ears. Eyes open seeing bruised sky streaked with the flailing of her crimson scarf two tentacles being pulled out into the night by invisible fingers. Her arms reaching out to draw the scarf back in cling to its safety its comfort. Then falling hurtling spiralling down and the wind in her ears growing louder and noisier and penetrating through the eardrums until her brain was whirring and hollow. And yet she felt calm. And yet she felt numb. And yet she felt…she didn’t know, how did she feel? Nothing. The clouds parted and the moonlight revealed the ground and she looked towards it and was startled by the yellow sunflower reaching up from the concrete ground the featureless face turned towards the sky seeking the sun searching desperate for the nonexistent sphere of flames that would surely come again. Then she was being buffeted by pockets of wind like stormy seas under pirate skies a kraken deep pitching and listing. And she closed her eyes and heard nothingness and saw nothingness until her whole body jolts and she wakes.
By Alex Z. Salinas
It was noon. Hot July wind blew crop dust from nearby cornfields down the cramped street of Bluegrass, where homes from a bygone golden era stood like displaced war veterans.
Three days had passed before the boys last saw each other. It was because of old man Shephard that their butts were red from their daddy’s callused hands. Each boy remembered how he smiled a possum’s toothy smile when the police arrived. He’d always threatened to call them, but never did. But by God, he actually did it. In their minds, they were not trespassing and playing football on his yard.
The boys gathered on Allan’s driveway as they always did.
“I’m callin a Code Black,” Mike said.
Allan nodded and shuffled his dirty bare feet to his garage door and lifted it open. The boys walked inside.
Mike motioned everyone to huddle in.
“Who’s ready for revenge?” Mike asked.
“Whatcha thinkin?” replied Wade.
“Ricky, I’m gonna need your skills,” Mike said.
“Why me?” Ricky whined.
“Shhh. Quiet. It’s cuz you eat the most out of us,” Mike said, poking Ricky’s belly button protruding out of his shirt.
“Screw you, Mike,” Ricky said, batting Mike’s pointer finger away.
“Screw you, Mike,” Wade mimicked. The boys, minus Ricky, laughed.
“Okay fellas, back to bidness,” Mike said. “Allan, ask your mom to make Frito pies. Extra chili.”
Gene Shephard sat in his kitchen listening to Dwight Yoakam when he heard his wife shriek outside.
He ran to her, holding up his cotton shorts as his considerable behind jiggled.
She was staring at their opened mailbox, her hands covering her mouth.
He approached her, breathing heavily.
He looked inside the mailbox and gasped. It wasn’t refried beans; the smell and consistency said otherwise.
A handwritten note was attached.
Breath of Life
She woke from a dream. A startling noise broke her rest. She leaned over, near where her husband used to lay, and flicked on the light.
This was reality. In reality, she remembers crying out for him. She feels him in her heart but she will never be able to touch him, talk with him, laugh or cry with him again. But in dreams, he is beside her, holding her, hugging her, draping his arms around her body as their memories whirr around them. But when she wakes, there is only dust beside her.
Booms of wind and rain thrash on the window, but as pushed back the curtain, there was nothing. Only calm. If not weather, then what?
The electricity flashed off so quickly, as though her blink devoured the light. Behind her, a strange gust; the breeze of a forgotten memory.
Over the violent noise, a faint groan came from her bed. She turned, searching through the hazy darkness, her vision pulled to the bed like a string from her heart. Under the covers she saw a body. The outline grew, groaning a crushing groan, filling with the breath of life.
She screamed, but nobody could hear. No family, no friends, no neighbors. She had nothing. Nobody to hear her gagging of fear. Tears burst from her eyes as she recognized that shape in the bed.
In the dark, she ran and laid beside the figure, peering through watery eyes at his head laying on the pillow. He was sleeping. Her beauty, her life, her soul beside her again. Asleep. Years of torturing herself, years of blaming and anguish—he was beside her, once again.
The blustering wind ended. She placed her head on the pillow beside him and fell back to sleep, in complete bliss.
The man with umbrella
by Abhishek Sainani
He opens his umbrella and holds it above his head. Next moment the first set of raindrops touch the umbrella and drop off from the edges. He can somehow, always, sense the rain in the heaviness of the air itself. As he stands there, waiting, he looks amused as he witnesses all other people, run for the roof nearby, surprised by the sudden rain. He sighs and wonders, yet again, why do people get scared of water falling from the skies, don’t we have bath every day?
Standing there for 10 minutes, he witnesses the situation get from bad to worse. The road in front of him fills up with water and begins to look like a small pond. He takes few steps back, lest he’d be drenched with the muddy road water if some car’s wheel decides to roll into the puddle.
He sneezes. Afraid he may catch cold due to the cold wind that began blowing a moment ago, he takes out his scarf from his overcoat, takes off his hat, wraps the scarf around his neck and ears, then puts on his hat again.
His trouser begins getting wet from below, and he feels some water drip from the water soaked trouser on to his socks, and making their way to his legs.
This never gets old, he smiles.
He hears the door open from behind. A lady in her mid 30s walks out. She smiles when she sees him.
He rushes to receive her under his umbrella, with a big smile.
“I’m so sorry dad, I made you wait.”
“It’s alright princess. People here kept me amused, and rain added to the entertainment. How was your class?”
by James Shaffer
My drink sat in front of me. With elbows on the bar, I was hunched over my glass, staring into the amber liquid when Mitch walked in. Mitch was a local newspaper legend and my best friend. He took the seat next to me.
“Got a story to tell you, “I said.
“Frank. Good to see you, too.” He ordered his drink. I waited until Shorty brought a double whiskey and set it in front of Mitch before I continued.
“Remember the missing girl, Sarah?” I looked his way.
“Sure.” He took a sip of his whiskey. I continued.
“I found the body on the third day. Day 3 is my best day. Always has been. The day all hope is gone. I’d followed the smell of rotting flesh. It had taken three days for the smell to develop its full potential in the dry woods. I followed the bottle flies to a bush, lifted the lower branches, but it wasn’t the girl. It was the eviscerated body of her dog, a black Lab named Maggie.
“Relief?” he asked.
“Hope. The dead dog brought hope. I thought the girl could still be alive. It kept me going. I left the dog and plodded ahead.”
“You found her though.”
“More like she found me. It was the whimpering. It’s what people do when hope is gone. She’d pushed herself into the dark hollow of a big oak. ‘Sarah?’ I spoke softly. ‘Maggie’s gone,’ she answered. ‘We’ll find her.’ Her little hand emerged from the darkness, just her hand, and I gently took it and pulled her out. I felt like God that day.”
“I believe the way I wrote it, you were.”
“Yeah. I was. Know what I call day 3? Resurrection day. The day the dead come back to life.”
by Gary Davison
It wasn’t an exorcism because there wasn’t a possession. It was more like an eviction. Standing just outside the room, Jack heard a cacophony of sounds, shrieks, and whispers, eerie and guttural.
What captured his attention was a singular female voice, crying for help.
The door’s surface was cool to the touch, and the smell of sulfur and burnt ozone leaked from around the frame. As Jack turned the doorknob, it was unlocked—an open invitation, or maybe a trap. Putting a handkerchief to his nose and mouth, he entered.
Paranormal activity was thick; lights on the ceiling and walls, flickered, crackled, and buzzed. Above Jack, screaming demons crisscrossed the room, creating wakes of super-chilled air, which sliced the room like cold steel.
The best way to counter Hells’ manifestations is to ignore them. Deny their existence. Victims own fears feeds a demon’s power. After Jack’s eyes had adjusted to the flashing lights, he saw a slender, raven-haired woman cowering and shivering in bed, with blankets pulled to her chin.
As Jack moved towards her, he told her to focus only on him.
Her tear-swollen eyes were filled with hope, as she reached out her trembling hand, “Please don’t let them hurt me!”
“They’re not going to hurt you, I promise,” Jack said.
Everything seemed familiar, and so perfect, as he pulled her from the bed and into his arms. The shunned demons, recognizing defeat, retreated in a swirling dirge of shrieks and wails, as the flickering lights steadied, and the stench of brimstone and hellfire faded.
Within his arms, Jack watched the terror in her amber eyes transform to adoring. Leaning in, he gave her a gentle, whispery kiss, as his fevered lips and hungry mouth moved to the delicious, blue veins in her neck.
by Michael St.John
Since she started to clean for Mr. Renfro, Lucida has learned a few more English words—sheets, perma press, mayo. She smiles for the spaces in between. Renfro has tried to roll his tongue for some Spanish in return.
In the kitchen, he whispers “carne caliente” as his gut spoons the small of her back. Lucida forces a grin but grips the knife she’s been using to slice tomatoes for his BLT. “Sí,” she says, knowing Renfro isn’t talking about the bacon.
She goes to his den to deliver lunch. He’s perched on the couch watching a flat screen filled with numbers and stocks. She bends over to set the plate down, feels a slap on her rear.
“Grassy-ass,” he says.
Straightening up, Lucida says, “Necesito limpiar.”
“Make it quick,” he says. “Rápido.”
She swivels the Dirt Devil across the Turkish rug. On the flat screen, four gringos talk in a grid, the cruciform lines leading to the back of Renfro’s head.
The hum of the Devil fills Lucida’s thoughts. She’s underwater. Now she’s in an airplane up in the sky. Now she’s in the coffin-sized confessional right before the padre opens the grate.
She doesn’t wake up until the plug yanks out of the wall.
Only in the dying silence of the vacuum does she feel the cord digging into her hands. She’s been holding it tight. A loop of it cinches around Renfro’s neck. His head is as claret-colored as a pig’s on a spit. When she lets go, he slumps over and scatters the BLT and a mound of potato chips.
Though Lucida hadn’t learned many English words from Renfro, she has picked up others elsewhere that are useful. Forgiveness is one.
Reaching to turn off the TV, she prays she can pronounce it well enough.
by Al Edwards
The cries echoed through the empty house. No furnishings to muffle the piercing sound. Everything was still in boxes.
Peter had been called away on business.
“I’m coming,” I called out, wrapping my dressing gown around me. I glanced at the clock. 3.02am.
Walking across the open hallway, I watched the shadows of the trees dancing across the walls in the moonlight.
“I’m coming, darling.”
I turned the handle. The crying stopped.
I opened the door to see him kicking his feet and looking around the room, wide eyed.
“Oh, darling,” I said, lifting him up. “What’s the matter?”
Rocking him gently, I paced the room, hushing him back to sleep.
“There you go,” I whispered, laying him down and covering him up.
I softly closed the door, before creeping back to bed.
Just as my head touched the pillow, cries stung the air again.
“You’ve been fed,” I said, throwing back the covers. “And you can’t be too cold.”
I pulled on my gown and swept across the hall. “Or too hot for that matter.”
I grabbed the handle, flinging open the door. “So what could possibly be-“
The crying had stopped. There he lay once again, kicking his legs and staring around the room.
“Do you miss me, honey?” I said, lifting him up.
He looked at me with sparkling eyes and smiled.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s sleep in Mummy’s room.” I pulled his door closed and took him to my bed.
He fell asleep instantly and I wasn’t long behind him.
I awoke with my heart pounding in my chest. The air too thick to breathe. I looked at my son. He was still sleeping. I began to tremble. The cries were coming from his room again.
by Aiki Flinthart
Tara woke, her body heavy and floppy. Did she have to get up? Everyone else slept on. This wasn’t the long-waking, when the whole family would arise.
Her stomach grumbled. She just needed a quick snack, then she could go back to sleep, too. She forced open one eyelid, rubbing away the grit. She stretched every muscle and bone until they creaked and crackled, then waddled to the door and pushed it wide.
Trees. All around her door stood trees. Their huge heads hid the sky and turned its light watery green. Her house used to overlook silver-green hills and a forever-sky full of roaring wind. Now there were only trees that captured the wind into whispers and silence.
No, not quite silent. A faint squeal bounced into short, breathy screams that drifted through the dim light. Scarlet flashed between the trees.
Food that ran right to her door. Much better. She hid her large body behind a boulder and watched.
Skinny limbs flailed and a pink mouth shrieked until Tara’s ears ached. A bright red cloth fluttered like a broken wing. The food stumbled into the clearing, its blue eyes wild.
Tara screwed up her nose. A two-legged thing. If she ate one of them, more would come with pointy metal sticks to poke at her. She stayed still.
Something hairy and four-legged leapt into the clearing. Its big eyes narrowed and big ears twitched. Its big, sharp, yellow teeth gnashed. The hairy thing growled.
She pounced. Snap!
When Little Red brought Grandma and the woodcutter back to the ancient mound in the forest, there was no sign of the dragon she claimed ate the wolf.
Inside the hill, comfortably full, Tara Greywing slumbered toward the long-waking.
by Cath Barton
The shuttering of the wind round the hut is constant.
Back in England, back in Spring, the windblown rain on my window had given me a notion of something beyond stifling routine, the excitement of the unknown. The very next day serendipity led me to pictures of what even the low hills of England would have looked like in the last Ice Age. Like Svalbard, said the pictures. I thought it was only a place in stories. A place of snow and polar bears. I was seduced by a romantic idea of the Arctic winter. I searched for a job and it appeared: “Polar Research Station has vacancy for volunteer”. There were few applicants and my enthusiasm was welcomed. In early October I left England and all my ties and flew north.
I knew that it would be dark day and night on the island, but I had imagined looking up at layer on layer of stars. It is not like that. We are instructed to stay in our hut at all times, for we are surrounded by bears. We have sealed our food in quadruple plastic but they can smell flesh. Yesterday they took both our dogs. I think that one of the bears is sleeping under my window. I wake in the night and hear a sound like his breathing rasping in the wind. The wall between us is made of concrete, but I know that an adult male polar bear can weigh 450 kilos.
I am a positive person. I was selected for this quality. But today our station commander gave us the bad news. Help will not arrive for a month. We are in the depths of winter. The bears are very hungry.
We eye one another and I wonder which of us will crack first.
by CR Smith
“You can have that for a fiver,” the stall holder shouts over the rumbling traffic. I look closer. Most of the polythene bag’s contents have seen better days. Plastic necklaces jumbled with broken brooches seem its sum, until, shaking the bag, something drops to the bottom.
I hurry home and tip out my purchases, untangling and discarding most in order to get my hands on the piece that caught my eye. Chunky and ornate, the ring fits perfectly. A clear, faceted stone sits at its centre, flanked by two gold snakes, both with small red stones for eyes and intricately carved scales along their lengths. It’s the first thing I put on in the morning, the last thing I take off at night — I even sleep with it under my pillow.
Except tonight I can’t sleep. I’m atop the covers, the breeze cooling me as billowing curtains project fluttering light across the room. I twist and turn, trying to ignore the noise outside. As it intensifies I sit, awaiting the curtains’ next flourish — hearing heightened by the darkness. Something brushes my leg. I flinch, my heart beating in staccato. A weight’s dipping the mattress and that noise is so close it must be in the room. The curtains sway back and forth, and for those few seconds of light we’re eye to eye — red to blue — locked in each other’s gaze. I’m terrified. A snake hisses only inches away. It’s coiled around my body, stealing my breath. I can’t even scream as it swallows me whole.
“You can have that for a fiver.”
What’s happened to me? Where am I? I feel myself travelling through air; hear a voice I don’t recognise.
“It’s just what I’m looking for! Look at those three intricately carved snakes; those six red eyes.”
By Jack Koebnig
They promised each other that it would be a clean goodbye.
No lingering goodbyes for us.
They laughed when they reminisced over the lengthy telephone conversations they’d enjoyed, neither one wanting to be the heartless monster to hang up first.
‘We’ll do it like this,’ she began, and as ever he fell under her spell, hypnotised by her soft husky voice, ‘just one kiss …’
‘Where?’ he asked grinning.
‘Cheeks,’ she answered after a thoughtful pause. ‘We don’t want to give the Elders a show.’
He didn’t think that mattered now, but he nodded in agreement.
‘Good,’ she said sounding resigned and sad.
When they met for the last time he pushed back the fur lined hood of her protective jacket and placed his fingers on either side of her Government issued breathing mask, and waited. She nodded and he gently removed it. He quickly kissed her cheek, whispered something only she could hear then carefully replaced first her mask then her hood.
She brushed the black dust that had collected on his jacket then placed her hand on his shoulder. His eye caught the bracelet he’d made for her out of salvaged pieces of chrome, it dangled decoratively from her emaciated wrist.
It was the last thing he saw.
The rifle fire split the constant drone of the easterly wind like the explosion of another
They were dead before their bodies collided with the coarse dust covering the
‘Right,’ barked the head Elder, he sounded as though he’d been gurgling with broken glass since childhood, ‘get rid of these two and bring the next lot in.’
by Ed Hayles
I had been here before. I was sure of it. The smell of rodents, the smell of disease. It was darker than I remember, colder – but it was definitely the same place. My eyesight had deteriorated recently so I had to place my right hand on the crumbling, damp wall to steady and guide. I walked slower than was probably necessary and my aching feet were rapidly becoming numb as I dragged them through the inch deep ice cold water. Water? I hoped it was water. I’m sure it wasn’t far now but I was becoming nervous and a little claustrophobic as the passageway narrowed. I started to think of that song ‘Whenever I feel afraid, I whistle a happy tune….’ I tried to whistle but my lips were freezing and mostly tuneless spit shot out. Sounds, that were not my own, squealed from every direction mocking my attempt. I knew it was only rats but ones imagination can take hold at times like this. Was that it ahead? A cement shard poking out from the wall caught my hand and I cursed. It was too dark to see if I was bleeding but at least it momentarily took my mind off the surrounding scurrying and splashing. I’m sure that was it. I stretched my left foot out and it touched a lifeless sphere. I grabbed, turned and made my way back swiftly towards the light and thought to myself next time someone else can fetch the ball.
by Jenna Baldwin.
When I took it from my jean pocket it felt like gum, stretching as I pulled it out, but as soon as it slapped onto the pavement it was as if it had always been there- a black hole on the corner of Babbitt Street. I looked at the ground and then at the pencil in my hand, its tip broken from scribbling black tangled lead too hard into the paper of my sketchbook.
Was this really happening?
My knees cracked as I bent down to inspect the hole more closely. Inside I heard wind whistling through it, an empty oblivion, churning the air like waves crashing as the tide inched closer and closer. Slowly, I allowed my arm to descend into the hole.
It was cold. Really cold.
And a lot deeper than I anticipated.
I stood up and looked around. It would have been pitch black if not for the electronics store to my right. Loony Tunes played on the televisions behind the glass window. The colors of the cartoons spilled out across the pavement, dripping over the curb like neon soda. I let them lull me into a false sense of comfort.
I didn’t miss the last bus.
And I wasn’t alone.
I was walking home with cartoon friends.
I looked around one more time.
And then I jumped.
The hole closed itself after me with a loud ‘slurp’, and before I could count to three I was falling through a ceiling and onto my bed. I unclenched my hand, releasing the pencil.
“Oh, fudge.” I muttered. “I left my sketchbook in the street.”
With a new pencil, I sat down at my desk and began to scribble another black circle onto a sheet of paper.
I reached into my pocket.
Katia checked the preservation date on the otherwise lifeless console, synched her suit with it, and waited for confirmation; two beeps, clear to go. She pushed through the thick treacle of the temporal curtain and out onto the dusty roadway.
Slick as oil over water, Katia headed for the house of the man whose dreams she needed to reprogramme. She shifted through his bedroom wall like damp through old bricks to wait by his cot for the right moment. Then, as his eyes began to flick back and forth and his long limbs twitched, she bent close to his ear, reintroducing the precious seed stolen by the Reversionists to demolish the future. She watched him settle then slipped back through the portal to wait in stasis until either the future returned or – well, there was no or for her.
In the morning, the mathematician woke with an idea buzzing like a trapped bee behind his eyes. He sat up, perched on the edge of his cot, still befuddled from a night of disturbed sleep, and unaccountably raised one finger. That was one finger, his mind confirmed; he folded it into his palm – and that was no fingers. Obvious. He chided himself and thought to set it aside, but the bee stayed trapped and he raised his finger again, folded it back; presented it, took it away. Why was its absence so unsettling? You have one thing, you remove it and you have no thing; just a space where it had been. He ruminated on this – a space filled with nothing; neither asset nor debt but a pivot between the two, an equilibrium. To help him understand, he needed a symbol for it, one that described that space and spoke of balance. He wrote something down. Katia’s console woke up.
A Boy’s Best Friend
by Tom Moody
Many years ago, in a time long before Twitter and iPods and Nandos, in the year of 1995, I was given a dog for my seventh birthday.
She was a white Staffordshire Bull Terrier – with deep blue eyes and patches of brown fur dotted around her little belly.
I named her Pinky – in homage to my favourite cartoon character from the time, Pinky, from Pinky and the Brain.
Initially, my mum was reluctant to adopt a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, as they are generally believed to be aggressive and vicious beings. But it was crystal-clear from the get-go that Pinky was nothing but affectionate.
When I was twelve-years-old I moved to a new school. I did not enjoy school: I felt alienated and outside of my peer group. I found it difficult to make friends and had little self-confidence.
I sought solace in Pinky. She was my best friend – she was my only friend. I peered into her pacific-blue eyes and saw nothing but warmth and love.
When I was seventeen-years-old it was time for Pinky to go. She was an old girl by this time and her life was coming to an end. I held her paw as she passed away.
Occasionally, if I spend an evening flicking aimlessly through the TV channels, I just so happen to pass by an episode of Pinky and the Brain – and for a brief moment, I think of Pinky.
The Shipwreck Of The Salty Lash
by Stephen Lodge
The wind lashed the bleak coastline, not a soul ventured along the coastal path that day, but the atrocious weather invited sea monsters on to the land. Resistance, there was none. There was a ship run aground, a gaping hole. The cargo left was zero. The Captain, Old “Seadog” Nation was gone, him and his crew. Not a one was scared of going down with the ship, no but every time the ghost would appear or howl, one of their number would stutter “that wasn’t the wind,” then these brave salts would shiver in panic or jump over the side. Tentacles dragged limbs under the water, there would be no escaping this nightmare. Only Chaney, the one-legged deck hand remained on board. Only his bones that is. He was the skeleton crew. Recognisable by his missing leg. He’d been immune to the ghostly howls on account of his deafness.
Mostly the gruesome murders had occurred inland in the village of Sparrowditch, starting in December, and till this day, no arrests. Three bodies in the big house, one hanged in the woods and another two found a week later in the cricket pavilion. That was the tally so far.
On the coast, however, it was a spate of sudden ghostly activity that was beginning to unsettle the inhabitants of the hamlets of Grey Wrath, Balfour End and Horse Ridings and the insecure wildlife thereabouts. No match for a sea creature (possibly a Maunkex) with teeth like razors and a hideous lust for flesh and popcorn.
A ghostly figure was perched above a little girl, asleep in the lighthouse up at Serpents Point, like some poised vulture waiting for her to awake. She would sleep but only until the screaming started in the room of her parents.
Kill Your Darlings
by Ezekiel Clark
As a child you have to get used to that fact that nobody will believe a word you say. This could be the reason I never believed my daughter, Annie, whenever she told me about the man who stood on the headboard of her bed. “He is solid black with a with a blank face, daddy! I swear, he’s real!” Of course after looking in her closet and under her bed (typical places for a father to look), I would tuck her back into bed with her favorite teddy and tell her there was nothing to be afraid of. Go to sleep dear, you’re always safe with me.
I lied to Annie, she wasn’t safe.
I awoke to a blood curdling scream. Looking to the alarm clock on my bedside stand, it read 3:00 AM. This was late at night (or early in the morning) for her to be having these bad dreams. Even at Annie’s worst, the latest we were up was midnight.
I ran to Annie’s room, concerned that something may actually be wrong and hoping with my whole heart that nothing was. What I saw afterwards changed the way I view the world.
Once I opened the door I could see Annie’s bed illuminated by the hallway light flooding in. On her headboard was the creature she always told me about. Above Annie, on the ceiling was what appeared to be a portal. The blue 0 above her was no pulling her, feet first, through the ceiling. As her torso was making it’s way through, she reached for me, crying “Daddy!”
The creature backed into the wall and was gone. The blue 0 closed abruptly and was gone. That was the last time I saw my Annie. Because I wouldn’t listen, I killed my darling.
The Truth is in Here
by Liz Milne
Aliens observed. They were excited when the Wright brothers did their thing and more so when Armstrong and co. did theirs – the aliens scrambled into hiding for that one. Finally, they decided the time was right.
Then the aliens realised that humans had a huge and complicated hierarchy of status and, try as they might, they could not understand it.
It all seemed to come down to money, in fact, but the people of Earth claimed that various imaginary elements were the most important: these included love, justice, honour and truth.
But the aliens couldn’t find an atom of justice, an ounce of honour or a pure distillate of truth anywhere on Earth, no matter how minutely they looked – and they had the best looking equipment in the cosmos. Love (or the species of love they could find, anyway) was, as one of the aliens said feelingly, really quite mucky.
Money they could find. Huge, great, almost unimaginable quantities of it, most stored up, hidden and squirreled away. This confused the aliens because their understanding of Earth’s primitive financial processes relied on the money circulating, like blood around the body – cut off the blood, the limb withers and dies: which is not good for the whole body.
In desperation, they disguised themselves as humans and went to a pub. They found the quintessential bloke, asking, ‘What does the most important person in the world do?’
‘I dunno, business?’
‘Does this business look after people?’
‘Well… the people who DO look after people – do they get paid a lot of money?’
‘Bugger all, mate. No, it’s celebs and bankers and politicians, the thieving bastards, that make all the money.’
‘But what about truth, honour, justice and love?’
‘Are you soft? Fuck off and leave me alone, you weirdos.’
Don’t give up the night job
by Val Portelli
It was a struggle to earn enough to pay the bills, find the rent and still leave time to finish writing my novel. I knew it was good, and if I could just survive for a few more months my future would be assured.
Most of the jobs for which I was qualified involved minimum wage and very long hours, then a friend suggested that with my looks and charm I would be a natural as an escort.
One thing led to another and not only did I enjoy the work but the hours suited me perfectly, the money was good and observing the clients helped with my creative writing skills.
I built up a regular clientele of influential punters who all promised to use their networks when I finally published my book.
Life was good and my world revolved around being creative in different ways, both during the day and at night. Gradually my fame spread until I became so renowned it was difficult to schedule my original ambition into life as a working girl.
Through word of mouth and other talents I was inundated with new patrons, but found my mind wandering while I was practising my art. Crunch time came when a particularly prominent judge revealed inside information on a current court case, just before he got to the point of no return.
‘Yes, yes, that’s wonderful,’ I screamed as I jumped up from the bed leaving him in limbo, ‘the perfect ending for chapter twenty.’
Decision time. Should I stick with my new career or give it all up to achieve my dream.
by Jennifer R. Lloyd
He liked to watch them suffer.
When his wife Vicky would nag him about undercooking the steak or leaving his shoes in the hallway or dropping his wet towels on the bathroom floor, he would silently absorb her derision and think of his beauties trapped under glass.
When his two teenage daughters took turns scoffing at his choice of socks or his love of soft jazz or his slow driving on the way home from the mall, he would exhibit a grimace they mistook for a fatherly smile. And he would think about Lily and Iris wasting away, locked up in the house out back, waiting for him to make his nightly appearance.
When his boss, Ms. Kramer, criticized his data analysis or guffawed at his presentations in meetings or neglected to invite him to team lunches, he would retreat in his mind to his satisfaction at watching Dahlia’s once-colorful charms slowly atrophy.
After he set aside his work for the night and after his wife and daughters drifted to sleep on 800-thread-count sheets, he would trudge out the rear door and down the short, dark path. After extending a key into the mechanism of a rusty padlock, he would slowly unwind the chain wrapped around the entrance.
Jasmine. Violet. Rose. Once inside, they all stared at him, silently begging for mercy, as he inhaled their earthy expirations. He fondled their softest parts and their desperately sweet smell would stick to his fingertips for hours afterward, even once he crawled into bed with his wife’s rigid form.
Rose was the toughest, the most resistant to his methods. But even she would succumb eventually.
Only when they were on the very edge of death would he would pick up his aluminum watering can and douse their wilted leaves.
by Tabitha Lawrence
I mean, cry all you want if the boy was that special. Take as long as you need. Just know that somewhere out of town, the near-LA girls crowd sticky bathroom counters with brand names Anastasia Lime Crime Urban Decay, doesn’t matter, playing make-up tutorials without the sound under the pulse of a Spotify playlists, getting ready to call an Uber, all these words that would mean nothing to them a few months ago. And they know this. It makes them feel elite. Stone colored liquid lipstick and felt tip eyeliner that can’t be cried be sweat off (All matte, all about precision) and soft brushes creating sharp contours across a baked on foundation. Then comes shimmer, the opal crush dewy on cheekbones brow bones the bridge of the nose, a dab on the chin. Tousled curls falling just so, it looks like it never stops moving, bleached ends that never stop catching the light.
The art of viving up what has been made intentionally lifeless. Porcelain. It’s a good time to be a girl, as far as all this goes. A no-nonsense time, in a sense. No more of that sticky glossy mess ready to lower the music, make a scene, that teases but lacks the practicality the stain the morning reminder. These girls are manipulating the way their very own moonbeams hit them in the night. What I’m saying is they know what they’re doing. Do you?
by Sandra Arnold
She pointed to the size of the puncture. “Does nobody in this God-forsaken town ever notice the state of the roads around here?”
The mechanic shrugged. “Yep.” But no worries, he’d fix her tyre. Take about an hour. He could recommend a nice caff where she could wait. He pointed across the road. Breeze block. Fluorescent lights. Plastic chairs. BEST HOMEMADE PIES scrawled on a blackboard.
Her heart sank. “Any others?”
The cafe was empty except for the owner. Biceps and belly straining against his black T-shirt. Shaved head. No neck. Tattoos. Everything she loathed. She ordered a chicken pie and a cup of peppermint tea. Did they have any honey for the tea?
“Hang on. She might know.” He nodded towards a woman behind the coffee machine. The woman shoved her dreadlocks out of her eyes. “Eh?”
“Honey? For the peppermint tea?”
She sat outside. Jeeeezus! How could she have forgotten what these Godawful small towns were like? These Godawful people. That Godawful accent. This whole Godawful country. Why oh why did she come back?
The dreadlock woman brought her tea and pie. She returned with a thick slice of chocolate cake.
“But I didn’t ask…”
“ S’on the house.”
“No worries. The honey, see.”
“Tyre’s good as,” the mechanic said, waving away her tip. “Ta but no worries.”
Outside the cafe the couple were sitting smoking. As she drove past they turned and waved.
An Apple A Day
by Tony Nathan
Sometime In The Near Future.
“Whatever weather weave got ear.” Constable Simon Patterson mumbled to himself.
At the crime scene, firemen and pathologists were scurrying here and there. Simon always tried to keep a cool head. No doubt about it, he felt he was a detective in the making. Surveying the immediate area, he quickly spotted something half-buried in the mud, it was the remains of a glass bottle. Was it a clue? It might have fingerprints on it! With a grin on his face, he ran over to his sergeant and led him back to the potential evidence. At this rate Simon reckoned he’d be the youngest detective constable in the division!
“Sir, Look what I’m pfor. Ill bet there’s fingersknif on thissit!”
“Fingersknif?” Questioned Sergeant Drews. “Are you drunk Patterson?”
“No. Fingersknif, likely what’s your getting on a otter.”
“Fingerprints.” Sergeant Drews. “You mean fingerprints!”
“Yes Sergeant, that’s what’s in saying.”
“Have you gone mad constable? Now concentrate, bag it up and get it back to forensics pronto!”
Simon jumped up.
“Probably? Oh for God’s sake Patterson, just get on with it.
“If am, Siri, It amazing.”
Sergeant Drews made a mental note to keep an eye on Patterson. Perhaps he’d been working him too hard? He was only young, a new recruit. This new lot weren’t like the ‘old timers’. Sometimes it was as if they did speak their own language.
Simon went to Richard for consolation.Why hadn’t the Sergeant taken him seriously? He and Richard were about the same age, they’d been through training together.
“Don’t your thing that’ll been used full?” Simon asked. “No ones else notice it’s.”
Richard looked at him as if he was an idiot.
“Simon,” He sighed.“Don’t be a plonker, turn your ‘predictive speech’ off. ”
by Peter Hitchen
I pretended I liked the Bee Gees but I was really into Motörhead and Punk. On Wednesday afternoon I’d bunked off maths, nicked a copy of God Save the Queen from Menzies, and hid it in my wardrobe. I was going to play it for Karen on Saturday afternoon when my mam was out but then couldn’t find it amongst the junk. It didn’t matter because we got distracted. It was the first time we’d been as distracted as that. Karen had been doing ballet since forever, so sidelining Lemmy for Barry Gibb was a price worth paying.
We’d started going out on sports day when Anne-Marie Rigby collapsed onto the parched grass after winning the 1500m. Her pounding stomach was mesmerising. She’d her legs bent and was too gassed to realise that every lad in my form could see the curly black pubes sprouting from either side of her maroon knickers. Karen followed me over to the long-jump pit and asked why I’d moved. I told her it didn’t seem right to gawk at someone like that, she smiled and that was it. Love.
‘Peter, someone who knew you from school rang’. My mam explained about the planned reunion.
When I got there everyone looked the same, just 20 years older. I stood at the bar wondering about Karen, then a voice behind me. ‘Pete, it’s me, Kaz,’ she looked different but her smile was still the same, ‘I’m glad you turned up, I’ve something that belongs to you…’ she held out the Sex Pistols single, ‘I shouldn’t have taken it. Sorry. Probably worth a fortune now.’
‘It’s funny how some things appreciate over time, Kaz. You married?’
‘Still single,’ I held up the record, ‘tell you what, let’s see if they’ll play it for us.’