April’s Zeroflash Competition Entries

The Guardian

by Russell Fellows

With her clothes torn and body bloodied, Miranda stood by the lake. Morning mist spilled onto the shore and into the woods. Her thoughts traveled south with the mist into the village. She would regret the children, but the beast would spare no one.

The village named this place Onheil because they believed something evil lived there. Miranda became their fixed point of fear. Every illness. Every accident.

She could forgive their ignorance. A beautiful young maiden alone in the woods. Her dark skin contrasted against their pale. How could they know she protected them?

Fear turned to violence last night. A young child died from fever. The men took Miranda and broke their fear on her body. They left her in the woods to die.

“The guardian becomes the monster they fear.” Miranda closed her eyes. “I release you.”

The lake bubbled and frothed. A giant, dark monster broke the surface with a roar that shook the ground. It glared at Miranda with yellow eyes.

An image filled Miranda’s mind. Margaret. A girl that glowed with joy whenever Miranda visited. She would dance with laughter and life.

Fear squeezed Miranda’s throat. “No! No matter what they have done. For her sake, I do not release you!”

The monster bent low and roared with anger. It rushed toward the lake’s shore.

“I said no! By the one who gave me dominion, no!”

The mist rushed back toward the lake and wrapped around the beast. The monster roared and struggled, but could not break free. The mist pulled it beneath the surface. Miranda watched and fell to her knees when the lake calmed. She shook and wailed.

Sunlight broke through the canopy of the woods and touched her. Miranda closed her eyes and let the warmth heal her.

Return to Tadasana

by Paul Benjamin

It may have been delirium, brought on by hunger, thirst, fatigue and fear, but as he painfully ascended the slope to the shrouded summit, he could have sworn that the cracked cedars rising on the cliff-face had assumed the same fantastic gnarled shapes as the stand of coastal cypresses through which he had first beheld the golden shore, cloudless and serene. Now, the vision surely betokened death – or another end. Yet he refused to succumb, not when a return to Tadasana was within reach, after so long.

Resting only briefly before the descent, breathing heavily in the thin air, dimly aware of the effects of oxygen deprivation on his already confused thoughts, he resolved to press on whilst daylight remained rather than admire the view ahead, nor glance behind into that land where monsters dwelt, all the more dreadful for their imagining. Stepping carefully onto the treacherous path winding down from those icy heights, at length he passed along an avenue of blasted pines that opened suddenly onto the burnished, endless plain, its surface smooth but for pockets of burnt scrub; a sight which stung his eyes. From here he seemed to see the palms shimmering, beckoning him on across the sands, beyond an impossible horizon to enter the cool walls of Tadasana, the legendary oasis-fortress where hospitality awaited.

He awoke (or so he believed, for his senses could no longer be trusted) at the gates of Tadasana, the tiles of whose splendid spires were already beginning to glow with first light, where inland canals flowed through covered courtyards and cool whitewashed walls. Inside, a crowd had gathered to welcome and offer shelter to this long-awaited weary traveller, soon revived by glasses of date juice seasoned with honey-dew, fresh as the morning mountain air, as recommended in the Guide-Book.

Untitled

by Jan Kaneen

@JanKaneen1

September 1492

14th

Still the storm rages, tossing us we know not where. Skies of stone and seas that boil, no stars or sun to guide us for days and weeks. How much longer until the Lord delivers us into calmer waters?

15th

By the grace of Our Lady, the weather cleared soon after dawn and we came to rest. Calm water and clearing skies revealed us to be hundreds of leagues off course, in unchartered water known as The Sea of Shadows. At first, we thanked heaven for our deliverance but soon fear rippled its way amongst us, our uneasiness growing as rumours flowed – of terrible creatures that hold dominion in these dark waters. To halt the creeping wave of fear, I forbade all conversation until past twilight, on pain of a dozen of stripes of the cat ‘o’ nine. At moonrise we will cypher our precise position.

16th

A clear starlit night showed us our place – far inside The Shadows. A black whale of unmapped land was espied to starboard. All were greatly afeared, for long have myths abounded among sea-lubbing folk, of monstrous demons that inhabit this alien place. How we yearn to turn back, but replenish we must, and so stay one day longer.

17th

Calamity. They came in crafts atop the waves. No word of warning, firing bolts of lightning that tore us asunder. I cling now to the last vestige of life, casting out this bottle-bound missive, a hopeless caution to any who might venture into this land of monsters – land-crawlers, airbreathers, finless and unscaled, stinking two-legged goblins clever as devils with a bloodlust unknown to our kind. Should this warning find its way into the hands of merfolk anywhere, steer clear of this place, and the murderous savages that call themselves hu-men.

That Night on the Sea

by Camilla Johansson

Sailing to the outer corners of the known world and its uncharted waters, they didn´t know what to expect. But they hadn’t expected this.

Late one night when there is no wind, the air feeling like oily residue on their skin, the sea started boiling. Calls were heard over the foaming water, but not the sweet siren calls they had been warned of by other sailors. Instead, it was familiar voices; those of their mothers, fathers, wives, and long-lost friends.

It was Tom who first decides, against the expressed orders of his captain, to peep over the railings;

‘They´re down there! I can see them!’ As his mates try to drag him away from the churning waters, a pillar of foam shot out of the sea, rising high above their heads. They see the faces of their loved ones twirling around in a splashing twister, grimacing, screaming as if in the deepest agony.                                                                                                                             ‘I need to be with them! Can´t you hear them calling us all?’ Tom fight his friends trying to hold him back from the abyss that has opened beneath them, kicking, and biting and finally freeing himself from the arms that hold him. As he jumps over the side of the ship, the turning pillar opens to let him into the sounds of hell.

‘Do not look at the monster, do not look at the monster!’ The captain screams at the top of his lungs, but his voice is drowned out by the gushing water and screams, and he can only watch as his crew, seemingly hypnotised by the moving liquid tower by the side of his ship, one by one jumps overboard to be engulfed by the monster. Alone on the boat, he can see the pillar of water retract, and all goes silent.

Something Mystical

by Ian Andrew

They were having a laugh on the telly. Something about a squirrel that could predict the outcome of football games. Of course he could do nothing of the sort, being a tree dwelling sciuridae aware only of his urgent need to find food, a mate or a home, probably all of these at the same time.
But the international viewing audience was full of curiosity, its members poised at the same moment around the world in front of their screens, humans driven by a desire to believe in a creature with mystical power, a desire to witness…a desire to be.
With his tail pointing to the heavens, clinging effortlessly to a rope strung between two poles, often upside down, the creature had predicted the outcome of group games, quarter finals and the semi finals with remarkable accuracy, simply by the number and location of nuts he stored.

How humans want to believe their own fate might be made so visible! How they strive to understand the mystery of the world around them, including squirrels. They laughed before kick off at the prospect of a World Cup Final settled 7-6 in favour of the World Champions. What a crazy prediction!

The squirrel would be wrong this time, they told each other, as no game in the competition’s history had ever been so high scoring. And so it proved. A stinker of a game, 0-0 after extra time, barely a shot on goal. They patted one another on the back for being human and not foolish squirrels.

But wait! Was this to be the creature’s greatest moment? The babble of the world’s array of languages rose, as penalties were announced. The worldwide audience was asked to wait a little while longer for the outcome to be revealed. First…adverts!

One child’s nightmare

by Alice Lavren

The dream witch motioned for the boy to sit by her onto what seemed like a puff of smoke. He obeyed. It felt deliciously soft but not bouncy as he expected.

Auburn locks, alabaster skin and hypnotic jade eyes. A lacy gown dotted with small glowing gemstones that clanked against each other when she moved. That’s how the boy would remember the dream witch.

“What dream plagues you, Billy?” the witch mused, gazing at the purple bonfire burning peacefully in front of them.

She knows my name. Billy’s hesitations were momentarily dispelled by this little detail, and he spoke.

“A demon chases me down a long corridor. And I run. I run until I reach a grey door. There’s a room behind it with nothing but a basin in the middle. So I come over to that basin and start washing my hands. I wash them over and over and over again until I wake up.”

As Billy was telling his dream he failed to notice a myriad of words flickering through the fire like restless butterflies. Now, however, three large purple words blazed distinctly before him in the air.

FEAR. AVOIDANCE. GUILT.

“You can’t tell your parents how much you love them. You’re afraid that you won’t be able to do it before it’s too late. And you blame yourself for that. Greatly.”

Billy listened to her gently utter the agonizing truth. A frivolous tear slid down his cheek as he drooped his head and stared down at the gleaming jewels on the witch’s dress.

Just then he saw her hand rip a tiny azure gem off it. When the dream witch handed him the stone, her silky whisper caressed his left ear, “You don’t need anymore courage than this stone contains. All the rest is already within you.”

Untitled

by Hanna Smith-Yen

He laughed at her as she flailed around, trying to get free of the ropes. They wound tighter and tighter around her, cutting into her skin. She paused and strained to look down at what exactly she was caught in. And there it was – a delicate scarlet thread had been woven into the coarse jute, twining round and round and shimmering with power, spelling out ‘tighter’. She groaned. “Get me out of these goddamn ropes, Freddie.”

He doubled over laughing, red-faced. Eventually, he composed himself enough to click his tongue and the ropes sprang free, curling innocently in a neat pile next to her.

“Is there even a reason for that spell? What possible use could you have for attack ropes?” She took a deep breath. “I would like to know how you did it though.”

Freddie waved a hand and drew himself up to his full height. “A magician never reveals his secrets,” he said, “Also you’d just try to use it against me.”

She glared at him and went to lean against the railing. The ocean stretched out in front of her, a roiling mass of fish and black water. It was dark and still in the depths, coral turned to lead and strange creatures caught in the molasses seawater. Out here, there were so many more stars.

Her mother had once told her that there was something watching over everyone. Not a god. A creature hovering above, behind the sky. It peeks through at night, crawling out and hiding behind the fat, white moon. She often thought about this creature, gazing down at all the tiny humans. How could it understand a person, really? To be so vast would be to surrender any hope of comprehending humanity. They said it eats the dead, and she wondered why.

At the End of Every Rainbow

by Kris McGinnis

There is something unsettling in his deep Irish brogue. It’s offset by wistful smokey eyes, rolling dark curls and a too natural smile. But it’s there.

“It’s the smell that gets you. Sickly sweet. Like a child roasting marshmallows. And it clings. Clothes can be washed, but you can’t scrape it from your skin.”

“Is it necessary?” I tentatively ask.

“Of course,” he smiles, that all too natural smile.

He leads me through a thick wooden door where I’m blinded by an onrush of aqueous colours. I feel something pushed into my hands. Placing the glasses on, I can now see compact rows of steel battery cages stretching into the distance, with curved rays firing out from them in all directions.

“You’ll get used to the rainbows.”

We walk past bedraggled beards with pleading eyes and he ocassionally stops to tauntingly bang on the locked doors.

“Didn’t we once regard them as a national treasure?” I nervously joke.

“Leprechauns are vermin,” he replies blankly.

We continue on, where I view workers in white overalls collect pots of gold from dark, lifeless cells. Noticing my curiosity, the smile returns.

“At the end of every rainbow…”

Nearing the last one, a peculiar liquorice scent drifts towards us and we’re greeted by black plumes of smoke arising from a blazing charcoal pyre.

“Like I said. If you want the job, you need to handle the smell.”

Screaming rings out from behind and I turn to watch as two men drag a flailing, naked Leprechaun towards the burning mound.

A lump forms in my throat.

I feel compelled to ask again.

“Is it necessary?”

A sadistic smile gleams back.

“Would you rather watch them starve?”

Nightfall

by Kelly Griffiths

@GriffithsKL

It doesn’t matter where I fall asleep: my bunk, the boat, or the top of the castle tower. Lord knows I tried everywhere, even had the stable boy chain me down, but no matter. I always wake somewhere on the beach, choking on salt water with the grit of sand in my mouth. That’s how I wake up every morning since Lizbeth drowned.

Folks say I’ve lost my mind, but I just lost my Lizbeth.

Today the water woke me same as always except—in my hand was a lock of hair, long, blonde and bluntly cut. I opened my hand and the ocean breeze began to take it. Quickly, I stuffed it in my pocket and started for the docks.

I noticed folks looking sideways at me, like they seen a ghost. A bedraggled boy screamed and tripped backwards over his mongrel. Both darted off like hell itself was after ‘em.

A wench selling potatoes and fortunes went rigid as I passed her stall, the color draining from her face.

“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.

With a trembling hand she offered me a folded piece of parchment, then fled. A familiar name, a blessed and beautiful name, streamed out behind the fleeing oracle.

So beautiful, that name.

The damp parchment was folded many times and exquisitely knotted. I glanced at the potatoes some other hungry man would want. What need had I of food?

I made my way back to the beach, picking at the knot. Finally, I used my teeth. The parchment opened, brushing my lips as it came unbound.

Did you get my gift? Come, my love. Such a stubborn man.

I rushed into the sea, not even waiting for night to fall.

Slow dance with the Ice Buffalo

by Richard Kemp

Ternn sat with her back towards the frost plains, waiting for the clouds to release the moon. She watched its light slowly fill the trees of the glass forest, turning them white; pale boughs sweeping low and courteous. Creeping through the weald, pushing through thicket and branch; the Ice Buffalo would be waiting.

He stood in the clearing on shattered glass branches. Their spilled moonlight rose slowly up his legs, illuminating the dead insects entombed in his frozen limbs. Cracks like veins ran through his torso. His head was crowned with charred horns of black, twisted like smoke.

Tightening the grip on the knife in her pocket, Ternn circled the edge of the dell, the buffalo remained still and when he spoke, the words scattered from his mouth like spores.

‘Your stench burns my throat. Tools and idleness have dulled you. Now you are like a sore on the land. Filthy, vulgar, and unwanted.’

Light glinted as Ternn brought the knife from her pocket.

‘That is why they sent you here, storyteller. They wish to be free of me, but if they cannot, they wish to be free of you.’

She was now so close she could feel the cold of his breath as he turned to face her.

‘I wasn’t sent here,’ she said, ‘My tongue gave you life. My hands must take it away.’ She plunged the blade into his chest. Her flesh turned blue with cold as she clung onto him, kicking and bucking. Horns pierced her throat, his face turned red with heat and blood. They felt life drain from themselves and each other but they embraced, until there was no more struggle, no more fight. A slow dance to the end.

The moon looked on, as it always did, waiting for the clouds.

Tooth

by Lisa Ammons

The white tic-tac-sized speck looks like a mini marshmallow in the magnified mirror.

Here comes Preston with that string again.

“Mommy!” I wail running down the hall to the stairs.

“Preston Abbot Newton, leave your sister’s tooth alone!”  Mommy yells from the kitchen.

I gallop downstairs and follow the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. I sneak a warm one off the plate and bite into it forgetting about my top, front tooth.

“Ouch!” I cry grabbing my mouth.

“You have to work it, try to get it out, honey.  Here, take a bite of apple.  You won’t even know it came out with the bite.”

“No, that’ll hurt too much.”

“I’m telling you, sis, if you let me tie this string on it and tie the other end of the string on the door, then slam the door shut, it’ll come right out…BOOM!.” Preston bangs his hand down on the counter. I jump, banging my head on the cabinets above the stool making me cry.

“Preston!  How many times do I have to tell you…now go outside and play.  Leave your sister alone.”

“Ok…geesh.  I’m going to Cooter’s house. At least there I’ll have fun.”

“I’ll call next door and let them know your coming.”

Grandpa Jax comes into the kitchen and snatches a cookie. He winks at me.

“Did you want a bite, sugar.” He asks with a kiss on my forehead.

“I can’t, Grandpa. My tooth…” I show him the jiggles.

“Oooh. That looks like magic. Can I see?” He reaches over.

“Sure. It’s kinda neat.” I say mouth wide open.

Grandpa says,  “Oh that’s so cool,” and takes his hand out. I laugh.

“Do you want to put it under your pillow for the tooth fairy?” He’s holding my tooth in his hand.

HR

by Andre Leite

Looking from outside it seemed as if it was a simple office having just another pedestrian day. Nevertheless, the peculiarity appeared when you first lay eyes on the “receptionist”, a Chimera. Here, is the place where all “mythological” beings come when they feel lost, when they need to find a way to adapt to the modern world. This office of the global empire known as G.O.D. is responsible for employing or relocating anyone that lived long enough in this world to feel out of place. And in charge of this branch of the HR(?) is Laura, who graduated and after a while found herself trying to convince a minotaur that the best fit for him was to be a mascot for an unknown university, which anybody heard about it or will hear.

Laura initiated in this line of work by mistake, some misreading mixed with anxiety, a few years ago, and the first thing told to her was to follow a few rules: “Don’t tell about what you see here. Don’t find any kind of work that will draw too much attention for the employee and don’t be afraid (not an easy thing to do when you’re talking to a gorgon, trying not to look to her while her “hair” it’s hissing at you).” And despite all that, Laura noticed that she had a neck for this, and she can thank the first siren that came through her door.

A few months prior to that, Laura had been feeling out of place, she couldn’t find a perfect job for anybody, and word was starting to reach the “Chairgods” of the company. When the siren appeared, it just came to Laura: “I have to use their qualities, not hide it.” And the siren became a backing vocal for a band.

Orchid and the Wolf

by Shalom Aranas

When Orchid was a child, she went into the forest at the back of their house garden and found a small sleeping wolf. Innocent of fear, she caressed his fur.

The wolf awoke and gradually turned into a boy. They looked at each other as if they already spoke of love and the little things that make the world more beautiful than they realized it to be. He then sprang up and disappeared among the trees and bushes.

During her eighteenth birthday, a bulb sparked and fire spread in the tent of their garden party.

A grown wolf suddenly tore into the tent and out came the panicking guests who left Orchid behind. The wolf knelt and nudged her to ride on his back. They ran past the flames through the torn opening of the tent.

Outside, Orchid jumped down and caressed the fur of the wolf. She realized he was badly burnt. He opened his eyes and for a brief moment they spoke about the beauty of life and the many things they had realized it to be before he closed them.

Orchid cried in fear, for now she knew what it was, fear of the wolf dying. The wolf turned into a man whose skin was almost peeled and seething. Orchid placed her shawl over him. He wasn’t moving anymore so Orchid knelt before him and kissed his lips.

The man awoke. They both recognized each other’s eyes and remembered love.

The magic well

by Myrto Zafeiridi

 @MyrtoLidaZafeir

            “So you aren’t really my father?”

“I am still your parent, though. You see, I was born a woman.”

“But how can this be? Were you cursed or something?”

“On the contrary, it was a blessing. Let me explain. A long time ago, when I was still a girl, my father decided to marry me off to a rich aristocrat. Obviously he didn’t give me any choice in the matter. My new husband was mean and obnoxious; a pampered egotistical megalomaniac who was fourth in line to the throne and actually believed he would be king some day. When I got pregnant, I realized that this horrible man would have a say in you upbringing and I felt hopeless.”

“So you are really my mother?”

“Yes, my child. Not long after I gave birth to you, I found a magic well. I wished upon its waters that I could raise you however I wanted, without anyone telling me what to do ever again. And so, the well turned me into a man. It was shocking at first, but I was able to ran away with you and start a new life.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been lying to me for all these years. You told me my mum had died giving birth to me!”

“I’m afraid there’s something more you need to know.”

“What is it? Is my father king now? Am I really a prince?”

“No, he actually died in the last war. But I have another confession to make. I also asked the well that my daughter would never have to obey any man like I did.”

“So I also have a sister that you’ve never told me about?”

“No, I’m afraid you don’t.”

The Conquest of the Legendary Kingdom of Tytheroygatra

by Irene Montaner

@_Irene_Dreams_

         The sirens would often come ashore in the early days of men. Lured by their singing Guadarfia, king of the free men of Tytheroygatra, would swim among them at dawn after walking the length of the coast of his island. He was particularly fond of Zanata, the only siren who had mastered the language of men.

“Beware of the wooden whales,” Zanata said one morning. “They’re approaching your kingdom and have eaten many men who now live in their hollow bellies.”

Zanata’s puzzling words prevented Guadarfia from sleeping that night. He tried hard to unravel their meaning but that was a riddle he couldn’t solve. The sun had not yet risen when he left to seek Zanata.

The world had not awoken to their song that day. The sea was tinged with red and soon Guadarfia found the source of that dreadful hue. Zanata and her sisters lay slain on the sand, the tide had brought them ashore one last time. And now that their singing had been silenced they were no more than mermaids.

Guadarfia looked up, past the grotesque scene on the shore of Tytheroygatra, and saw the wooden whales. Wide and tall, they swam swiftly and it seemed that they were birthing (or perhaps defecating) small calves which carried the dwellers of their insides.

They came, saw and conquered. Clad in metal, with breast-plates and helmets protecting them from the unknown, the whale-dwellers quickly subdued the islanders, who had long forgotten everything about war.

By dusk most free men had joined the mermaids in their tragic fate. As the years passed by, the sirens were forgotten and a new mythical creature the conquerors called god counselled men in their place.

Skeletons in the Closet

by Mileva Anastasiadou

@happymil_ 

I cheated on my husband, the night he turned green. Green is not my favorite color, yet I know that’s not a proper excuse. A confession is a confession, regardless of excuses. I already feel better now I said it.

He was red and horny and I was repelled by my husband’s green face, green body, green eyes and all. Greenery was all I saw, as if lush vegetation had taken over him. Guilt overwhelmed me right that moment when I surrendered, yet I couldn’t back down. I gave in twice. Red has always been my favorite color.

They appeared right after that night; two skeletons in my closet, ready to rush into the room. Every time I tried to unlock the door, they lurked behind, trying to escape. I wore the same clothes for days, before washing them and wearing them back on.

Like sirens, they kept calling me behind the closed door. I heard my name over and over, until I finally gave in. Sooner or later, my clothes would be so worn out that I’d have nothing to wear. I had to take action.

In front of the wide open closet I stand. The skeletons are now eating my guts. Gutless, I walk out of the room, carrying two bodies: a green and a red one. I drag them down the hall, into the living room, moving outdoors to the backyard.

We dance together under the moonlight, as the neighbor watches from behind the curtain. He now has three skeletons in his closet, a green, a red and a black one. He seems unsure of his next step. We call his name over and over, waiting for the moment he will be weak enough to let us out and join us.

Phantom Queen

by Ryan Yarber

@YarberWrites

Three young women stood watching the sea. Footsteps too far to hear alerted them of a man approaching. Their wait was at an end. They all turned in unison and walked toward the small cottage they would call home for today. Two of the women turned toward the third and merged with her, disappearing like ghosts into the earth. The lone woman kept walking toward the cottage. Each step she took aged her until she was grey and slow. Hours passed before the young man came into view.

 

“Hello Madame,” he called as he approached, his leather armor defining his muscles more than hiding them. A long spear lay strapped across his back. The smile on his face dispelled any intimidation his figure would have normally held.

She stopped milking her cow and turned toward him in crafted surprise. This was the first time he had recognized her after many attempts to capture his attention. “Oh, hello young man. You must be weary to have come all this way. Please, have some bainne. There is too much for just me.”

He approached and graciously accepted the offer. He drank three full glasses of the fresh milk.

“Thank you for your kindness. This will help my strength in future battles.”

“You shall be the strongest warrior,” she said knowing the truth of her words.

“Alas, I cannot stay to enjoy a proper exchanging of words. Please accept my deepest apologies.” He bowed to her.

“No need for such formalities. Young men are naturally making use of their constant vigor, as they should before age strips it of them.”

The young warrior continued his path and the old woman watched him go until he was lost to the horizon. Then her body burst into a flock of crows scattering across the sky.

Magical Space Grizzly Bear Odyssey

by Michael Carter

@mcmichaelcarter

Magical space grizzly bear reached a time in his life when he wanted to know where he came from to understand where he was going. He had to look back, to find the way forward.

The place with answers, he hoped, was in a cave on the moon. That’s where guidance could be found, the other bears told him.

He flew in a rocket ship and found it where it was said to be. He entered the dark cave and journeyed back through his life. He questioned some decisions. Should he have chased the hunter who, while in retreat, fired a bullet into his paw? Should he have harvested cattle that winter, causing the farmer to set traps that took his favorite mate? And what about the black bear? Did he need to sink his teeth into its head and take its venison, when he was already full on huckleberries and ants?

He ventured further into the cave, to a time before he knew magic. He went back to when he was a cub, to the day he first left the den, to his mother’s womb. He went back to sheer nothingness.

There, he saw another bear ahead. The bear appeared old, with greying, patchy fur. The bear, he thought, was perhaps the first bear ever. The old bear glided toward him and whispered, “Choose wisely.”

Magical bear tried to ask questions, but no words came out because, at that point, he didn’t know how to speak. So, he retraced his steps through the cave to the opening into the world that looked like the world he remembered before he went in, but was different. And he was hopeful that, in this world, on this try, he could do things right with his second chance.

The Beginning

The Life of Daphne

by Alicia So

Hey there!

My name is Daphne!

I am named after the goddesses Daphne: associated with fountains, wells, springs, and other types of freshwater bodies.

Bearing the name of a goddess, I am absolutely gorgeous.

I am not flaunting! All my sisters are jealous of my good looks and graceful voice.

But they wouldn’t dare to attack me for it. Duh, I am literally the food source of the family!

I just love seeing how sailors (also known as idiots) are lured to drive their ship towards death upon hearing my lovely voice.

Daphne (n.) – One of the worlds top ten exotic but deadly flowers. It carries a wonderful scent but its berries can induce a coma or sudden death.

Hey there!

It’s Daphne again!

For centuries I have been singing to get food for my fellow sirens.

But it has all changed…

Sailors are no longer attracted by my songs.

Confused, I tried to get close to their boat yesterday and this was what I heard: “Despacito. Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito …”

I also overheard their conversation about how this song was the most popular song of 2017…

Well, no wonder my classic songs are out of business.

Can somebody prepare a coffin for me when I eventually die of hunger? Thank you!

Cubes

by Keelah Rose Calloway

@misskeelahrose

Once there was a king. He had lots of money, which he used to buy lots of jewels and beautiful things. But he wasn’t happy. One morning while he was eating breakfast, a black bird landed on his window and began to speak to him. The king was shocked, because he had never seen a talking bird before. The bird told him that if he wanted to be happy, he had to go out alone, without his guards, find a magical golden cup, and drink from it. Then he’d be happy forever. The king figured that since a talking bird was pretty astonishing, he’d better listen to what it said. So he left his castle alone, and went off in search of the cup. By and by, he met a witch in a forest. He told her what he was looking for. So she offered him a golden cup, and he eagerly drank from it. But the cup contained a terrible poison. With the sound of the witch’s laughter ringing in his ears, the king stumbled out of the forest, feeling sicker and sicker, as the poison worked its way into him, like a virus. When he reached the edge of the forest, he collapsed. His body turned into an egg. The egg hatched, and a black bird came out. The bird flew to a castle and landed on the window. Inside, a king was eating breakfast. The king had lots of money and lots of beautiful jewels, but he was not happy. So the bird told him that if he wanted to be happy . . .

Blue Hands

by Desmond White

When you carpool, you don’t pick colleagues. They’re local or they’re not. Now Beal wasn’t only local, he was local color: white-bearded, green and black leaves, more Zeus in a Hawaiian shirt than a Social Studies teacher.

You’d have liked him—all dirty jokes and slang from teen years in the seventies, and then a coming together of preacher and professor—the auto-didactic man, the reader of a thousand books.

We had good talks those mornings.

“Makes you wonder—” I said. “—what they used before Aristotle invented Logic.”

“Logic isn’t the only source of knowledge,” Beal replied, nodding to Black Dog on the radio. “Like revelation. God telling men what’s up.”

I wanted to say science explained all that as hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and drugs but Beal added: “You see that?” He was looking up at the sky, at light and mist. “You see that? What is that?”

Beal cussed like one of his students and said, “There’s a blue hand coming down. Speed up. Speed up the damn car!”

“Is it a cloud?” I said.

“I can see its skin. Pores like… like honeycomb. It’s above us! Jesus, it’s going to grab us!”

I imagined a hand picking up the car like a beetle. But hey, didn’t Carl Sagan say one in twenty-five people hallucinate in their lifetime? Sometimes Carl heard his mother call his name.

But what if Sagan was wrong? What if the world is blue hands and dead mothers?

I drove the speedway, trying to retain the speed limit, trying to stay between dotted lines painted by men.

Trying to ignore my companion, the mystic in the leaves, writhing like an animal looking for exits, screaming at light and mist.

Subterranean Revolution

by Tia Ja’nae

Than Merman, an aquatic revolutionary and subterranean terrorist, has croaked in the struggle.  Sources say Merman, an original Sirenias, choked to death on a plastic ring while on a journey to hokey pokey over fresh laid eggs during mating season.  He was 587 years old.

While much is not known about his formidable years, in his prime he was considered the father of the war on humans, the founder of the Hybrid Aquatic Life Organisms front spent his formidable years spreading the gospel his species was dying out.  Close friends say losing his siblings sent him over the edge; many of his fifteen siblings died from complications of eating a plastic bag mistaken for a jellyfish in low lit areas.

Yearly pilgrimages over the last hundred years to the Pacific Ocean radicalized him against ocean pollution, and embarked him on a path of subterranean terrorist.  Rumors state Merman was responsible for the infamous infomercial that begged humans for 70 cents a day to clean up ocean garbage in exchange for an audio recording of sirens enchanting them into feeling humanitarian.  “Have you seen the Pacific Ocean?” Merman was quoted in the infomercial, “Makes Chicago’s landfill look like the Garden of Eden.”

His harsh sentimental comparisons jettisoned involvement in the “blue gold market”; over one million bottles of Dawn soap have been said to been stolen by his field operatives and smuggled to fund demonstrations against deep water drilling.  Anonymous sources say proceeds went towards a trident weapons stockpile, to be used in an inevitable war with humans for barbequing their carcasses on open fires like they had done their ancestors for food.

Merman leaves behind a fractured organization in an estate battle over the weapons inheritance.  Per custom, his body will be fed to the dolphins on the blood moon.

Dead Man’s Pity

by MK Roney

Mama’s going to love these, Saorise thought as she breathed deeply of the sky-blue bouquet. In the forest on top of the hill, Saorise had found a meadow of light blue and purple flowers. She’d walked slowly through the clearing, breathing in the sweet earthiness, when all of the purple petals took flight. She had not realized they were butterflies, so still were they amongst the flowers.

Saorise entered the cottage and saw her mother sitting by the hearth.

“These are for you, Mama.”

“Thank you, love,” her mother replied, looking up with a weary smile.

The tiredness in her mother’s eyes was gone when she saw the flowers. She snatched the bouquet and threw it into the hearth.

Before Saorise’s shock could give way to tears, her mother stripped her of her dress and lifted her into the tin tub, already filled with soaking laundry, and began using the coarse fabric to scrub her daughter’s skin.

“Where did you find those?”

“I-in the forest.”

“You must never go there, not ever again.”

“But why?”

“Those flowers are Dead Man’s Pity,” her mother said, scrubbing. “They only grow above graves with no coffin, calling the fae who drink their nectar and breathe their scent and hunt any who dare touch them. Promise me you won’t go back.”

Saorise nodded and her mother began scrubbing again, washing the smell of flowers from her skin. When the last of the suds were washed away, her mother covered her in a foul-smelling ointment that made her cry, and sent her to bed.

As she carefully laid down, skin still sore from the scouring, she looked up at the small window, left open to let the room breathe. Saorise watched as at first one, and then two purple butterflies flew softly into the room.

Revelations of a Siren

by Leslie Archibald

     She laid beside her lover, her husband, her lifeline, curling her body into his. Entangled. She clutched his arm with aged bony fingers and listened to his labored breathing. He half smiled and whispered I love you exhaling his last breath. Agony consumed her.

     He was her island. She came to his rocky shore. They grew old together in their tiny sky blue house at the edge. He wrote poems about her. He painted pictures of her long, once black, hair and dark beguiling eyes. He called her his muse once. She laughed. She believed her graying hair and crepe-like skin was punishment for loving a human.

     She knew death. She had accompanied men in burial before. She had caused many to perish with her beauty and sweet song. Still, she had never felt such pain. She lured him with song yet, he escaped its will. He held her heart. She knew she was fated to die yet his love somehow kept her. Death took him in her place.

     He grew cold. She jerked away and ran. She ran into the darkness. She ran fast and far, finding herself on the shore. She screeched and wailed. She fell to the sand. She raised her fragile bird-like hands to the sky and cursed the gods, the air, and the sea. She folded into herself and let the water wash over her hoping it would carry her away. The troubled tide rolled out to sea and left her on the wet sand. She raised to her hands and knees and lifted her now fleshy fingers letting the watery sand sift through. She reached up and brushed dark hair from a taut face and lay in windless silence preparing for a punishment far worse than age or death.

The Leukai’s Secret

by Laura Theis

Love flies; and love wounds. And that’s why, once upon a time, we were all wings and claws. Picture, if you can: A gaggle of us, part-virgins, part-birds, racing Zephyr far above the ocean. Happy, wild, hysterical. The laughter making us almost too breathless to sing. They called us Sylphs then… I know. You wouldn’t think it to look at us now, would you? Now that we’re only fangs and fins and yearning; featherless and sea-bound. Our name has been taken from us, and we have been given another one in mockery. But I’ll have you know you must never address us that way if you know what’s good for you, not with that name we are forced to share with the world’s most despised sound of air-raid wails and alarm-bells and ambulances…You may call us Leukai, ‘The White Ones’.

Oh yes, we will sing for you, don’t fret. But first let us finish.

It was the Queen’s doing, all of this. Maybe it was jealousy, because we sang too loudly, laughed too much, flew too high? Our stomachs lurched when she came to us smiling, with Calliope and her sisters in tow. We knew then, it was too late. The Queen signalled and they were upon us in seconds, six held us down while the other three plucked at our plumes one by one, then threw us down into the sea. They laughed as we screamed and waved at us with their hands full of our beautiful feathers. (They made crowns out of them, they wear them on stage to this day.)

Poseidon saw us fall and took pity, he gave us our tails and the clamshell that now hides the song that is our secret.

Don’t worry, once you’ve heard us sing, you’ll know. Just not for long.

Loch Ness

by Tim Dance

Levi dreamed with pride, the ice age was created to trap him, he was all powerful.

Sunlight burnt through Levi’s scaled eyelid, it roused the Leviathan into consciousness. He opened his skyward facing eye. A haze of light filled his vision as sunshine shone through the thinned and translucent ice. The glacier was melting. After several day and night cycles, Levi could see a yellow disc against a blue sky. Drips slid across his vision, like a spyglass under water. He flexed his powerful limbs and water seeped inside. He squirmed, loving the feel of the water as it lubricated his smooth reptile skin. Levi hungered, he longed to hunt, to swim and to eat again.

Levi burst free from his icy prison, he broke the surface before he splashed down in satisfaction. He dove to the seabed, he must be near land, there was still the faintest light trickling from above. Frozen sea creatures floated, and he fed, each bite an ice sandwich. Levi swam forwards in ecstasy before he crashed into rock and created a small cave. The monster followed the submerged coastline itching to break free and live again in the deepest oceans. Before he felt the need to rest, he arrived back at the cove. Levi was trapped in a lake.

After many years alone, two-legged animals visited his lake. They were many times larger than the morsels he had scavenged for so long, a constant rumble in his gut had accompanied every waking moment. He cursed his sea-bound body. No more was he all powerful. He gouged out caves all around his prison lake, large enough to hide, out of sight, waiting to snap up any who ventured into the water.

He heard the same refrain distorted underwater, many times.

“Where’s Nessie?”

The Haunted Pillow 

by Erica Plouffe

It wasn’t until our first pillow fight I realized that “down” meant “duck.” But it was too late. The sack of feathers was already sailing toward my head, the force of its momentum increased by Kyle’s hurtling arms which knocked me clean off the bed as the pillow tore open. The bedroom bloomed with feathers, drifting through the air, settling in swarthy pale piles, kicking up when I kicked out—a flat out, drop-kick to the already opened pillow in Kyle’s outstretched arms, landing the next pile of feathers into his open mouth, into the whorls of his curly red hair, stuck to the fleece of his pajamas, his bed, his rug, his teddy bear, his Legos space station, his model airplane, his Boy Scout patch sash, his plastic cup of water. Undeterred, he emptied what was left on my head and the feathers flew upward, the ghosts of their former owners unleashed in the flash-lit night, as the quacks of ducks and geese, egrets and other migrators surfaced on the sonic horizon of the night sky, and grew in terrifying numbers as the ripe moon glow shone on the wings of a dozen, then a hundred, then a thousand fowl perched on the pine tree outside Kyle’s room, pecking at his window, wanting in. And as their honks grew louder, and closer, it seemed the only way to stop them was to toss each feather, handful by handful, back into the pillow sack. When the pillow was full, Kyle ran downstairs and threw it onto the side yard lawn, and our necks craned skyward as a great swan swooped, clutched the sack in its beak, and flew off, leading the swarm of ducks and geese, into the light of the now sinking moon.

Patience

by Jack Koebnig

@koebnig

You don’t fool me. The others, some of the others, perhaps, but not me.

Boats do not take to your surface, nor fish to your depths. I know what you are. I have witnessed your true form, stared into your black lifeless eyes and felt the hate radiating from your merciless heart.

You don’t fool me.

I will prove that my actions are just. I will sit here, high above your false form and wait. I have time. When one embarks on a quest, one has nothing but time. And when you turn, for I know you must, I will be here, ready with my net.

You will not escape me. Not a second time.

I will show those blind fools that ignoring the problem, one that is as obvious as a drop of ink on a square of fresh parchment, is not a valid course of action.

‘We must take arms. We must stand as one. Only then will we survive.’

They will rue the day that they ignored my warning. Just see if they do not.

I was the one to break their conspiracy of silence, and for my trouble I was excommunicated, banished ten leagues beyond the fortress walls. But I hold no ill will towards them. They are simply scared and scared people do what comes naturally; they focus on their own personal survival.

Rest well, demon. For when you wake, I shall be waiting. Net in hand.

You will never fool me.

A Simple Genie

by Chloe Gilholy

@ChloboShoka

“Good evening, Bobby.”

A red fog taints the cemetery. A silhouette of a monk floats towards me. The man is black all over with only white lines where his facial features should be. His eyes are shut. He comes to me and opens his eyes. He bows. The shadows melt away to reveal a mystical demon.

His pale human appearance makes me shiver. “Who are you?”

He grins. “I am Shiku Mortem: a simple genie.”

“What do you want?” If he wants to kill me – please be quick. I should be dead by now.

Shiku jumps towards me with his rotten hands open. “You – I have a gift for you.”

I shake my head and run. “I’m not interested. I don’t want to be in this world anymore.”

Shiku blocks the path and grips me. Chains emerge from the ground. They’re no different to the chains that trap me in this vicious circle of depression. “I know why you did it. And I know what you want – but you can’t have it. Which is why I am going to grant you four wishes.”

“My only wish is to die!” My lips tremble and my voice strains. Overwhelmed with tears, my body is dragged to the floor. “I have nobody. I have nothing. PLEASE.” I’m choking on my own tearful pleas. “Just let me die.”

“YOU CANNOT DIE!” Shiku slams his fists together and unleashes a white aura that wipes out the whole cemetery so it’s just us and this white space. “If you do die, I will revive you. Call me and I shall grant your wish.”

“What’s the catch?”

“You cannot eliminate your past.”

“This is not fair.”

“Life isn’t fair. Like I said, I’m just a simple genie.”

“I don’t want your wishes. Go away!”

Seconds, minutes and hours

by Marjan Sierhuis

@SierhuisMarjan

     Muffled voices, and a cacophony of sounds creeps stealthily through a crack in the hospital door.  They go unnoticed by the couple within.  A wall clock quietly sweeps hands around a clock face and counts down seconds, minutes and hours.  Medical equipment, a crash cart, and supplies on over laden carts now sit idle on the sidelines; soldiers who have seen recent battle.

Eyes closed, Charles lies quietly in bed while beads of perspiration tickle his forehead, and trickle their way down cheeks to lips that taste of salt.  His heart cycles incessantly in his chest and answers to the beat of its own drummer.  Oxygen moves frugally in and out of his lungs.  The element is like the forces of the sun and the moon that play among the tides of the ocean.

But Charles is not alone.  Rose, his wife of forty years sits in a chair by his bedside.  A concerned look crosses her delicate features as beams of sunlight peek over her shoulder. They cast their brilliance on the creased photo she clutches tightly between her fingertips.  It is of their wedding which now seems such a long time ago.

Rose leans over, kisses her husband’s cheek and whispers in his ear.  Gently she pats his damp forehead with a handkerchief.  Suddenly, it falls from her fingertips, catches on a puff of air and floats onto his pillow.

She grasps his cold hand in hers, eyes filled with unshed tears and bows her head in silent prayer.  Slowly, Charles opens his eyes and with a slight tilt of his head glances down at her. He knows he will not be alone.

November Bay

by Alex L Williams

@vividnest

Darkness expanded into the deserted harbour as Alice’s feet pounded the cobbles. The inky sea smashed the moon into fragments and drizzle plastered hairs to her face. She clenched her key. Every man, woman and child was hidden away with shutters closed and doors bolted. It was a full moon; they knew the routine.

A glance over her shoulder revealed a vast purple head, far larger than the surrounding rowing boats, rising from the ocean. Its humanoid face glistened as its bright eyes sucked at the lights of the waterfront. The key fell from her trembling fingers and rattled into a drain.

Alice pressed herself against a wall, hidden behind a bin. She watched as, one by one, long tentacles reached up and stretched towards the sky. The stories were true; he was half-man half-octopus. Alice burrowed her eyes into her elbow as the octogiant walked up the slipway, his eight arms moving in graceful waves, his ambling body heading for the town.

He checked each house, his hungry eyes level with the upstairs windows, hoping to glimpse a human. He’d taken two people in the last four years, a young woman and an old fisherman.

A shadow loomed, then the end of a limb slipped around Alice’s waist and a scream dropped from her mouth into the empty street. He lifted her struggling body and carried her back to the sea. She gasped as he submerged her. Thoughts of death swam through her mind. Her lungs flooded, but she found she could breathe and they travelled for miles over the seabed.

They joined two humans in an underwater cave and the octogiant lay down.  ‘loneliness had engulfed him,’ said the woman, ‘so we sleep wrapped in his arms each night.’

‘You’ll grow to love him,’ said the old man.

Fireflash

by Mark Warren

Watching from here I can almost feel my wallet getting fatter. This will be the fifth race he has won in as many weeks. The winner’s pot plus the winnings from a few ‘not-so-legal’ bets heading my way.

Fireflash. I’d found him a few months back when on the run from a botched burglary that I should have planned better. I’d followed a river through some woods, scratched almost every inch of myself climbing through brambles, and then there he was. Silver mane glittering in the dappled moonlight. And that horn, perfectly twisted to a point not six inches from his eyes. Friendly as anything, he was. Obviously I didn’t believe it at first, thought some nutter had glued something to a horse for their stuck-up kids to play with. But close up it became clear. The horn was growing straight out the head.

He seemed willing to follow me, with a little coaxing, and we found an abandoned barn. My plan, if you can call it that, was to tie it up and call the press. Someone would pay for a story and pictures. If there was no fall-out I’d sell him to the highest bidder. That was until I saw it run. And I mean run. I’d been to the horses many times but I’d never seen one run like that. So I formed a new plan.

Now, I couldn’t enter a unicorn in a horse race – I’m not stupid – so I took a hacksaw and Fireflash was born. His mane is no longer silver and his temper rivals that of a boxer at a weigh-in, but he runs fast. The horn I keep with me always because when I hold it he does what I say. And right now I say ‘win me a race, boy’.

Serpent of Venice

by Ella Syverson

The wizened tour guide propels the gondola with ease, each stroke of the long oar causing a gentle ripple through the clouded waters.

“There’s a myth,” he tells the tourists. “An urban legend, if you will. It says a great beast lives beneath Venice. Serpentine, they say, with scales like a snake, eyes like a cat, and jaws like a Nile crocodile. It haunts the canals silent as death itself, feeding on fish and those unlucky enough to fall from their boat.”

The tourists listen avidly, hanging on the gondolier’s every word. He chuckles softly to himself. “Only a tale, though. Only a tale.” He continues his tour, now telling the history of a cathedral they pass.

As the sun sets and the tourists retire to their hotels, the gondolier sets off, away from the city center. He ties his boat to a dock adjoining the butcher’s shop. He enters, and returns lugging a heavy bundle in a canvas sack. The old man grunts as he heaves it into the gondola, and pushes off from the dock.

Now he returns to the heart of the city. He retraces the route of his tour through the oldest canals, and comes to stop before the cathedral. He begins to whistle, a lilting, melancholy tune. As he whistles, he unties his canvas parsel. He leans over the edge of the gondola and smiles. He reaches out a wrinkled hand to stroke the long, reptilian snout that has emerged from the black water. Slitted yellow eyes blink back at him from beneath the surface.

Greetings observed, the gondolier takes the goat carcass from its canvas wrappings and launches it into the canal. With one snap of its crocodilian jaws, the serpent has swallowed the goat and disappeared once again into the canal’s dark embrace.

River Child

by Mark Carew

I was feeling cold outside under the pine trees, when I discovered the hot tub with its centre bubbling like a volcano.  I jumped right in.  The water was so warm!  And there were little icy water jets that made my legs and back tingle.  I sat on the ledge and settled back to watch the clouds go by.  A family of four just like my own were sitting opposite on their ledge, enjoying their time at the water park.  I was so warm in the bubbling water I forgot I had limbs.  I just rested there.

There was a man next to me.  He lay back with his face almost covered by the water.  His large eyes were closed.  He appeared to be asleep.  When the water bubbled around his beak-like nose, he looked happy and inched back up into the air.  I knew how he felt.  The water was so lovely and warm; it made me feel sleepy too.

When I looked again only the man’s hair was visible, so I followed him beneath the water’s surface.  The man sat on a long tail.  His skin was patterned like turtle scales.  His nose was an eagle’s beak.  His feet had grown four toes like claws.  The creature half-opened his eyes, as large as ping pong balls, and made a dreamy smile.  I smiled back too as the water entered my mouth and lungs.  The water was so warm it was lovely.  Above the hub tub, silhouetted against the trees and the sky, was my Mum.  She was looking for me.  I was thinking, I’m just down here, can’t you see me?  She was missing out.  The hot tub was so peaceful and there were beautiful animals in it all the way to the bottom.

The Sea Will Claim it Back

by Sophia Haddad

The sea is claiming back our home town. The promenade accepts its damp embrace and lets the sea spray do its decay. So I will have to tell my children what it was like, the waters where my mum and grandma came from.

Grandma, I’ll tell my daughters that when a slippery siren caught the attention of Grandad’s boat that you rose out of the sea and ripped it apart with your tentacles. That you used the wood to build cabins on the beach, where mermaids can morph into humans and then go for ice cream.

Mum, I’ll tell my daughters about the time a young Poseidon stole your crown and you took his trident to use it to bar him from the shore. Then your children played in the shallows, knowing he couldn’t seek revenge by dragging them out.

Aphrodite herself used to live in Grandma’s bathroom, it was so beautiful! She used to bathe inside a shell while seahorses spun pearls into her hair. It was here that we discussed how to protect our skin from the sun and how to use coral to paint our lips.

Like the lost sailors in cursed seas, people never really leave this town, we roam in circles. Occasionally, we are drawn into the current that takes us back, comfortable in it’s dead arms and the warm welcome of the abyss.

Bait

by Jane DeBond

I gaze at the beach. It doesn’t look like anyone is coming. As I turn back to the sea, I see her. Long blonde hair, dazzling smile. She looks like a mermaid, except, almost sadly, I see she’s wearing flippers.

“Waiting for someone?” She asks.

It’s my turn to smile. I have great teeth too. “Seems like I’m on my own as usual.”

She looks down at my flippers. “Did you want to dive?” I nod. “The caves?”

“Yes. I’ve heard they’re legendary, but…”

“You don’t know where they are do you? You need someone to show you.”

“I was expecting someone.” I look down and shuffle my feet.

“I can take you; I’ve been there a thousand times.”

I look up. “OK. But then…” and I’m thinking out loud, “dinner?”

Her face lights up. “I’m always hungry after diving.”

I’m smitten. She’s hooked me.

I follow her lazy walk along the beach, hypnotised by her gently swaying body and I feel like I’m being pulled along behind her. We’re near the rocks, she turns and nods at me to make sure I understand, then dives down somewhere I didn’t even think was deep enough. I dive too, mystified, assuming the cave entrance is close.

I can’t see her. I’m flailing about down here, swimming round and round until I bear left and  ahead I see what could be an entrance to the caves. There are rocks above me. I’m confined and I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been fooled. Where is she? Now I’m worried. Was she toying with  me?

No. She’s there, right in front of me but she’s looking scared. Terrified.

I smile again. Showing all of my lovely white pointed teeth. Hundreds of them.

Dinner will be especially sweet tonight.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

by Carl R. Jennings

@carlrjennings

“Look”, the Brownie said, rubbing his face as though trying to wipe away the exhaustion. “We do the chores, you leave out food for us. I’m sorry, Madam, I cannot see where the issue lies.”

The woman, sitting up in bed, shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she said, primly smoothing the wrinkles in her nightgown. “This just doesn’t sound like a good bargain.”

As the Brownie buried his head in his hands, she looked out of the window at the night sky, sprinkled with sparkling specks like forgotten pieces of broken glass. She looked back at the foot of her bed when she heard the Brownie take a deep breath.

“All the housework,” the Brownie said with strained patience. “For just one bowl of food.”

The woman crossed her arms across her chest and glared down her nose at the tiny man.

“I already employ servants,” she said. “Why should I pay for the same work twice?”

The Brownie turned away, whipped the pointed hat off his head, and bit down hard on it. The woman raised an eyebrow.

“If this is the way you and your associates are going to act while you’re in my house…” she said, letting the sentence trail off into terrible uncertainty.

The Brownie shoved his hat, masticated and damp, back on his head and turned back around.

“Madam,” he said, patience failing him. “You home will be guaranteed spotless by sunrise. The kind of work we do is worth a bowl of porridge and honey, surely.”

The woman made a show of tapping her chin thoughtfully.

“O-kay,” she said, slowly.

The Brownie’s face lit up.

“But do I really need to put honey in it?” the woman said. “It’s expensive.”

The Brownie’s face plunged back into exasperated darkness.

A Bowl of Salt

by Christian Kriticos

As a child, I was frightened of the dark. Every evening, when the world shrank into invisibility, I would imagine demons crawling in the shadows, waiting to torment me when I fell asleep.

My mother, rather than reason away the existence of these mystical beings, indulged my imagination. She told me that demons were real, but that they could easily be tricked. She placed a bowl of salt outside my bedroom door and explained that any demons which came upon it would be compelled, by their compulsive curiosity, to count every grain before they could enter. Of course, such a task could never be completed in a single night, and the frustrated demons would be forced to flee at sunrise, only to start all over should they ever return again in the darkness.

For years that bowl of salt remained outside my bedroom door, and each time I walked past it appeared to me a comfort, a small pillar of security. Later, somewhere in my teenage years, it began to seem silly. I had become cynical with the world, and no longer believed in demons, so one day I returned the salt to the kitchen. My mother said nothing, and the bowl migrated to the dinner table, its contents, over the years, slowly sprinkled over a thousand meals.

Now I am much older, and have seen and experienced so much of the world. There have been coincidences in my life improbable beyond reckoning; I have seen the greatest kindnesses and the worst evils enacted equally without reason; and I have learned of flora and fauna which exist – microscopic, aquatic, and airborne– far less plausible than demons.

Indeed, I have become old enough to believe anything.

So now, once again, I keep a bowl of salt outside my bedroom door.

The Sea Witch

by Carolyn Ward

I lay in the water, staring up. The clouds rippled, and sunshine was captured and magnified by a thousand bubbles. I flexed my tail, moving only to stay still like a shark. A shy octopus twirled into a crevice behind me, its movement echoing all around.

It was a day for memories, and I thought all the way back to the day I had become. Family ties had led to an unwanted marriage proposal. I remembered hot tears, and then my toes crinkling with panic. Running hard up the hill to the cliffs. My ankles had ached, my feet bruising from the rocky track.

At the top the wind had roared like a lion, rocking me. My feet were bare, cold now, silken slippers lost on the climb. The wind wrapped cold hands around my calves, flash-drying my tears. I had stepped to the cliff edge, the black sea below ululating like a living thing.

‘No!’ came the scream from behind, and I twisted to see my sister, the little fool.

‘It’s too late,’ I shivered.

‘Please Meggie!’ her eyes were wild, her black hair tossed by the cliff wind. ‘Don’t! Clem isn’t so bad? Mama says it’ll secure our…’

I shook my head, my own hair stinging my face as the wind took a ribbon. My gown caught like a sail, and I raised my arms. I wasn’t afraid.

The fall was endless. A lifetime later I hit the water like a rag doll. My sister’s scream became the wind, rushing and whirling away through forests and mountains. My life had ended and also begun.

Clem wouldn’t want me now, I smiled, the water blue on my lips. Sometimes he walked to the beach and stared out over the bay, yearning.

I was beyond him now.

Ocean Crossing Orbs Of Black

by Basel St. Gael

On boats of wood and pain crossed the warrior of red who gave herself one last story on running away from blood-spilt stone inlay.  Over that boat’s edge she does see this glowing agent of sheen and black with a surface gaze.

This is a story of monstrous terror named after losing her father’s light, hidden in tales of fairies and nymphs–sea creatures floating through a blood-curdling labyrinth.  It’s true she grew up by the sea, but that cauldron of sparkling darkness looks upon her with a thousand eyes she cannot see.  The first time she drifted over the sandbar at the coast of Normandy it did blink, and she’s never gone out so far again.

These are Grecian legends long where monsters almighty know the presence of their equals above measuring a life not-so-fleeting.

Tentacles and glints stare above and flit several feet behind with distant adoration and longing at the redhead carrying about her fury, pain, and loss.  This giant black pearl swims for harbors far away though it cannot pass in shallow tints.  Its vision of smoothest stone and might bleeds something more than earthly veins.

Starting the next moon this stalker of deepest sea slows to watch that boat of godly transport turn to New York docks.  Watching for the last time is that otherworldly soul underneath the city where a family’s orphaned and inspires standards of gold.

She of red plus black hunts a figure so dark seen below feeling so kindred, knowing it patrols seas she did border, near familiar trade winds.  Never looking back on open waters is this crimson swordswoman torn in twain.  Leaning on brick walls and hiding in canebrakes she recalls daily the orb beneath her last seen when bellied to that mahogany ship’s rail.

The Wolf

by Charlie Kinsella

There once was a little boy with a red hood.

His father had given him the task of going to his grandfather’s house as he was sick, so he could deliver to him some cake and wine.

His father had told him to stay on the path due to the dangers of the forest, but the boy was curious so he strayed off the path.

He explored the forest by looking in the large trees, many were covered with mushrooms and the leaves were falling off the trees. There were many bushes with ripe juicy looking berries.

He finally came upon a glade filled with many flowers, out of the glade came a wolf

“Who are you” the boy asked

“I’m a shape-shifter, I’ve been following you, were are you going?” she asked

“I’m going to my grandfather’s house, its right along were the path is. I’m going to give him some cake and wine because he’s sick” the little boy said naively.

“Why don’t you pick some flowers”

“Ok then”

The wolf walked off while the boy picked many different flowers from the glade, after he had picked a fair amount he carried on with his journey to derived cake and wine to his sick grandfather.

He came to his grandfather’s house and unlocked the latch and went into the house he noticed something strange about his grandfather, who was lying in the bed, he walked over to him.

“Hello” his grandfather replied in an inhuman voice

“What a high voice you have!”

“All the better to greet you with”

“Goodness, what big eyes you have!”

“The better to see you with”

“And what big hands you have!”

“The better to hug and grab you with”

“What a big mouth you have”

“The better to eat you with!”

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