by Michelle Tudor
He circles the forest of lights, broken down, wings unfurled. Evading the dawn, afraid to be seen. He tucks broken shards into the tiniest of pockets: gold and silver, flesh and moss. But memories of war lie behind his dark eyes, fading with years. He is cornered as he sleeps in the concrete heat. Is he dead? a voice caws. Through a shaking of heads and eyes turning away in disgust, he awakens. Leave me, he cries. Later, the traffic fumes encase him. The death-smell of the city akin only to the deepest woods.
The Literary Life
by Derek Parker
He had been going to the bookstore for years. When nobody was looking he would take a book from one section and place it in another. Now the plays of Beckett were in Romance, Cupcakes for Everyone was in Erotica, Catcher in the Rye was in Science Fiction, bodice-ripping novels three inches thick with lurid covers had found their way into Maths and Science. After decades, he realized that no one had noticed. I have wasted my life, he thought as he lay dying. And then God spoke to him, in his final moments, and said, “At last. Someone understood.”
Give Me a Sign
by Zacharias O’Bryan
Eighteen months in the dome. Alone. Five thousand meters beneath the waves.
Marietta would have abandoned sanity if it weren’t for… well, she called him Herbert. His single fleshy vacu-pod gripped the Plexiglas, and there he waited. Each morning when Marietta powered the LED lamps, soma opened along Herbert’s trans-ventral divide. Cilia emerged, stirring and filtering the sea. Skin hues iridesced and pulsed, a chorus throbbing to Marietta’s heartbeat.
“Herbert,” she mused, “do you suppose a mono-pod and a lonesome girl could…? Well, you know.” Colors dimmed. His cilia withdrew. The vacu-pod broke suction. Herbert drifted into the abyss.
by Makenzie Smith
We’re not dating but his snores vibrate my bones on the weekends. Wednesday nights we drive out by the lake and watch fish jump before our hands start working. Sometimes we kiss: soft, closed-mouthed. It’s romantic, in those cramped spaces; he buys me sweet tea to wash the taste out of my mouth. In February his fingers were ice bricks knotted in my hair so I brought them to my lips and breathed warm, deep-lung air on the tips. I become real then, he curls his fingers around my breath like he can hold it.
by L.A. Kurth
After the crash, everything changed. On the snowy mesa, I knelt with my arms around a woman seated on a stool, or was it the remains of an airplane seat? I pressed my head to her right shoulder, my pelvis to her back. She was warm and wide and soft-rolled. Nothing at all was awkward or amiss. She stroked my hand in an intimate, comforting way, and I said “This must be the new world” into her ear. Not food, nor work, nor return to the world was important. I felt understood, bathed in sex and closeness. That was all.
by McKenzie Johnston Winberry
Her shimmering lamp swung.
A corpse in the dense, mist-infested woods. He had been a man. So had his killer. Now murderer, and now corpse.
Muffled footsteps as she walked between the trees that her lamp almost brushed against.
From the corpse—somehow more alive than when it was—arose a glittering green, the same color as her lamp. It ascended up to the lamp, which now hung perfectly still over the corpse’s concave face. The lamp absorbed it.
She resumed her steps, the lamp its swinging, the corpse its deadness.
Hear a Fly Buzz
by Rachel Oestreich
Hear a fly buzz. Trapped on a windowsill—the forgotten kind, where moths decay into ash beneath sun-faded pillows—bulbous body and silver-veined wings smash against thick-paned glass. Broken drones eclipse into silence, seconds—maybe minutes—and many dust motes float unhindered until the fly cracks its body against the glass again. Look the other way.
by Clem Fandango
“So how was your day?’”
She rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, looking for unexpected ways to frame the expected. “Jenny wasn’t in so I had to pick up her work… You don’t realize how much someone is needed until they’re gone.”
“Absolutely right. The other day I—” He recounted a similar story with the enthusiastic eyebrows of someone pretending like this was conversational new-ground.
She listened with the nods and smiles of someone pretending they weren’t bored.
The dialogue trailed off, soft laughter and softer smiles concealing the shared feeling that they might die like this.
by Rudy Koshar
He puts the water on, drops in two large brown eggs from the co-op, organic, free-range, opens his digital edition of the Times, reads that wildfires are devastating a part of the San Gabriel Valley and Britain has left the European Union, he hears the water boiling, there was a bloody riot in a private prison in Texas, of course, and oh, the plight of Syrian refugees, then he remembers he forgot to set the timer, takes the eggs off, submerges them in cold water, cracks one open, and damn, it’s undercooked.
by Jennifer L. Freed
Now that Grandpa’s gone, Grandma’s coming to live here. She’ll use my room, and I’ll share with Connor. Connor says I’m a freak and he’ll make me sleep under the bed with the monsters, and if I tell he’ll lock me in his closet all night instead of only before school. He knows the Voice lives in the closet. The Voice is worse than monsters. It says, eat only brown food today. Pee twice in my pants. Collect red pills from the medicine cabinet. Give Grandpa those pills, not the white ones Grandma put in my palm to bring him.
by Kenny A. Chaffin
The goose on the gurney was rushed once more into the operating room. Another golden egg had to be surgically removed from its rectum. Technically of course it’s not a rectum, it’s a cloaca, but that isn’t the point. It was actually a production problem. The heavy-metal food, the purified water, and the trips to the emergency room were quite expensive. It was a losing proposition. Impossible to win, much less break even. Realizing this, the owner felt fortunate to foist the fowl off on a farmer’s son, a young boy named Jack who happened by that very same day.
by Paul Alex Gray
The bitter wind is drowned out by the yips and howls of the younglings. They prance and circle the fire kicking at embers. Russet, tan and sable fur shimmers, not yet burnt to hunter’s cloaks. Teeth glint and shine, knife sharp and hungry. I run my tongue across my own, taste in the pocks and scratches a thousand days and nights. Casting back I still feel my dawnday cap of feather and bone, my mother’s well wishes. The kill is coming. Blood games will begin. Pass the carcass round and round till the last one wins the heart.
by Brett Blocker
I threw a stick into the cornfield and Biscuit brought back a leg. That’s how we found him; the gurgling pulp in a flight suit. Sophie took one look and said “Yuck!” So that’s what we called him. Having ruined some of the crop with his airplane, Dad says it’s up to Yuck to pay us back and if that means selling him off, then so be it. I knew we couldn’t keep him forever, but every time the gypsy wagon comes down the road with a bigger offer, Dad repeats himself. “Maybe tomorrow.”
by DL Shirey
My little sister’s screams filter through salt water like the tremolo of a surf guitar. Who knew the undertow had a soundtrack? It crouches out where the slant of sand drops deep, always moving, crabbing sideways behind bones of coral, peeking up, pulling hard. I call to my sister. The words skitter up the frets of my throat into a useless strangle of bubbles, left behind with scratched strings of flesh, cut by coral, picked by fish. Black-green stands of seaweed block what little light remains. The last thing I see are long shadows swaying to the strums of riptide.
by David Galef
For the Special & Gifted School, students must achieve at least 130 on the Wechsler test, but also be measurably damaged. Rachel scored 148 but did abysmally on the Initiative Index. Her first day, she was too timid to go to the girls’ room and by 10:30 sat in a small yellow puddle. On one side of her was a boy who’d turned his notebook paper into origami turtles; on the other, a girl reading two books simultaneously while eating lunch early and smearing mayonnaise on the pages. “You fit right in,” declared the teacher cheerfully, handing Rachel a mop.
by Michael Kulp
It is May, and my only son is graduating. In May, the tadpole enjoys the shallows’ golden light, reveling in the third dimension. By June, he will be unhappy, new legs ruining his beautiful sleekness. In July, he will be restless, sensing that more changes are coming. In August, he will be a frog who remembers a little less each day about the delight of the third dimension. He will leave the pond and join the peculiar land creatures. Will he find a mate to share the darkness? But right now, it is May, and my only son is graduating.
Sounds About Right
by Mark Burnash
When we die, we’re all reincarnated as squirrels; you know that, right? Yep, each time a person dies, a lightning bolt strikes an acorn and a squirrel is born. The lightning is caused by satellites and clouds from cloud factories. The Beatles invented the satellites. Did you know Jean Claude Van Damme was one of the Beatles? Yep, that was when I owned Disney, but the C.I.A. took it away from me. The police laced my cigarettes with cocaine to frame me and they took away my children too. I didn’t mind too much; they were Nephilim abominations anyway.
by Marquis DePrevbal
Carlos returned to Mexico to care for his dying mother, so the grass grew high. By May, it was unruly, and the neighbors began to comment. By Memorial Day, it reached my knees. They stopped saying hello and stared uneasily at my untamed meadow during evening walks, as if leopards might be crouching behind the mailbox. The guy next door mowed almost daily, demonstrating his disgust. Someone from the HOA took a photo. The code enforcer would be next. What would come first, I wondered: A citation, or Carlos, sweating out his grief as he dragged me back to civilization?
This collection of microfiction contains reader-voted best work published on MicrofictionMondayMagazine.com in 2015 alongside original, never-before published work from each of the contributing authors. You can purchase it directly from the publisher, Blue Skirt Productions, for $9.99 including shipping (US addresses only) or from most major online booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Get yours now!
This week’s artwork is “Potentially Unsettling if Made into a Wallpaper” by Connor Fieweger.
Too Much of a Good Thing
by Jackson Freud
They were eating pizza on the couch when she asked him.
“Do you still find me attractive?” she said.
Robbie chewed his mouthful of cheese and salami, taking care not to swallow it too soon lest he be forced to answer the question.
He wiped his fingers on a grease-stained napkin, drained his beer and turned up the volume on the television. She yanked the remote from his hand and said, “Babe?”
He sighed. “Too much cheese. Why do you always have to order extra fucking cheese?”
by L.L. Madrid
Mother said Broden pulled my hair because he liked me. She said that if I just ignored him he’d lose interest. By late summer, the neighborhood children ran feral. They leered as Broden pushed me to the ground, pinning my arms with his knees. The sun burned in the cloudless sky but I didn’t dare close my eyes. One dirty hand squeezed, forcing my mouth open. The other pinched a fat, oozing slug. Grim-faced, Broden shoved the slimy creature deep inside me, mollusk skin scraping off against my teeth. The other children cheered. I suppose they liked me too.
by Andrew Bertaina
Across town my wife is on a date with another man. And here I am, like a flower, gathering light in the window and thinking of her. And just imagine that as she reaches for her coffee, or suddenly takes his hand; imagine if she just as suddenly thinks of me, the two of us miles away, lonely for one another.
by Jareb Collins
“Death is the gentle passage from the horrors of this life to the blessings of the next.”
At least, that’s what Reverend Tommy always said.
Poetic, I used to think.
Far be it from me to argue with a man of the cloth – seemed like bad karma. But as cyanide slowly burned a hole in my gut, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in a frozen boxcar hurtling down a rusty track. I shivered violently, a bloody froth bubbling from my lips. The world began to fade; I almost regretted escaping the eternal flames.
Death was cold.
by Brett Blocker
The thrill of paper targets was short-lived. Same with the cans on the fence post. He’d graduated to birds now, and the feeder proved an inexhaustible supply. Every day after school he fed the pile. Swallows, chickadees, robins, it made no difference; their beaks all shattered as fragile things against the steel bb. Some lay where they fell. Cats carried away the others. In time, the yard fell silent, distant branches found new use, and animals flicked their tongues in defiance.
A few weeks ago, during the AWP conference in Los Angeles, the Blue Skirt Productions team asked participants to submit microfiction on post-it notes for a chance to be published online. Below are the chosen entries. Enjoy!
by Ann Hillesland
When Victoria saw the possum, she knew it was her dead husband. He hunkered in the apple tree, staring at her as she carried clean laundry past.
She remembered once walking down their wooded driveway, finding a young possum frozen, mouth agape in a stilled scream, sharp teeth revealed. She felt pity, but when she returned from the mailbox the creature had vanished. Playing possum.
She thought of his empty casket beneath the ill-fitting soil where just yesterday she had left fresh chrysanthemums.
She stooped for a rock, aimed for the eyes.
by Aimee Lowenstern
The train comes in the dark. It is longer than your room and mostly made of your drooling jaw. The wheels are uneven, and not as white as they once were. A woman sits in the tongue soft seat, holding a suitcase of your dreams tight between her knees. She is going home.
by Zach Roberge
Someone pissed “God” on the sidewalk in high-class poet letters, and the liturgy is rapidly drying in the Los Angeles sun. The moment is so perfect, so symbolically ironic, that I trod on the O, and walk away with God dripping off the heel of my shoe.
Milner Yelp Review
by Angela Spires
The unofficial roof tour of our hotel was in exchange for a pineapple hard cider and a cupcake. The attendant’s hard day led us into a restricted area of our Shining-esque hotel, where we walked up concrete steps to what he called the “Gotham City view.” Empty beer bottles lined the satellite dish we squeezed around for the black mundane outlook. I could see the darkness he had referenced perfectly. A city with so many stars, but no real light was shining through. I took a single picture of a moment unable to be captured, and we took another drink.
Red as Blood
by Savannah Ridgley
It would be cliche to say her lips were as red as blood. But it was not just the pink of her lips, pristinely layered with lipstick, most of the lower half of her face was coated with a color as vibrant as the blood that swells from my hand when a crushed can becomes too sharp. No longer though the color of her blood. Her body stiff and blue and contorted. The news says the alcohol and cold together crept, attacked, and sedated. Still, as I watch from my sofa, I raise another bottle to my lips.
This week’s artwork is “Altar” by Madeleine Barnes
by Alex Creece
Rigor mortis at reception desk. Groundhog Day in grindhouse fashion. Vulcanised flesh raises no unexpectdead questions. Demands are bleated above the sound of viscous, visceral humours bubbling in a guttural cauldron – toxicity within a casket of taxidermy. Hooks of obligation pull the corners of my mouth into a gruesome smile, pull my eyes open to groping, grappling, griping zombies. Shame oozes up my throat from somewhere I knew well but could not specifically pinpoint. It solidifies upon my epiglottis. I cannot breathe through it. I cannot swallow it. Something trickles down my neck, my spine. The undead just keep bleating.
by Jennifer L Freed
In the dream, it is your birthday, but there’s no cake. You are afraid. Your doctor has just told you something urgent, but you’ve forgotten what it is. You hide in a cave, feel safe there, warm. Shadows flicker, reminding you of candlelight. When you half-wake in the darkness, you remember nothing, yet think briefly of your doctor. You’ve found a tiny lump at the base of your skull. You slide deeper beneath your blankets, drift off again, dream of chocolate cake.
Change in my Pocket
by Kenny A. Chaffin
Sick of our constant fights I fled to Safeway for beer. The translucent red cube was there when I pulled change from my pocket to pay the cashier. I stopped, entranced by its billions of tiny blinking specks deep inside. An entire universe of swirling galaxies and stars full of possibility. “Seventeen ninety-five!” he said. Back home I held the cube out to her. “Look at it dammit! Look at it!” She rolled her eyes. I pushed it under her nose. “Look!” I said, touching it, tapping one, two, three times, and she was gone as if she’d never been.
by Michael Shattuck
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, thought as one. As an adult, I took that child out, past the woodshed, to the marketplace and ordered it to work for me. I spend its pay on what helps me forget the woodshed and the marketplace, which invents newer and more elaborate childish things. Now I speak into a prophecy mirror; no thought is unknowable, no time beyond understanding. That child says it wants its own child. It too will send me its pay or I will set a time to take us all out behind the woodshed.
by Laurie Stone
At camp we rode horses to a general store. That’s where I saw the yellow haired children on a splintery porch. Their clothes were ragged, their teeth blackened to little daggers from drinking Cokes, their elbows scabbed. They stared at the coins and bills we tossed lightly on the counter. Corkscrew rolls of flypaper hung from naked rafters, thickly coated with buzzing flies. The pale, blond children faded into the heat. Their orange kittens were too languid to squirm away. I did not speak to the children. The screen door banged each time we flew in or out.
by Ima Ocon
She told me to twine my hair around the chopsticks, praising its silky length, never looking closely enough to notice black blending into dark brown. Her glasses were gone. She had no need for them, even when she was stumbling over her clogs and we had to rush to her side because a hip surgery would kill her the moment they cut her skin open. Sometimes she sang, incomprehensible: I could not bear being taught its syllables, or her refusal at my refusal. I pick up rice in between the chopsticks, and my hair at full hardly grazes my shoulders.
The Microfiction anthology is off to the printers and scheduled for release on May 15th! This anthology features the reader-voted best stories from 2015 alongside brand new works from each of the contributing authors. The cover art is “Beggar King Does Whilst the Earth Boy Plays Human” by Ege Al’Bege, which appeared in our December 2015 online edition. You can preorder your copy for $9.99 (free US shipping) from Blue Skirt Productions by clicking here. This title may also be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most major online booksellers. Check out that table of contents!
This week’s artwork is “Fading Identities” by Fabio Sassi
A Single Man Visiting Seattle
by Gregory Ramirez
Not bad, you utter as the man onstage sings Elvis. Your sister’s friend stands up, her hand out to you. Go ahead. Take it. It’s just a dance. What starts as a waltz changes once she draws closer to you, her hands wrapped behind your neck, her head pressed to your chest. Your sister’s graduation happened earlier today, and the dinner finished a few hours ago. You fly back tomorrow to California, returning to its drought, leaving the drizzle outside. Deprived of affection, committed to avoiding a one-night stand, you think to yourself, Please keep singing, please keep singing.
by Erika Price
I would curl up with grief whenever I thought he was leaving. I would hold my hands against my chest or strike my head against the wall, my face contorted as the cries came out, knowing it was wrong and manipulative, unable to stop. I am sure that I tormented him. It was only after I left that he began to torment me. He would sit in the parking lot outside my window, curled up like a hurt child, mewling and begging for cars to strike him. His pain made me feel strong, but not at all safe.
by Jason VanFossen
I stabbed my finger with his gold embroidery needle. Instead of testing the iron in my blood, I tested the gold in his needle. Now every time my right thumb touches anything, I feel the prick where my blood fell out. Michael took everything except his embroidery kit and that pillow he made for our one-year anniversary that read “Forever.” In the sunlight of morning, the steam from my coffee dances into nothing. I feel a slight pain when, after another sip, I swipe right. Forever is a short time.
by Lisa Rehfuss
It’s 5:55pm, and he’s where he has stood every night since I started taking the subway. His job is to check subway passes. The purpose is to move people through the turnstiles quickly. I smile and say hello, as I have every night for a year. He never responds. He can’t seem to find it in himself to talk to anyone who is not beautiful. I constantly remind myself there is nothing being gained or lost with a simple ‘hello’. He can treat me like the invisible woman, but I will not, and do not, step quietly through his world.
by Mercedes Lawry
She gave that flinty smile before she drove away. The boy felt his stomach drop and a chilled hand curved around his heart and squeezed. She was gone again, mother or not.
He was staying here, without her and anything that smelled of comfort. I am less than that pile of dirt by the steps, he thought, I’m just an outline, nothing she needs to keep close. The dark was coming now, pushing into the blue-gold sky and he stood watching with the flimsy hope that he too would be swallowed up.
by Michael Kulp
The laborer blinked away sweat and pulled another handful of the Rich Man’s crop. His unfettered mind dulled the grinding sameness with vivid fantasies of a soft future. Calloused hands did the work, and he counted his dreams and regrets. Weeks metastasized into years. He saw his children, then grandchildren, grow and leave. They had no callouses on their hands, and he was worried. Would they amount to anything? At last, as he sighed away his dying breaths, his fading mind felt the gentle caresses from those many soft hands. He had made them soft. And he finished without regrets.
This week’s artwork is “Best Seat in the House” by W. Jack Savage
Up Here Broken Down
by Matt O’Connor
He is smiling as he helps me inspect the Yamaha’s motor. “Bad bike,” he says. It’s the first English I’ve heard in days. There are not many other travelers in the mountains. A child walks past. From her fist, two puppies dangle lifelessly by their tails. We get the motor working again. The man is still shaking his head. The villagers have gathered around something I can’t see. I thank him again and set off towards the valley, where the air is quick and heavy. In the distance a pig screams as its feet are bound. The blade is ready.
Total Failure Lucky Duck
by Eldon Craig Reishus
Donald pretended that his life was a total failure because he was concerned about nothing besides authoring A Lucky Duck, his autobiography. But Donald truly was a lucky duck, for he never suffered any block as he wrote by flashlight beneath the covers. Donald scripted his rich sex life like he was moving forwards on his autobiography by writing backwards from the bankrupt ending. His sex script partner was the rhythmic method actress Jillian Jenkins. Her role was to make our lucky duck feel like a total failure by bringing home real men to take care of his bills.
by Ashlie Allen
His features burned last night while he was smoking cigars. I was sitting on the couch, bored, sad, imagining what was happening in space. The smoke gathered around his jaws until his entire countenance was covered. I briefly closed my eyes, having drank too much gin. I heard him scream, which frightened me, and when I ran to calm him, I saw a flat surface where his eyes, nose and brows once rested. Only a tiny portion of his lips remained, and I kissed it to silence his terror.
by Shih-Li Kow
We were on the move again, hunting rain clouds. We have been too slow and for days, we saw nothing but patches of dried mud left by others. But today, we found a baby cloud snagged on trees in an abandoned valley. We put out our buckets and we killed it. Mother was the most savage, as always. When it bled, we stood in its rain and opened our mouths to feed. Although we were told to hide our bodily pleasures, I could not stop my spasms. After the endless thirst, every drop of water was the purest drug.
A Picture of Grief
by Joelle A. Chasse
On the front lawn, the owl was preening its dead mate. Its beak combed through the feathers as carefully as you’d adjust someone’s buttons. Funeral rituals in animal form. “Look,” I told my five-year-old son. “Look at that, poor thing. She must have loved him.” His grandma recently died—what a perfect opportunity to show him, it’s okay, animals grieve too. He looked up at me with watery eyes. “Why’s she eating him?” he asked, and suddenly, perspective mattered.