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 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.