Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Kate Salvi.
Leaving on a Ghost Train
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
The ghost train came to take me, the night after the dead took over. It came through the kitchen, blinding my sister and me with its melting light.
“Bugger off,” Margaret said, wrapping an arm around me. “You can’t have him.”
“All twelve-year olds work for the dead,” the train said in a Yorkshire accent. “They’re the most fit to serve the new order.”
“I’m not going,” I said. “Take the neighbors.”
The train plunged into my sister, wheels grinding up strands of red hair, eyes, spinning like hypnotic Ferris wheels. She waved and smiled, her smile turning to crinkled stardust, falling away.
by Joey To
Jane slipped her shoes off, then glanced at the longcase clock and sighed: 10 p.m. and unsurprisingly quiet. She dragged her feet into the dark lounge room, then froze. The glowing spiral staircase was lined with little candles all the way up. Red petals were scattered all over. Jane’s lips curled a little as she sprung up the first steps… “Honey?” Silence. But she continued her ascent. “Mike?” No answer. Jane paused… then padded up the last steps—”Mike, you alright?”—and dimly saw a snoring mass, her husband with his arms around another: it was Kayla, their 150-pound Rottweiler.
by Rachel Tanner
Her cleavage is visible, respectable, nothing she wouldn’t wear to college. An unknown guy grabs her arms, holds her in place. Another stands in front, licks his lips, caresses her face. “What about me?” he says as he slips his hand inside the top of her dress, clutching firmly. In this room full of people, he brings her breast out into plain sight. Plays with it. She tries to escape; she’s held back. Finally she’s freed as his hand reaches for more. She runs outside into the street, grabbing for her phone. Grabbing for anything to make her feel safe.
by Cheyenne Marco
You’re a lifeguard. Up at four for work at six, spending the extra hour scouring the house for hidden six packs, pouring what you find down the drain. Then it’s off to work to break the back that was healed by luck after that car crash forty years ago. Home at five. She’s flooded with Coors. From where? From who? You remember her standing by your hospital bed, holding your hand when you thought you’d never walk again. You want her back. But you stare in the depths of those eyes, and you know that that woman has drowned.
by Joanne Hayle
He’s smacking his lips together over a glass of red wine. He claims that his reluctance to go out is proof of his contentment and that “home is where the heart is.” Satisfied, he sprawls on the sofa night after night. He’s haphazardly flicking through TV channels, doesn’t bother to wave as I leave for my salsa class. He knows that I’d rather dance with him. We used to enjoy and explore life together. I can’t tempt him out anywhere these days. When I return he’ll be snoring, inexplicably exhausted. He’s not dynamic enough to have an affair, is he?
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance.
Altercation in the Garden
by Neil Harrison
In the sudden silence, the rich perfumes of roses, peonies, and myriad flowering trees scent the spring breeze. A moment later, the chorus begins again—robin, blue jay, chattering squirrel. On his knees now, on the brick walk lined with daisies, a middle-aged man stares down at the fat drops blooming red between great flowering lilies on the pond, his mirrored image leaning slowly toward the water, the reflection of her face, amazed and puzzled, as she considers her next move.
by Clay Greysteel
They sat across from each other at the dining room table, him extolling the virtues of the carefully worded divorce papers, her with a knife, carving a paperback book from his collection. Though he gritted his teeth at her defiling his things, he refused to give her the satisfaction of a reaction. He just kept pointing out who got what property and how the finances would be divided.
“Are you even listening,” he said.
She lifted her head and held up the book, which she had carved into a pistol. She pointed dead center of his forehead. “Bang, bang.”
Easy for a Monday Morning
by Dwayne D. Hayes
You might guess the scrambled eggs would be too runny, toast a bit soggy, bacon burnt, or the coffee too strong. But no. Everything was fine, if not perfect. No complaints. He glanced around the cafe. Two teenage girls at another table stared at iPhones. A couple sat silently sipping coffee. Several older men congregated at the counter, arguing over last night’s ballgame. All normal. The world was surprisingly normal and everything seemed too easy for everyone—too easy for the judge who’d ended the marriage with few words and the scratch of a pen in the courtroom that morning.
by Jim O’Loughlin
He was only a ghost in the technical sense of the term, in that he was dead and haunting the Earth. Most of the time he thought of himself as a commuter, like countless other souls taking the train in and out of the city each day. He read the paper, preferred window seats, and glared at passengers who spoke too loudly on cell phones. When it was busy, he would always give up his seat for an older passenger, and when it was especially crowded, he would melt into the walls.
by Joey To
“I could use a hamburger,” muttered Kate. Like her nineteen colleagues, she was soaked. And tired. The rain was a barrage of cold punches.
Tom sighed. “Yeah, don’t we wish.” He gazed at the cliff wall ahead and pointed. “Look, a cave. Let’s camp there.”
The team rushed into the black hollow.
“Someone get a fire going,” yelled Kate as a deep growl reverbed through the walls. It didn’t sound familiar.
All heads turned. Eyes squinted. Rifle safeties were released. Silence… then a quadrupedal giant emerged from the depths.
Tom gasped. “We’ve found it! It’s real!”
And it tasted awesome.