It’s silly, but I run down, in case ghosts still inhabit these stairs. Greens and browns swirl under my toes, camouflage for frogs that once leapt from my overalls. At the laundry tub, it has to be my mother—not the one fading at The Grace—but the one who read me The Castle in the Attic and sliced my cucumbers into coins. She turns and glares in that “What do you think you’re doing?” way of mothers. “Get back to my bedside and finish your homework,” she says, then swings her dripping hands into the sink and pulls the plug.
A Winter Gathering of Townsfolk
We gathered in the town square—each and everyone that lived within Mercy’s city limits. Jonas joked that it was like that one short story—that we were going to draw lots and the smallest number would be sacrificed to God.
My dad hushed him, frost rising from his breath. “We’re not savages like that,” he said with a coldness to his tone I wasn’t expecting.
I knew that he had grown up with the man standing, blindfolded on the gallows’ stage, but it never occurred to me that they might have been friends back then.
My Beloved, Humanity’s Bane
Prior to our planet’s implosion, we relocated beloved creatures where they could survive. I protect the Brosno dragon. A carnivore, like Earth’s Spinosaurus, ample perch and burbot sustain her, but she craves sapiens. Her first human flesh belonged to Vikings ruling the Kievan Rus’ state; their fierceness flavored the flesh.
Batu Khan lost many Golden Horde warriors to razor-sharp maws; she altered history’s course: terrified troops fled, saving Novgorod from the Tatar-Mongol invasion.
WWII celebrated her consumption of a German plane; she didn’t eat the plane, though its German pilots were tasty.
Today’s menu features hikers; all curious travelers welcome.
by Matt Weatherbee
“Are you as bored of being tortured as I am of torturing you?” the scientist asks, yawning.
Slumped in a chair, his clone says nothing. Its face is so bloody and swollen it no longer looks like his.
“I’ve always wanted to torture someone to death,” the scientist says. “You know that. But I never thought it’d get boring. Maybe I’d find two of you fighting to the death more interesting.”
“Maybe you’d find being tortured more interesting,” his clone says.
The scientist smirks. “You’re funny. I like you. I wonder what would happen if the police found your body.”
Listening to George
by Alan Beard
In his back yard. He’s big, reddened, rough with illness, talking about the manic-depressive next door who was putting up their mutual fence after taking a dislike to their previous one. He’s left it half done to go off for a fortnight’s ‘session’. And of his lodger with his fear of scrambled eggs. He cracks a joke about the rain we’ve been having week in, week out and then says his wife is leaving him. Has left him. I thought it was quiet. Then he jokes it’s the lodger, the neighbor. There are madmen all around.
Now You See Her
by Lisa Strong
The girl with the cannula, offers to show me a magic trick. She must have been here before, looks sick enough to be a regular. I’ve just never noticed. Her bald head is the bleached white of an egg, but her eyes are very blue. A shaft of light pours in from the high institutional windows picking out every blond eyelash. I wonder, is it possible to fall in love on same day you find out you’re dying or is this just a trick of the nervous system, some flood of endorphins, as the soul desperately clings to life?
Two Goats and a Basketball
by Matt Weatherbee
I had two goats named Lebron James and Michael Jordan. I asked them who the greatest basketball player of all time was, hoping they’d start fighting so I could declare the winner the greatest and finally have a definitive answer, but they just tried to headbutt me. Jokingly I tossed a basketball up in the air over their pen. It plopped in the mud and scared them. I left the basketball there and soon forgot about it. Then one morning a few months later I found Lebron James and Michael Jordan dead, the basketball sitting bloody and deflated between them.
by David Ford
She is always jolly. Her kids hate that. She strokes the palm of her hand with her thumb, the life line and the heart line, wishing they were longer. Then the finger on her lips as if silencing the question: who will miss me when I am gone?
He holds her tight but not tight enough.
Listening to Seashells
by Hannah Whiteoak
I lift the shell to my ear. “Come back,” the sea calls. “Finish what you started.” I remember jumping from the pier, the sudden cold shock I was sure nobody could survive. And then the arm hooking under my shoulders, the stranger dragging me to shore. Air swooshes around the shell like waves closing over my head. Giving up should have been easy, but I clung to that swimmer until we reached the beach, where I dug my fingers into the sand and wept with relief. Inside the shell, my heartbeat echoes, reminding me to hang on.
by Anna Farrier
He loved the way she’d slide her fingers through his rib cage and run her thumbs across his heart. “It’s okay,” she’d whisper. “I’ll always protect you.” But after three years, a cheap ring, and pages filled with promises, she’s still gone. Now he can feel the maggots wriggling in his chest where she used to touch, feel them gnawing at his flesh. He feels termites with her name seared into their backs chewing away at his bones. But he only “looks a little paler.” “Like he’s lost weight.” No one sees the rotten places she left inside of him.
by Lauren Dennis
I let you into my fibers. I wove your sadness with mine and let our blanket soothe the goosebumps of my failing marriage. I yelled at my children to love me when my husband wouldn’t. At night, I will the words of my bedtime book to open a space in my brain without you in it. I sleep to dream you out of my system. Over three dreaming nights, you seduce me once, then ignore me. Night three, I shiver cold awake next to my husband, knowing that you, too, are trying to dream yourself out of my system.
For the Kids
by TL Holmes
Our bodies cling to the graveyard we call a bed, fleshy ghouls unable to leave the land of the living because we won’t admit that we are dead. We sleep, backs facing, as if we can be elsewhere just by pretending. In the morning, he gets up to brush his teeth and drink his coffee, and I stay in bed and brace for the “goodbye” kiss—that superstitious ritual we partake in; that little lie between us. It doesn’t come. He walks out the door. Light falls through my ghastly hand, and I fade into the dawn.
The Elasticity of Shadows
by Matt Weatherbee
The shadows are taut here. Ask Jim. He woke on Monday, stretched. A second later he was flying through the clouds. He forgot to close the window, so the wind lifted the curtain, and shadows flickered throughout the room. His hand crossed the lamp’s shadow, and when it disappeared, oh boy, it flung him—like a spitball from a rubber band—around the world. He crash-landed into the room’s window behind his. Ask him. He’ll say something like: “Took an albatross to the face. Space Needle almost gutted me. Do it again? Perhaps. Ain’t touchin’ no lamps anytime soon, though.”
by Ashlie Allen
Remy wants to take a walk on the reservation but everything is contagious. He knows once he sees the dirty bottles scattered across the road he will pick them up to see if a drop is left. His father begs him to go collect them, but he stuffs his hair inside his ears and pretends everything is quiet. One day he’ll walk on the reservation and there will be no more bottles; there will only be drunken bodies to carry off the road.