The boy is quick to sleep while her waking mind remains stubborn. Twilight through the window illuminates his long aquamarine locks. Its strands slide through her fingers like seawater sluicing—her mind floats to his snow globe gift.
“It’s Rome,” he’d said, knowing she loves traveling.
Beneath the dome, Santorini’s blue roofs mimic its turquoise waters. She knows she’ll never witness the whitewashed walls or feed the island’s famous feral felines with the boy as he’d promised, which was fine.
Because she would again feel the sea on her fingers—sure as she feels his silky hair at that moment.
by DB Cox
A passing breeze lifts dead leaves and scatters them over a tattered rag doll lying beneath the statue of a bronze soldier—forever frozen in an intrepid pose of war movie bravado.
Summer tourists stare at the pathetic apparition wrapped in an army overcoat, nose-down in a pool of piss. Baptized—purified–crucified in the mute humility of his own guilt. An unconscious monument tangled in green, triple-canopy dreams. While inside crusty ears, the noise of city traffic hums like a Huey. Spectral MedEvac searching for a soul—lost more than fifty years ago, somewhere along the Mekong river.
by R.T. Raynaud
Despite what it looks like, the old mental hospital isn’t that scary of a place. Sure, every so often, groups of people will come out of the surrounding woods to attack me. But, they aren’t that hard to kill.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they always seem so focused on taking selfies and writing things on the wall in spray paint. It makes it too easy to get the jump on them.
Not that I’m complaining, of course. They always make sure there is plenty to eat around here.
It’s not that difficult to get things into the ground, my grandma had told me every spring. It’s getting them to come back up, to reach for the sun, that was the hard part. I hoped she was right, and that what I’d just buried would never see daylight.
Dinner alone was strange, but something I felt I could get used to. I was draining a second glass of wine when I heard the thunderclaps, followed by the rush of a murderous downpour.
Time will tell, my grandma would have said. I sincerely pray it doesn’t say a word.
by Tim Goldstone
She keeps a dream in which she looks out of a window onto a wide avenue where a hundred yards away uniformed men are advancing, smashing their way into every house they pass. There are charred, smoking tree stumps down both sides of the avenue. She has a baby in her thin arms. Two hours old. The only way out is the front door. She clamps the baby to her and runs out into the avenue. Freezing wind shakes her eyes. She gasps and runs towards the horizon. They fire. She wakes. She knows others who didn’t.
This week’s artwork is “Hourglass Figures” by Julian Cloran.
Once Upon an Apocalypse
by GB Burgess
Grimm Forest had suffered its share of wolves, curses and wicked witches, but we weren’t prepared for a monster invasion. The creatures were small but many.
We fled up beanstalks, but the monsters were master climbers.
We hid in gingerbread cottages. The monsters’ gap-filled grins chewed expertly though sugary walls.
Our best weapons failed. The monsters gagged and recoiled from our poisoned apples.
In the end, there was no escaping. Monsters rushed at us from every direction, giggling madly, their sticky hands groping.
Defeated we little pigs, gingerbread men, orphans, princes and damsels succumbed to the hugs of the children.
A Future Scientist or Psychopath—Not That They Are Mutually Exclusive
by Zebulon Huset
She insisted we bake her mud pies. “They have a secret ingredient.” Ingredients, I’d learn. Each clay cupcake had a secret center of worms or centipede, three stink beetles or a tiny frog. She’d probably smushed it when forming the cake—enough to squeeze the consciousness from its tiny little head, to squish the function from its organs. Too tightly packed to still be alive when the steaming began, I tell myself as I wash my face before bed—desperate to avoid a vicarious nightmare of being baked alive in a wet sarcophagus. A sleeping bag sauna getting hotter and hotter.
by Charles Duffie
Come home late from night school, drop my backpack on the kitchen table, microwave the dinner dad always leaves for me. I sit on my bed with the warm plate in my lap and stare across the narrow hallway. He works early so he should be asleep but light flashes under his door and voices thrum with a machine rhythm like there’s a factory in there, an assembly line where ideas are welded onto his imagination, words blow-torched under his skin. I eat my vegetables, watching my father be remade, then go downstairs and pack his lunch for tomorrow.
The Bell Curve
by Tommy Mack
The bell curve glows on my collar. Like the ones carved on the town hall or above the altar in church. A fair deal: sporting odds. Attached on my retirement by the company. Everyone agreed the population was too old but no one liked the countdown to death. There were protests, suicides. So they made the collars. A trigger designed to execute, not on a prescribed date but with a fixed probability each day, like Russian roulette. At 84, I am an outlier, an object of curiosity to the local children and I can’t decide whether I’m lucky or not.
by Jamie Benedi
“Poppa, is our skin our bones?”
“No son, our bones are inside our skin.”
“But Poppa, how does God put bones inside our skin?”
“Very carefully,” the father says.
Meanwhile, in heaven, God is peering through a magnifying glass, tweezers in trembling hand, trying to put bones inside a human.
He runs sweaty overworked fingers, gnarled and knobby, through his tremendous white beard.
“This is the worst. My next design will be a meteor to end the world. Meteors don’t have bones.”
Side by Side
by MA Banash
Oh, the stories we never know until now. But then they are always with us. Like birthmarks on your back that only lovers see when you get up from the bed, naked, and stumble toward the bathroom and the day.
There was that one. Really, where? What about you, let me look?
But they don’t. Let us look. So, we write stories about scars and tattoos, birthmarks and lies close enough to the truth to be believable. While they stay there next to us in bed. Sheets pulled up to their necks. Suddenly, modest, sober.
Whenever you drive past the remains, you grip the steering wheel till your knuckles turn white. At work, everyone is wary of you – a ticking time bomb. So you let words like ‘accident’ and ‘fire’ roll seamlessly off your tongue till you can’t recognize your voice. Neither does your wife. She’s never hungry, always tired, always lost. She disappears into the past, and one Sunday morning, you follow her. She hears the patter of tiny feet, the soft hum of the radio, the sizzle of an egg frying sunny side up. You cover your ears to stop the noise.
Blue Skies, Scattered Clouds
by Sean Koji Callaghan
Georg took out the trash and his gun that morning to end the Raccoon War once and for all. He fired, they scurried, glass pinged, Del screamed, her boy died in the living room, his face buried in his swim bag. The police had already taken their report and Georg away by the time the Kettle kids came clattering out their front door shouting for the school bus to wait.
Metamorphosis Before Homecoming
by Zebulon Huset
As the campfire’s coals smoldered by the tents, Tom and June found a mostly even patch of grass and conceived a child, Harold curled against a tree as too-much heroin swam in his veins, and Mike worried about Monday’s physics test, about bears, silly meteorites destroying his existence.