by Steve Spalding

بسرعة! - 27

Abdulla Al Muhairi via Creative Commons

This is a piece of flash fiction written in an Indiana hotel room on 2 hours of sleep. 

In it there’s a protagonist – probably male, probably angry. Male because the author finds cheap, male rage easy to tap into. Angry because dramatic engines don’t grow on trees. 

He’s in hate with someone he loves, and flits between the axes with all the grace of a drunken gymnast with inner ear disease. Melodrama masquerades as conflict, every tear spilled in service of word count. 

The author holds back the target of our man’s love addled ravings, both because he’s convinced you’ll never see it coming, and because if he didn’t, he’d have dangerously little plot to pull a real ending out of. 

Not to worry, our hero says something edgy and becomes an anti-hero in the span of a paragraph – we love him even more now because he’s suddenly as complex as we’ve always believed we were. We pray that he can fix in 200 words what our lives haven’t in twenty years. 

It all ends with a lesson, something trite and universal that makes us feel literate, while at the same time giving lie to the fact that we’ve absorbed, into our immortal souls, the spiritual equivalent of a double cheeseburger. 

And in case you were wondering, our man was in love with a robot, and you never saw it coming.


Steve SpaldingWriter of words, lover of fiction, dabbler in data, builder of web things—Steve also helps companies sell stuff. At the beginning of 2016, he promised himself to write one short story every weekday for a year, we’ll see how that goes.

http://thecoldstorage.com/

https://twitter.com/sbspalding/

by L.L. Madrid

Candle

Joe Le Merou via Creative Commons

“Do you know how to get to El Tiradito?”

I nod; everyone in Barrio Viejo knows where to find the wishing shrine.

“The sun will set soon. Go for your Mama.”

“Poppa said she’s going to be fine.”

“Pay attention, Lucia. You only get one wish, don’t waste it.” Nana hands me a paper and pen. “Write it down, neat as you can. Fold it tight, but don’t lose it.” As I write, she places a candle—St. Jude—and a matchbook into a bag. “When you get to the shrine light the wick and say a prayer for the sinners. Slip your wish between the cracks of bricks. Don’t put the candle on the altar. Place it in the corner away from the wind, it has to stay lit all night or the wish won’t come true. Do you understand mi hija?”

I nod again and Nana kisses my forehead.

In the morning, Poppa is pale faced. Nana crosses herself and whispers that the flame must have gone out.

It hadn’t though. I knew when Poppa handed me a box with the patent leather shoes I’d wished for. He’d bought them for me to wear with my funeral dress.


LL MadridL.L. Madrid (@LLMadridWriter) lives in Tucson where she can smell the rain before it falls. She resides with her four-year-old daughter, an antisocial cat, and on occasion, a scorpion or two. Her favorite word is glossolalia.

 

by Allison Epstein

It wasn’t a glamorous way to die, but he’d never liked attention. Not like Scott McKenna, who drove his Pontiac off the 496 overpass when the Grand River plant closed. Scott had style and an axe to grind, and everybody knew it. The State Journal had a field day.

For him, no bangs, no whimpers. Just drink expanding to fill the space available, doubles doubled double-time, until his liver pink-slipped the whole mortal coil.

Praying headstone

Ray Wewerka via Creative Commons

He glares at the granite angel praying on his headstone. Praying. He wonders what for. If he had his say, a recliner, an IPA, and the Tigers on real quiet in the background.

More likely, world peace. Angel stuff.

He kicks the headstone. It doesn’t connect. Obviously.

“Fuck you,” he says.

The angel doesn’t reply.

When she comes, she’s wearing the peacoat he bought her, the one she never wore. She’d skipped the funeral, of course.

He’d been so long about dying. Rude, really.

He hopes some of him will catch her eye. An elbow, or a scruff of beard. She could tell him from a beard, sure. She’d always hated that beard.

She stands a minute, not more. Then she smiles, off-center.

“Rest in peace, you sonofabitch,” she says, and turns.

The angel prays on, just to spite him.


Allison Epstein is a twenty-something writer, editor, proofreader, marketer, feminist, and amateur Shakespearian living in Chicago. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, Adios Barbie, and Ugly Sapling. Find her on her blog, on Twitter @AllisonEpstein2, or wherever heated debates about em dashes are underway.

by Ron Gibson, Jr.

after Maggie Nelson

This cursor blinks its steady pulse: birth pangs of the universe.

Once we were a void. Once we were beautiful.

Where once a beautiful void, big rigs now knife down the interstate between frosted hills, under a blue period, a finality I cannot dispute, redistributing the future without you.

*

When we read books together, we would wear the author’s skin for a time. The fresh scars, the humility, the beauty. Their story became our story.

For weeks after Maggie Nelson’s ‘Bluets,’ blue dealt blows to the senses, it intoxicated. It made me question my relationhip with the world around me, and made you question your relationship with the world within you.

*

Humans have difficulty understanding evolution, difficulty understanding what we do not see. We do not see slowly moving changes to our world.

*

When I looked at you, through you, you became more haze than you. Each day you became more blue. Each day the hue deepened, and soon you were a fossil to record, a footprint to cast, only our words left tripping over snow-falling asterisks on blue screen, lost.

This cursor still blinks steadily: product of an event beyond our control.

Void

Jan Kraus via Creative Commons


Ron Gibson JrRon Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in Noble / Gas Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, The Vignette Review, Ghost City Review, Cease Cows, Spelk Fiction, Ink in Thirds, Gravel Magazine, etc. And can be found on Twitter at @sirabsurd.

 

 

by James A. Miller

Commander Adams,

My time as Head Baker aboard Station Imperion has been enjoyable, so it is with heavy heart, I resign.

Flour

cbertel via Creative Commons

These are good! Probably the best Christmas cookies I’ve ever made.

December 21st, 2057 will be my final day. I leave the kitchen in the capable hands of Nicol Truefsky. His work as apprentice over the past two years is commendable.

Maybe just one more. So sweet and light, must be the Glutovian flour–wherever did Nicol find it?

While, in my option, Nicol lacks the prerequisite education to be Head Baker, his experience will allow him to temporarily fill the position until a suitable replacement is found.

I just can’t stop eating these. Down you go little gingerbread man. I can catch you, yes I can. And your brother and your cousin…

Sincerely,

Edwin Dorchester

I finished them. Need more.

As Edwin rose from the chair, Glutovian microbes hidden in the cookies’ flour reached their saturation point and instantly collapsed his ample body into a pile of fine white powder. Nicol entered moments later, sweeping what was left of his boss into flour sacks.

He edited Edwin’s resignation—ever so slightly—before hitting “send.”


James A. MillerDuring the day, James A. Miller works as an Electrical Engineer in Madison WI. At night, he spends time with his family and does his best to come up with fun and creative fiction. He is a first reader for Allegory e-zine and member of the Codex writer’s group. He also has two cats but will resist the urge to say anything cute or witty about them here. He blogs at https://breakingintothecraft.wordpress.com/.

by Ruchira Mandal

Hiding

Stewart Black via Creative Commons

By the sides of a dead city’s dusty roads, ragged dogs seek shade beneath burnt out memories of trees. They will wake at night, prowling the pathways for lost souls. But for now, they slumber.

The man stumbles, blindly gaping. Skeletal houses breathe in hot, scorching gasps while his aching body dreams of beds and the darkness of sleep. He yearns to sleep into oblivion, but the thought of emptiness keeps him going. Outside, on the road, there is the mirage of a destination, the illusion of reaching somewhere, the still beating hope of meeting someone like him. Someone weary of the walk but clinging to the hope of a future.

At night, when the dogs wake, he will change places with them, both respecting the boundaries. At sunrise he will walk again, and on. And he will walk as far as his heart carries him, and then walk some more. For hope thrashes on, even when all breath is dead.

Then he will cross the lines to the watchful dogs, to their knowing, expectant eyes and open jaws, promising sleep and the end of loneliness at last.


Ruchira MandalRuchira Mandal has a day-job as an Assistant Professor of English Literature and tries to write in between checking millions of answer scripts. She has sporadically published travelogues in newspapers, fiction and poetry in a variety of medium and has also been part of a few indie anthologies. You can follow her @RucchiraM on Twitter.

Drink me

~Zoe~ via Creative Commons

by Anne Lawrence Bradshaw

In the evenings, the gin would have taken effect, and the barbed words drawling from your tongue sounded smooth from over-use. I was cursed for never being the shock of red you’d wanted to see. I was a monster, something you’d always longed to sluice away.

Your eyes would be glass when I tucked you under your blanket, your bruised legs purple, so cold. A thin trickle of saliva would dribble down your chin, marking your blouse. I would wipe your mouth with a tissue, throw it in the bin.

But the heavy scent of juniper lingered. Sometimes I would lift the near empty bottle, tipping the dregs into my mouth. I’d wait a few seconds for the familiar bitterness to coalesce. How it burnt, leaving nothing but the afterglow of a perfumed sigh.

One night, as the other kids played in the dusk outside, I sat in the half-light, felt myself change. It was a moment, a sordid understanding that I was just grit between your teeth. You would rather spit me out than make me into a pearl.

As the moon rose over the house, I felt myself drift, go with it. One by one, the stars pricked the underbelly of night, while I sat, listening to you breathe.


Anne Lawrwnce BradshawAnne Lawrence Bradshaw writes poems and short stories. She lives in a dilapidated cottage near Hadrian’s Wall, drinks too much tea and walks a lot. Tweet her @shrewdbanana.

by Soren James

The depression is getting to me. Of course, I mean the depression in my leg from sitting on this stone.

I don’t allow for the other type of depression—it’s too expensive. From its weight alone I’m guessing it must cost several thousand dollars. I doubt I could afford more than half an ounce of depression per week.

Christopher Melnychuk via Creative Commons

So how am I to survive? Roving happily through life—a weightless drifter through circumstance—no longer standing out or drawing attention to the depth of my existence. I guess I’ll have to face a life of increasing irrelevance to myself and others, likely ending up forgotten—firstly by myself, then the rest of the world.

Much like the depression in my leg which will disappear if I move. That’s why I won’t move—the fear of there being nothing there. A fear of my disappearance from this planet.

Stay very still and keep a handle on this self of yours. Keep a tight grip. Well done—you’re maintaining yourself now. I can feel the weight of me. I know who I am and where I am.

Two days later a doctor arrived. The lack of circulation had caused gangrene in my leg and it would have to be removed.


Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in an upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen at http://sorenjames.moonfruit.com/.

by J. Bradley

Fire Extinguisher

Jennifer Luis via Creative Commons

Helen stared at the smoke seeping through the seams of the closed oven door, the fire consuming last night’s pizza box. I opened the front door. The fire extinguisher case was bolted next to the apartment door across the hall. The landlords thought ahead. I freed the fire extinguisher, opened the oven. The kitchen didn’t give me enough space to aim properly. We stumbled through the mist of smoke and sodium bicarbonate, onto the balcony.

Before my father “rescued” us from my mother, he listed all the reasons why we were better off without her: listened to talk radio, sucked her teeth at the dinner table, stole the blanket while they slept, never voted in local elections, believed The Doors were better than Pink Floyd. He said the list gave him the conviction he needed to walk us out of her life.

I looked over at the refrigerator. The sonogram pinned to the freezer door looked like a black and yellow blotch from here.

“My hero,” Helen wrapped her arm around my waist.

When Neil is old enough, I’ll show him my list. He’ll see on the first line: doesn’t look in the oven first before turning it on.


J. BradleyJ. Bradley is the author of the forthcoming story collection, The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016). He lives at iheartfailure.net.

 

by Elizabeth Archer

We sit, waiting for the cardiologist to come in with the results. Listening to shoes squeak on the fake wood floor. Waiting for them to stop at the door.

It’s been an hour, and there are 64 tiles in the ceiling. A dead gnat sticks to the window, in the otherwise spotless room.

When the door opens, something inside my chest shifts. Opens too, tries to squeeze past him, run down the hall.

The doctor is thin and fit and tan. He looks as if he has been running all morning, breathless and grinning with a smile that reaches his cheek.

“Everything’s okay,” Dr. Flynn says, white back to us, his hand flipping through notes and pictures of the insides of your arteries. “All clear.”

Hole in the Heart

Elton Harding via Creative Commons

I see images of holes. Pictures of your heart.

We breathe out then, both of us, as if we had been sucking a week’s worth of oxygen inside. Exhale fear, in the form of CO2.

“All good. See you in say, May?” he says.

I can hear your heart, beating like a distant drum, in the silence.

That’s what marriage is, after twenty years.

I can’t hear my own heart at all.


Elizabeth Archer writes flash, short stories and poetry. She lives in the Texas Hill country, and haunts Scribophile, a site for serious writers.