by Maureen Bowden

Vintage 70s Serbin Lime Floral Maxi Dress

Justine Carroll via Creative Commons

I regain consciousness in a room that smells of bleach. I’m lost, with no name, remembering Geraldine, needing only her. Behind my closed eyes, she stands with her back to me. Her dress is green. Geraldine in green: it sounds like a song, in archive footage of the Soul Music days. Synchronised guys with Afros and satin suits, sway and swirl, click their fingers, and sing of Nadine, Renee, and Geraldine.

“Turn around,” I call to her. “Let me see you, and the world will reassemble.”

A voice speaks. “The procedure is complete. Open your eyes.”  I obey. A white-coated figure holds a mirror, and says, “See for yourself.”

I blink to clear my vision. My heartbeat pounds in my ears, and I feel my ribs expand to accommodate air-filled lungs. The mirror holds a reflection of Geraldine’s face. I remember her image in the Body Catalogue. She had long auburn hair. Now her head is shaven. A row or stitches encircles her skull, indicating where it was lifted like a toffee tin lid. I know the stitches must run down her neck and her back. She would have been opened, so that my brain and spinal cord could be inserted.

The cut will heal. I’ll grow my hair long, and I shall wear green.


Maureen BowdenMaureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian, living with her musician husband in North Wales, where they try in vain to evade the onslaught of their children and grandchildren. She has had seventy-two stories and poems accepted for publication by paying markets, including ‘Grievous Angel’, ‘Third Flatiron’, Alban Lake’, ‘Mad Scientists Journal’, and ‘Unsettling Wonder’, among others. Silver Pen publishers nominated one of her stories for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize.

She also writes song lyrics, mostly comic political satire, set to traditional melodies. Her husband has performed these in Folk clubs throughout England and Wales.

She recently retired from a long career with HMRC, and in 2013 she obtained a First Class Honours Degree from the Open University. As well as Literature and History, the Degree included modules in Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing. She achieved a distinction in both.

She loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare, and cats.

by Erick Mancilla

The Metro can be a boring ride or an underground trip to Mars. Down there, people can be… anomalous. Going down, I was one of two riders and he creeped me right the hell out. While not staring, he kept shooting looks at me.

I focused harder on my phone. Thank God for game apps.

photo-1448056975861-28196f26abd6

Daniel Roizer

Through my periphery, he began with odd gestures. For the most part, these guys are harmless, but right now, that’s no comfort.

Why does this happen to me? Stay calm, Diana. These things don’t always end badly.

It occurs to me to get off a stop before mine and wait for the next train home. Damn, his gesticulations have become more animated, frantic.

“Mother,” he gurgles.

I’m quick off the train as planned, leaving him riding on. I’m the only one on the platform, what a huge relief. Then, soft footsteps alert me to someone at the far end of the station.

He yells at me, “Mommy, don’t leave me.” His wailing keeps on and on until the train arrives.

Thinking of home, I jump in and pass him by.

Finally, at my stop and stepping off, a woman whispers in my ear a word that makes me sick.


Erick MancillaErick Mancilla works day and night trying to find the door to that Other Dimension. He writes short stories in the hope The Key will be found within one of them. He is a blogger at observationdeck.kinja.com and can also be found @DeapGreanDream.

by Alyson Rhodes

Crow

katieb50 via Creative Commons

We were strolling around the cloisters when we first noticed the crow.

It was just perched on the stone wall with its head cocked. It seemed to be watching us.

A black garbed reminder of the legions of dead monks who’d prayed here.

“Shoo.” Mum flapped her hands at it.

Billy chucked a stone. Mum told him off. “Show some respect.”

Wherever we walked in the cathedral grounds the crow came with us. An avian shadow.

It made me feel goose bumpy and a bit sick. Billy of course made a game of it, talking about crow pie for tea.

We wandered inside to gaze at knights’ tombs and jewel like stained glass windows. Which was when I remembered Grandma telling me years ago, “The crows know.”

She’d been dead a little while by then. I had never really understood Gran’s sayings.

The memory grew and ripened though. That night while our little household slept I went to her wooden chest and unearthed her cloak of feathers. It was an heirloom; the birds’ plumages interwoven. Fabulously glossy light catchers.

The crow was waiting for me outside. I perched on the six foot garden wall, wrapped the feathery mantle around me and took flight towards the cathedral spire.

It’s a family tradition.


Alyson originally trained as a teacher/tutor who wrote children’s books/poetry as a hobby. Fast forward to 2016, she now lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire. She writes mainly noir Flash Fiction (some of it has been published on line) and spooky tales, and is also writing a Y.A. novel. She lives with her partner, teen son, and 3 rescue cats. Alyson is a confirmed chocoholic and still hopeless at maths.

Her work has appeared on Tubeflash; The Casket of Fictional Delights; Bunbury Press; 101words.org; United Jotters; Paragraph Planet; and won 2nd prize in an ‘On The Premises’ mini flash contest. Flash fiction story appearing in Raging Aardvark’s Twisted Tales anthology in November; winner of Daggerville games monthly FF comp and shortlisted in other comps. Alyson is publishing her children’s book ‘The Runaway Umbrella’ on Kindle in the autumn.

by Maxine Kollar

Ophelia stepped over cracks her whole life. She doesn’t remember hearing the rhyme, just knowing it.  Quick tippy toes then large leaps, whatever it took.

Paved Over: landslide headscarp

Hitchster via Creative Commons

She questioned herself, others questioned her. Why the stutter step? Why the leap? Saving Momma was all she could answer.

Then one day there was no Momma to save. The thing had eaten her alive. Her screams were still fresh in Ophelia’s mind. No gentle walk. Why didn’t she save Momma from it?

Because she was afraid. Where did the cracks lead? She sat on the sidewalk outside her house. The house. Any house. Empty now.

There was a large crack by the sycamore tree. Its roots pushed up the sidewalk at an angle that said “my roots uproot and your cement cannot see what is meant.” The tree laughed at its own joke. And pushed.

Ophelia bounded onto the crack and went far down. She saw Momma in the clutches of the bad thing and she hid.

Momma’s back was broken. Ophelia strode out into the open and demanded her Momma back. The bad thing roared but Ophelia knew she could make it back down.

She grabbed Momma and pulled her back. Up past the roots and onto the sidewalk.

Momma, your back, said Ophelia, stroking Momma’s back.


Maxine Kollar is a wife and a mother of three. She has a degree in Political Science and intends to save the world as soon as she catches up on laundry.

Her works have appeared in Mamalode, Gravel Mag, Funny in Five Hundred, Rat’s Ass Review and elsewhere.

by Stephanie Kraner

Sleeping Woman

Otto Magus via Creative Commons

I don’t know what I miss more: sleeping or waking. Both represent a change, something new and terrifying. Not many people see it that way, but I have a unique perspective.

The last time I went to sleep, I woke up dead.

Caught me off-guard, especially since I still went to work. Christ, that was a bad day. The goddamn computer wouldn’t work and nobody even looked at me. Then I went home and found my body. If I could’ve shit my pants, I probably would’ve.

My ex-wife used to say I’d die before I stopped working, and I guess the bitch was right.

I stretch, watching her as she lies in bed.

Not everyone gets to come back. Just the stubborn ones. The anal ones, Karen would say. The ones who don’t even call off dead.

Karen stirs. When she sees me, she’s going to flip. Then I get to tell her she’s dead. Win.

It sucked being alone when I woke up for the last time, so I made this my job. A man—even the ghost of a man—needs a purpose.

Karen’s spirit gets up. She sees me and glares. Then she sees her body. Then she starts screaming.

Typical Karen—always making a scene.

“When you’re done,” I say, “we need to talk.”


Stephanie KranerStephanie is a small-town girl who recently moved to Pittsburgh—and she loves it!  Her hobbies include people-watching while stuck in traffic, being overly-opinionated about the aesthetics of bridges, and getting lost in parking garages. She also likes lizards, hockey, and trying craft beer based entirely on the design of its label. Her fiction has appeared in flashquake, Defenstration, The Battered Suitcase, and was Editor’s Choice in Anotherealm.

by Alice Pow

The ghost waltzed through the table, body passing through wood, leading a missing partner.

“I’ve tried speaking to her, but she only dances,” the elderly woman said, staring at the ghost. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Is it always the waltz?” Ellen held a digital camera, chrome red with yellow highlighting. The camera’s display showed the dining room: the table, bare; photographs, framed against the wall’s white paint; but no phantom.

music box

Lindley Ashline via Creative Commons

Overlooking the camera, Ellen watched the dancing woman step in time without music.

“Just the same at eight each morning for the past month,” Ellen’s client said. Eyeglasses hung round her neck by a thin chain. “Oh, but only on weekdays.”

Ellen arranged her camera on the dresser behind her. She pointed it towards the dancer and stepped away. The camera sat alongside an ornate box on the otherwise vacant surface. She opened the box and a melody drizzled out like soft rain. A waltz.

The dancer moved in time with the romantic tune.

“Mrs. Doe,” Ellen said, “where did you get this music box?”

Mrs. Doe did not answer immediately. Dancer and music had captivated her.

Eyes transfixed, she said, “I found that box with some of my wife’s things. It’s been so long. I didn’t realize. She was so much older when we met.”


Alice Pow

A creative writing major with a journalism minor at Bradley University, Alice loves linguistics, ukuleles, and long talks about humanity’s place in existence with relation to God, the universe, and the greater cosmos as a whole. More of her work can be found in Bradley University’s Broadside Magazine and on her blog: 50wordsaday.tumblr.com.

by Constantine de Boudox

She was the last one. She witnessed the water evaporating, same as always. She witnessed the rain not falling for years, which was unheard-of. She witnessed the earth turning to sand, under her feet. She witnessed the Earth turning to desert, everywhere she looked. She witnessed wars for water, the death of millions. She witnessed the envy victors, as they died of thirst, felt for the defeated.

Eye.

Dee Ashley via Creative Commons

She cried. She witnessed her tears forming streams. She witnessed the glorious song of flowing water and her heart sang along. She witnessed the song she expected never to hear again.

She cried of joy. She witnessed when the streams formed rivers and the rivers formed ocean. She witnessed the Death coming to claim her and the fear he felt of her, the fountain of life. She witnessed when something stirred in the ocean.

She was the first. She witnessed as eons passed her by. She witnessed the children giggling in the distance—the children born from her tears.

She cried seeing their naivety. She witnessed their lack of knowledge.

She was the first and the last. She witnessed it happening before. She witnessed that it will happen again.


Constantine de BoudoxBorn in Meissen, Germany in the winter of 1984, Constantine is currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. He lived and worked in many different places all over the world. When he was six years old, he read The Hobbit for the first time and fell in love with the fantasy. Since then, he had a dream to create his own world. He is working on the series of epic fantasy novels ‘Mindshifter’. You can find his steampunk novel and short stories on Wattpad.

by Gregg Chamberlain

Flip Phone

EightBitTony via Creative Commons

“Did your mother teach you that?”

The little girl gave a reluctant nod, looking down at her feet.

Her father frowned. “What have we told you about playing nice with your brother?”

“He asked me!” she retorted, with childish logic.

Her father sighed. “And you can’t fix it, I suppose?”

A defiant frown vanished. The little girl looked back down at the floor, one foot twisting back and forth as if trying to dig through the bedroom carpet. “I tried,” came a muttered frustrated reply.

Her father shook his head, sighed again, and took out a cellphone, flipping it open.

“Sam? It’s me, Phil. Call me back as soon as you can, please. We got a problem. And Sam, when you show AnneMarie how to do something, would you please make sure she knows how to undo it too?”

He snapped the phone shut and tucked it in a pocket. “It’ll be okay, champ,” he said, turning around. “Mom’ll be home soon and fix everything.”

A disgusted grunt was the only reply he got. Snout wrinkled with the effort to hold back tears, a sad-eyed little pig boy looked up at his father, then nodded with a soft snuffling sigh.


Gregg Chamberlain, a community newspaper reporter four decades in the trade, lives in rural Eastern Ontario with his missus and a clowder of four cats who allow their humans the run of the house. Past fiction credits, from microfic to novelette, include webzines like Daily Science Fiction, and NonBinary Review, anthologies like 100 Great Fantasy Short-Short Stories (Asimov, Greenberg, and Carr, editors) and the Alternative Hilarities series from Strange Musings Press, and magazines like Apex and Weirdbook.

by Ruchira Mandal

I'll follow the sun...

Kaleenxian via Creative Commons

The mountain is like a screw, pressing down the land along the spiral of the road that wounds round it, each bend taking us closer home. I can hear our hearts beating, over the stuttering of the old engine and the noise of the indifferent crowd.

He is standing away from me, under my brothers’ watchful eyes. The mouth that I used to kiss is bleeding. His blood is my blood, the blood of our ancient ancestor. The blood that makes our love forbidden. I wonder if they’ll have DNA testing at the trial. The thought makes me laugh, in spite of the broken bones that feel like they’re on fire. He opens his bruised eye, and smiles at me, like he knows what the joke is. Immediately, my youngest brother bangs his head against the wall. My uncle’s fingers dig deeper around my wrist, warning me to shut up.

“Haven’t you brought us enough dishonor?”

The bus turns at a bend, the wind from the window slashing my face like a knife.

With each turning of the screw, our hearts thump a little louder—a frenzied pumping of iron and oxygen into cells desiring a little more time. The bus rolls on towards our final destination.


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.

by Isobel Horsburgh

A Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

August Brill via Creative Commons

She only came back for funerals. This was worrying, as nobody was known to be dead or dying right now. There was a certain amount of looking sideways at the people on the shortlist, though.

She’d been seen at the station in a dark, tight-fitting suit, heels and a little pillbox hat with a veil. She never had any luggage, and nobody knew where she slept while she was in Cleaburn. She never stayed more than a single night, and though she appeared at the graveside, she never came back to the house. Some said you didn’t see her in the church either, though others said she sat at the back, alone, not singing.

She’d gone away as Judy and come back as Juniper. There were photos, village events at which she must have been present, but her face seemed always to be out of shot or out of focus, turning away from the lens. She was variously said to be a quiet girl running from a bad family, or the wild one from a respectable home.

 When the station closed, years ago, they thought she’d stop coming. She won’t, until everyone she knew here is put under the ground.


Isobel Horsburgh lives in North East England and used to be a long-term carer. She now does casual work in libraries. Her stories have appeared in SpaceSquid, Devilfish Review, The Drabble, The Casket and InkBlink.