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.

by Kris Miller

massacre

Jo’Naylor via Creative Commons

A bit of offal slid off the knife and landed on the hem of her coat, the blackish red of the organ meat just slightly darker than the bright crimson of the fabric. She swore loudly and looked around for something to wipe up the mess. But everything in the bedroom was covered in blood. Even the ceiling was dripping with arterial spray, falling like apocalyptic rain.

“This is all your fault!” she shouted at the bifurcated creature at her feet.

Dispatching the beast was neatly done with one clean cut of the blade below the jaw, the sharp edge sliding down to the spine so it didn’t have a moment to feel shock or pain before collapsing dead on the floor. But trying to carve out its gullet was more difficult. It was half an hour of slicing and sawing only to find the remains of her grandmother were already digested. Yet through it all, she had kept her coat clean.

Until now. She watched with despair as the blood soaked into the threads, spreading and blooming into a dark red stain.

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to get blood out of satin?” she asked angrily. The wolf did not respond.


by E.N. Loizis

Shattered

Jenny Hudson via Creative Commons

His words cut with blunt edges. The wounds were deep, infected by a poison she couldn’t describe. It lingered on the skin and burned its way through her flesh, until it reached bone and nested quietly.

She had known this kind of torture before. Her mother’s idea of playtime was testing how much Willow’s body could take. The secret was to inflict as much pain as possible without leaving traces for the nosy neighbours to talk about. The surface wounds left barely a mark but the memories simmered in the marrow, eating away at her slowly.

It was the same now. He didn’t use a plastic tube like her mother. His weapon of choice was skilfully chosen, sophisticated, the kind you bought with years of higher education, learning about art, history, philosophy and so many other things she couldn’t possibly comprehend. 

He spoke and his tongue cut her to pieces, fragments sent flying. She would chase after them, try to pick them up, save all she could. But somehow, something was always missing.

She never told him that though. She never did admit to being broken, held together by scotch tape and feeble hope. She never showed him her Frankenstein heart, always wanting more than it could get.


E.N. LoizisE.N. Loizis is a Greek writer trapped inside the body of a technical translator who lives in Germany with her husband und baby daughter. Her stories have appeared in Maudlin House, Apocrypha & Abstractions and Pidgeonholes. You can find her at enloizis.com and https://www.facebook.com/enloizis.

by Christopher Walker

My daughter listens to trees. She always has. When her legs ceased to buckle and she could toddle freely about, she’d find her way across to the Silver Birch in the playground and hug it like she would my leg. I thought she was giving it a kiss, but then I saw her ear pressed to the peeling bark and I slowly came to understand.

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Caroline via Creative Commons

She’s seven now and she can tell all the trees apart by their whispers. I humour her, taking her on trips to the botanic gardens so she can listen to the Cambridge Oak (“sounds like grandad!”) and the Holford Pine (“it’s calling to the pine cones, saying take care!”) and the sprightly Persian Ironwood (“I can’t make sense of it but it sounds like singing!”).

One day I made a mistake. I didn’t notice the parasitic mistletoe growing high up on the bare branches of her favourite Silver Birch. She came back in tears. “He’s dying, he’s afraid, and he’s alone,” she sobbed. I didn’t know what to say. All I could do was hug her like she did the trees, and listen to her rattling heart beating fast within its cage.


Christopher WalkerChristopher Walker is a writer and English teacher based in the South of Poland. His work can be found at www.closelyobserved.com.

by Russell Hemmell

Herrnhut, 1732. We’ve stayed up all night in the freezing Lusatian spring, the brothers and I. Easter lilies in our hands—pious offering to an already sated graveyard. The new plague arrived and struck like the old ones, like the ruthless hand of an angry deity, leaving behind lifeless bodies and despair. The poorest of the village have died first as they always do, and so did Eve.

karina y via Creative Commons

I stare in silence at the dark forest on my way to the God’s Acre, for an early-morning service and hymns to the Saviour. Today, I carry more than just rosary and torchlight.

“Eve will join us, Hermann.”

“Eve is dead.”

“Today is the day of the Resurrection. If your faith is strong, she’ll rise too. In spirit, brother.”

Or maybe you’ll follow her—in flesh, brother, I murmur, observing the congregation united in prayer. All of you, who had let her die.

Stepping away in silence—unseen in the crepuscular light, my feet on the frosted grass—I lock the cemetery’s gate, and unleash hell.

Fire creeps up, igniting the wood bundles that crown the burial ground like prayer beads, and suddenly spreads, fast and mortal. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, guilty to the innocent—and mercy for no one.


Alien from Mintaka snuggled into a (consenting) human host. Requests for contact and wormhole-powered space travels @SPBianchini.

by Katta Hules

with my heart on my sleeve

Wendy Brolga via Creative Commons

Bruises cover your arms like the smudges of red and purple lipstick around your mouth. Your fingers shake around the brown glass bottle. The Xs drawn on your hands washed off enough that the bartender didn’t even ask for ID. You’re glad, if there was ever a night you needed the alcohol, this is it.

No one knows who you are. You’re just another girl alone at the bar. The band plays behind you, some sort of caustic electropop. The volume makes the stool vibrate under you and another night you might find it pleasant. Tonight it makes you nauseous.

A man sits next to you. You cross your legs, the faint friction of your tights reminding you of the abrasions they hide. He looks at you, noticing the bruises even in the dim light of the bar.

“You okay?”

You shrug. “It’s done.”

He nods and pats your knee, ignoring your wince. “The first is always the worst.”

You take another swig and inspect the blood under your nails. Even your fingers feel sore. “It’s over. It doesn’t matter anymore.”

He grins and pulls you into a one armed hug. “That’s my girl.”

“Yeah, well.” Your lips twitch. “You should’ve seen the other guy.”


Katta HulesKatta Hules is an artist and a writer currently based in California. She is an Editor at TUBE. Magazine, and a freelance journalist for Arcadia Weekly. She is in the throes working on her first novel.

by Danielle Dreger

Lorelei (age 4)

Project 365

Alan Kleina Mendes via Creative Commons

  • Fix spaceship with Jenna
  • Run through sprinkler with Jenna
  • Dance party with Jenna

Lorelei (age 10)

  • Finish Jenna’s present
  • Buy backpack like Jenna’s
  • Take Babysitting course

Lorelei (age 13)

  • English essay on Romeo and Juliet
  • Kiss a boy — Adam? Marcus? Steven? Adam?
  • Buy jeans like Jenna’s

Lorelei (age 17)

  • Finish applications/essays
  • Lose virginity – Adam? Marcus? Steven? Marcus?
  • Get highlights like Jenna’s

Lorelei (age 21)

  • Internship at law firm
  • Break up with Marcus for Steven?
  • See psychic

Lorelei (age 26)

  • Pass Bar Exam
  • Forgive Jenna and Steve?

Lorelei (age 28)

  • Get fitted for dress
  • Write wedding toast for Jenna and Steve

Lorelei (age 35)

  • Apply for Brazil visa with Jenna
  • Get Brazilian wax

Lorelei (age 37)

  • Pay last student loan/quit job
  • Borrow boots from Jenna
  • Meet Adam for cocktails

Lorelei (age 38)

  • Buy prenatal vitamins
  • Finish writing vows (and Adam’s)
  • Present for Jenna

Lorelei (age 55)

  • Sign up for triathlon with Jenna
  • Add Adam Jr. to car insurance
  • Hire divorce attorney

Lorelei (age 67)

  • Travel to Nepal with Jenna
  • Book club pick
  • Plan Adam Jr.’s rehearsal dinner
  • Start chemo

Lorelei (age 89)

  • Eulogy at Jenna’s funeral
  • Miss Jenna terribly
  • Miss Jenna horribly
  • Miss Jenna dreadfully

Danielle Dreger-BabbittDanielle Dreger wears many (baseball) hats. By day she is a teen librarian north of Seattle and by night she is a YA writer of stories set in the humid hell of Central Florida. Danielle spent her formative years in the Tampa Bay area driving into neighborhood signs, breaking curfew, and writing bad poetry before moving to Boston to become a librarian. She now hangs her Tampa Bay Rays hat in Seattle. Her short stories have appeared in Stratus, Driftless Review and Fiction Fix. She can be found online at www.danielledreger.com and Twitter @danielledregerb.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So how do you get a notoriously slow reader to rip through a 260-page book in under a day, in the midst of a busy week planning for a birthday and a party and putting the finishing touches on a mile-long, post-move to-do list?

I guess you write like Lindy West does.

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by Davian Aw

100313TricycleGardens-11

Maggie McCain via Creative Commons

Tom finished the injection and watched her face with bated breath, searching Mara’s lifeless eyes for a flicker of awareness. He grasped her hand, hoping for warmth, but his wife’s body remained as cold and still as it had been since the day she died.

Five minutes passed. Ten. Thirty-five. Rain pattered on the tent of the makeshift laboratory standing stubbornly amidst the sleeping graves.

Tom pulled away with a wretched sob. Fifteen attempts. Fifteen failures. He let out a yell and swung his arm at all his useless, useless science. Test tubes and beakers crashed to the ground. Solutions bled into the soil. A year he had worked, since they’d got the diagnosis; a year, and all of it come to naught.

He collapsed by the coffin and gripped its edge in trembling desperation.

“Mara,” he begged. “Wake up. Please. Come back to me, Mara, please, please…”

She did not respond. Tom swallowed down tears. He touched her face in final caress and left a quavering kiss upon the cold skin.

He pulled the heavy lid back over the coffin and picked up the shovel to bury his wife.

Mara still did not move nor make a sound.

She couldn’t. But she was trying.

She was trying very, very, hard to scream.


Davian AwDavian Aw’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Stone Telling, Star*Line and Plasma Frequency. He lives in Singapore, and is the proud owner of a tomato plant with no tomatoes on it. Some of his published writing is linked over at https://davianaw.wordpress.com/writing/

Signal to Noise
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’re thinking about reading this book, the first thing I recommend is that you check out either this Spotify playlist (created by your humble reviewer), and/or this YouTube one and familiarize yourself with some of the songs featured in the novel. In fact, you should probably do that even if you’re not going to read the book because it’s a very good soundtrack.

Anyway, the reason for the homework is that Ms Moreno-Garcia’s coming of age fantasy novel is set in part against the mixtape-and-vinyl music scene in the 80s. The book doesn’t require a comprehensive knowledge of the songs mentioned within (and you can tell from the length of the playlists that there is a lot of music featured), but certain scenes will make more sense if you’re familiar with key tracks. Being familiar with “En Algun Lugar” by Duncan Dhu, for example, will give a better insight into protagonist Meche’s state of mind during the 80s flashback sequences that take up half the novel. Knowing the melody and lyrics of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” will speak volumes about the relationship between Meche’s parents and crystalize a particular scene late in the novel. That sort of thing.

Because music in the book isn’t just a bunch of pop cultural references tossed in to give Meche a memorable quirk, it informs the book’s magical element. Once Meche learns she can use records and dance and music to cast spells, she draws her two outcast friends Daniela and Sebastian into a growing obsession with overcoming their teenage difficulties. This arc is the basis for the 80s sequences, all of which inform and tie into the present (or recent past I suppose, as it’s set in 2009) where Meche finally returns to Mexico City after a long absence to attend to her father’s funeral. It’s worth noting that neither the 1988-89 nor the 2009 segments are necessarily stronger than the other. Sometimes in split timeline novels one or the other will be more interesting which gives the other a filler quality where the reader is impatiently waiting to get back to “the good part.” Not so with Signal to Noise.

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