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.

by Pamela Hobart Carter

One morning, it’s quiet.

One morning, he isn’t down first, brewing the sputtering espresso, opening and banging doors and drawers for newspapers and spoons.

One morning, you’re first.

You don’t understand until you check the clock on the stove, the clock on the microwave, your wristwatch, and add all the numbers for the same result.

Your heart hammers, your feet pound up the stairs and race to his door—shut, and darkening the hall. (Only half-awake, you missed this on your way down, the too-dark hall. He likes to air his room and let the day circulate.)

The Handle Comet

Scott Robinson via Creative Commons

Hand-on-knob, you hesitate. He’s just sleeping in.

For the first time ever?

He was tired last night.

Too tired.

The soft noises from the other side of his door may be a sleeper’s long breaths or the curtains luffing in the morning breeze.

You draw your hand away, step backwards a couple of paces, turn, and walk to the kitchen where you linger over buttered toast and a hard-boiled egg. The house has a lovely stillness. It smells of singed crust and newsprint. The Times is entirely your own. It is possible to savor your coffee in this solitude.

One morning, you’re first, and too happy to understand this is how death sounds.


Pamela Hobart CarterPamela Hobart Carter has worked as a geologist and teacher before becoming a writer. A few of her short, short plays have been produced in Seattle where she lives. More about Pam and her writing is at amazon.com and notalkingdogspress.com.

by Casi Scheidt

Eye Eye

audi_insperation via Creative Commons

“Why did my sissy die?” she asked, her blue eyes dull, tone flat, looking older at four years than she ever would again.

“Because it was her time, baby,” I said.

“I want the grown-up answer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want the truth.”

“God decided to take her back.”

“No.”

“Baby, please.”

“No. Tell me why,” she said, glaring at me.

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“I don’t know,” I said, my eyes stinging and throat aching.

“Was it because she was sick?”

“That was part of it.”

“What’s the other part?”

For hours she followed me, demanding an answer to the same question I’d been asking myself since it happened.

“Tell me why. I won’t stop until you tell me why.”

“Because she wasn’t like you,” I said, both my voice and my will to shield her breaking.

She watched me, waiting, sensing there was more.

“Because you came screaming into this world, yelling so loudly the whole building could hear you. Nothing could quiet you, nothing could make you still. But not her. She came as if all her demons had already defeated her. She gave up. That’s why anybody dies, baby. Because they have nothing left.”


Casi ScheidtCasi Scheidt is a recent Southern Illinois University college graduate (B.A., English, Creative Writing), and currently lives in North Carolina. While in college, three of her poems, “The Bad Year,” “To Leave Charleston,” and “For the Woman Who Has Failed to Protect Her Virtue” were included in the university’s literary magazine, Grassroots. Scheidt enjoys horror, post-apocalyptic, and literary fiction. She is also a game inventor, and is writing full-time.

by Rita Jansen

“Better an empty house than a bad tenant,” Mum would say, shovelling the weekly dose of castor oil into me. “When the bowels are out of kilter, the brain turns to mush!” Over the years, many of Mum’s aphorisms made good sense, except for her take on my sixteenth birthday present from my granddad.

“If you ask me, you’re granddad lost more than his right arm in the war,” she said. “Who in their right mind gives a gift like that to a young girl?”

“Granddad’s not crazy,” I said in his defence, although, truthfully, it wasn’t something I would have chosen for myself. “He knows they’ll all be taken by the time I need it, and I got to choose the nicest one.”

2009-11-22 The gift

Henning Mühlinghaus via Creative Commons

Both have passed on now. Mother died suddenly at the age of fifty-two and Granddad didn’t make it to my seventeenth birthday. His gift has remained untouched although I’ve kept an eye on it over the years.

However, it won’t be long now until someone opens it on my behalf and lays me to rest in the best plot in Heaven’s Door Cemetery; Granddad’s gift to me.


Rita JansenRita was born in Drogheda, Ireland but left the Emerald Isle to work as a nursing sister in South Africa. She’s been fortunate to live in many interesting places, including Zimbabwe, finally settling down in a small fishing village on the South Coast of Natal. Now retired, she has the time to pursue a life-long desire to write about the many characters and situations encountered along life’s journey, which lie in wait, like hidden treasure in her memory box.

by Adiba Jaigirdar

Match

Andreas Levers via Creative Commons

The matchsticks in the broken drawer don’t tempt me now that you’re gone.

We sat on my bed and shared scorch marks like stories of old boyfriends. The one between your thumb and forefinger? Two years ago. Darkened to a deep shade of brown on your already dark skin. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t dream about it with my eyelids half closed, imagining you beside me, imagining me running my fingers along that scorch mark.

I like the one on your right shoulder the best. It’s nothing but a giant brown blob. There’s a strange beauty in it. Perhaps the most enticing thing about is the way you showed me, slowly rolling up the sleeves of your overly-long, baggy t-shirt.

My scorch marks seem like nothing in comparison. Even now.

Fire has lost its delight too, since you left. Like I never understood the spark, the heat, until you brushed your fingers along my collarbone.

Those two months, sharing stories on my bed, our limbs entangled in each other carelessly; those were the days I was on fire.

The matches, the bedroom, the lick of fire against my skin? Nothing without you in it. No spark.


Adiba JaigirdarAdiba Jaigirdar is a twenty-two year old writer and poet. She is of Bangladeshi descent but Irish by nationality. She has graduated from University College Dublin with a BA double major in English and History, along with an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent. She has previously been published in literary magazines such as About Place Journal, wordlegs and Outburst. You can find her on twitter at @adiba_j.

Half-Resurrection Blues
Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Half-Resurrection Blues is the kind of novel that’s somehow more than the sum of its parts. Superficially, it’s the story of Carlos Delacruz, a partially (or previously) dead bounty hunter working the gray area between the world of the living and the world of the dead. There’s a shadowy Council calling Carlos’s shots, a fantastical plot afoot, a lot of intriguing and memorable characters, a love story, elements of noir and mystery and magic and romance and horror all mashed together.

Which all sounds well and good enough, but it’s not entirely fresh on the surface, excepting that for the most part HRB avoids the heavy religious under- (or over-) tones from a lot of other life/afterlife/death urban fantasies I’ve read. But even beyond that, what sets HRB apart is the phenomenal pacing, the expert character crafting, and the spot-on plotting Mr Older manages. There are a lot of events, a lot of characters, and none of it feels overwhelming or sketchy. Each major development is well-earned, the wildly imaginative sequences outside the vibrant Brooklyn he creates are all crisply narrated to avoid the muddled description issue that plagues some other writers in this space. But at no point does the book bog down, belaboring the machine underneath the plot. There is always something happening, something looming, something just about to surprise the reader. Some of this is probably due to the way the plot is delivered primarily through a lot of crisp, real-world-feeling dialogue instead of overblown narration. Carlos is a terrific guide through Older’s world, and even when he’s making mistakes, it’s impossible not to root for him to come out on top.

There is so much to like here, including the fact that even though I was worried the ending would be unsatisfying or rushed based on how much was left unresolved and how quickly the end of the book was approaching, but Older manages a neat trick of hitting the peak of all the major story arcs at once right when it needs to and then tides up in just a handful of concluding pages. This is a complete book in and of itself, which is a relief even though there is at least one sequel; I’ve been burned a lot recently by series books that, by virtue of their ongoing nature, don’t feel inclined to find a legitimate conclusion.

I heavily recommend this book. It’s dark, fun, spooky, surprising, fast-paced, and wonderful. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, because I can’t wait to spend more time in the world and with these memorable characters.

View all my reviews

by Sandra Grills

“Mama, I need a hug” a small voice calls into the darkness. She believes, even at the age of eight, that her little voice will be heard. She trusts that someone will be there. Not just any someone, her Mama, ready to give her a hug.

With a sigh only perceptible in my sleep weary mind, I roll over and push myself out of bed. My eyes open just a crack as I shuffle down the hall. She’s sleeping when I reach her room—a little cherub running around in the land of nod—but experience warns against leaving. It would only result in a louder, more urgent call. I reach down and do what many would consider an unthinkable sin, I wake a sleeping child.

Delicate eyelids flutter open, and a smile cracks the flawless face with a look that says “I knew you’d come.” Heavy arms reach up and claim their hug. The smile continues, even after the arms drift back onto the bed, and the eyes slide closed.

Sleeping

Mark Probst via Creative Commons

I tiptoe past the creaks in the floor, careful to lay my feet on soft carpet, before I lay a weary head back on my pillow. A little noise floats up the hallway. The contented sigh of a sleeping child who feels safe.

 

 


Sandra GrillsSandra has been a director, a business owner, a project manager, a bookbinder, and a mother. Her current passion is reading and writing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her husband, two amazing children, and a gecko named Captain Doug.

by Jeaninne Escallier Kato

Lipstick

David Moran via Creative Commons

“Moishe, darling, don’t forget your coat.” She has carefully placed his clothes on the bed, as she does for every opera night.

“And you look breathtaking, Ruth, my love.” He stares at her through her vanity mirror as if memorizing every feature on her face. “The black velvet suits you.” He swallows heavily, sweat beading on his brow.

She grins in that special way that says she wants him desperately. Applying red lipstick, she says, “The children are downstairs with your parents. I bundled them up in layers. It will be a cold night.” She turns away when the tears blur her vision. She knows he is studying her closely.

He runs his fingers down her exposed spine until he touches the top of the zipper. She grabs his hand and presses it to her powdered cheek. Her tears have left visible tracks through an otherwise impeccable layer of make-up.

A door bangs open. He runs downstairs to the children, shielding them from the inevitable intruders. She slowly slips into her mink coat. With trembling hands, she picks up the felted yellow star that has fallen to the floor.


Jeaninne Escallier KatoJeaninne Escallier Kato is the author of the childrens’ book, “Manuel’s Murals.” She has published short stories in various online journals, and her memoir essay “Swimming Lessons” is published in the anthology book, “Gifts From Our Grandmothers,” by Carol Dovi. Jeaninne is a retired, bi-lingual educator who is inspired by the Mexican culture. Much of her written work revolves around the people and traditions of Mexico. She resides in Northern California with her husband, Glenn, two German Shepherd mix dogs, Brindey and Bobby McGhee; and, one very fat Russian Blue cat named Mr. Big.

Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

 

by Christina Dalcher

Gran’s tattoo might have been beautiful. On her, it was a desperate grasp at youth, an atrocity, an embarrassment. Ugly.

“You could have that removed,” I said on a Saturday after Gran returned from wherever she went on Saturday mornings. “There’s a place in town—”

Gran silenced me with a wave of her stupidly paisleyed left arm.

Watchtower Concentration Camp - Buchenwald

Alexander Steinhof via Creative Commons

We’d attempted this conversation before. It always ended on the same note, but now Gran elaborated. “I got this after leaving Budapest.” Her eyes crinkled in a rare smile as she nodded toward the strip of curls on her forearm. “From a man.”

“A man,” I repeated. I supposed even in 1940 men operated tattoo parlors. Or maybe she was one of those ‘types,’ as mum might say.

“I don’t want to erase him.”

And I didn’t want to think about Gran having a lover.

She died the following Saturday, and two strange old women came to bathe her withered body. They saved Gran’s left arm for last, stroking it gently, muttering foreign, guttural words.

I got one last look at the ugliness of colored ink on pale, papery skin before mum dressed her, and I saw the unspeakable, forgotten ugliness hidden inside each paisley teardrop: A-13968.

Beautiful, Gran, I thought when we buried her.


Christina DalcherChristina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from The Land of Styron. She is currently matriculating at the Read Every Word Stephen King Wrote MFA program, which she invented. Find her at ChristinaDalcher.com or @CVDalcher. Or hiding in a cupboard above the stairs. Or read her short work in Zetetic, Pidgeonholes, and Syntax & Salt, among other corners of the literary ether.

by Ahimaz Rajessh

shadow #4

Marilyn Maciel via Creative Commons

In Nazareth—that intricate yet simplified labyrinth—if you were of the kind that walks in twos, eight of its pathways led to the century-old church that Canon Arthur Margoschis (with the aid of hundreds of nameless, faceless coolies) built.

Nine of them, if you count the ten foot wall that divides the boys’ school campus from the church.

If you had been a lamb, or a child with rapacious craving for climbing, running and jumping, or of the kind that is arboreal, you would know a wall is as well a pathway.

After the scarcely attended English church service, out of pure habit or instinct or both, Yesu took the ninth pathway one Sunday night.

Vaulting it with his pole of a foof (a hoof that’s a foot) in a hole that Jebi carved out two decades ago, leaping upon it and landing as he did, ever so quietly (an inch shy of six foot) Yesu raced toward the southern exit, as the never-once-used, derelict basketball court (that marked the beginning of the slow demise of a once-remarkable, now fading institution) under a starlit sky, cast its shadow aslant.


Ahimaz RajesshAhimaz Rajessh has been lately published in Flapperhouse, The Fractured Nuance, 7×20, Cuento, unFold and Pidgeonholes. His writing is forthcoming in Milkfist, theEEEL, and Strange Horizons.