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 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.