by Natalia Theodoridou

It’s a small world, people used to say while I was growing up. It’s what they always say. The small world is made to look larger by the mirror at the end of it—the way you stick a large mirror on the wall of your tiny living room to make it look more comfortable, more spacious, more like you could actually live in it.

I never believed them. I knew that the world couldn’t be this small, that they only said that because it made them feel safe. So I set out to find the mirror at the end of the small world.

The beautiful north.

Runar Eilertsen via Creative Commons

I crossed the tiny cities, the tiny deserts, the tiny seas. I sailed through calm and waves until my boat was greeted by another boat, sailing towards me from the horizon.

We met in the middle of the world, the other man and I. We said hello with a wave of the hand and a nod of the head, a tight, identical smile. Then we turned around and went back where we came from.

Back home, everyone was eager to know the truth. “Well?” they asked. “What happened?”

“It’s a vast, endless world,” I told them. “You were wrong.”


Natalia TheodoridouNatalia Theodoridou is a UK-based media & cultural studies scholar and a writer of strange stories. Her fiction has appeared in KROnline, Clarkesworld, Interfictions, Litro, and elsewhere. Her website is www.natalia-theodoridou.com. Occasionally, she tweets @natalia_theodor.

 

 

by Kyle Hemmings

The boy named Mahlah came upon Alice White sitting alone in a ditch. There was a scattering of ruined barns, miles of hard clumps of dirt. “Why is it,” he asked, “that every time I find you, there is always that moldy grapefruit in your hand?”

Alice spoke without turning around. “It’s not just a moldy grapefruit,” said Alice. Mahlah sat next to her, offered her a carrot with brown spots. She refused.

The Ugli Fruit

Ariel Waldman via Creative Commons

“It’s what’s left of a boy who had beautiful green eyes.”

“Like that boy they once said had polio but had something else?” Mahlah asked.

“No,” said Alice, “It was from the last twister before your family moved into this area. The twister had an infectious pink eye. It spread through the lives of so many. My brother says it gave so many a disease of some kind.”

“No way,” said Malah.

“Yes. It made lives shorter,” said Alice, “mixed our souls with the dirt of the land, the fruits and flowers that will not bloom. All I have of him is this pink moldy grapefruit. At night, he sleeps next to me. I squeeze him and I hear him talk. He says, We all need love but none of us will be saved.”


Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, Matchbook, and elsewhere. His latest chapbook is Cat Woman Sexy at Underground Books.

by Nolan Liebert

I had a phonograph once and just one record. It was a very important record. Nobody liked to listen to it except me. It was a shark.

“Listen to this,” I’d say to my friends. I’d put the record on and turn the crank. Out of the horn would come the wet crack and silence of a shark being harpooned. It was followed by a riotous cheer, the zip of the cross-cut saw, the wet flopping of the headless shark, and the helpless struggle suddenly stopping.

“Turn it off,” they’d say. “Nobody wants to hear that.” Or, “We can’t dance to that.”

They didn’t understand. I didn’t want them to dance. I wanted them to listen. Instead, they left and slammed the door.

Know where you're going

Aristocrats-hat via Creative Commons

The recording continued, seemingly forgotten, for some time—sailors shouting, the sound of wooden kegs being cracked, ale sloshing on the deck, laughter, singing. The shark was not in any of this, not from the beginning.
The sounds ended abruptly, much like the shark, but before the end, there were a few minutes of silence, like everyone had gone to bed. All you could hear was the ocean and the sound of the needle scratching the surface.


NolaNolan Liebert hails from the Black Hills where he lives with his wife and children in a house, not a covered wagon. His proximity to the Sanford Underground Research Facility feeds his obsession with dark matter, as his farmboy roots fed his obsession with plants, herbs, and alchemy. His literary experiments appear or are forthcoming in An Alphabet of Embers, Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, and elsewhere. You can find him editing Pidgeonholes or on Twitter @nliebert.

elmer.

Samantha Celera via Creative Commons

by R.L. Black

It was the last day of school before summer vacation and Ms. Sweet’s first grade class was missing twenty-two bottles of glue. Where had they gone? Had one of the children taken them? Another teacher, perhaps? Ms. Sweet pondered the puzzle but could not come up with a conclusion that made any reasonable sense. What in the world would anyone want with all that glue?

Seven year old Tabitha walked along the sidewalk toward her home with a bulging backpack, a breaking heart, and a plan.
No one had known she was outside the door yesterday afternoon when the family doctor delivered sad news to her parents. It was something a seven year old should not have heard.

“How much longer does my wife have?” Tabitha’s father had asked in a broken voice.

“When will I … when?” Her mother sobbed.

“In the autumn,” the doctor answered in a voice so quiet Tabitha barely heard.

She’d gone to school and asked her teacher when autumn would come.

“When the leaves fall from the trees,” Ms. Sweet said.

Tabitha stopped walking, looked up and around. When the leaves fall from the trees. There were a lot of trees. A lot of leaves. She was going to need more glue.


R. L. BlackR.L. Black is EIC of two online journals and her own writing has been published across the web and in print. Find her at rlblackauthor.tumblr.com where she blogs and reblogs about writing and LOST.

 

 

by Mickie Bolling-Burke

The trees stood in the silent night, watching as the cottage door opened and children danced out, the adults laughing behind.

“All right kids, which one is our Christmas tree?” Father called out. “This one?”

“No, it’s ugly! We should put it out of its misery.” The children laughed, breaking its young branches. They ran deeper into the clearing. “Here, this one, this is our tree!”

Pre-dawn fog, Mount Rainier National Park

Justin Kern via Creative Commons

The children shrieked with glee, counting out each cut as Father chopped down the biggest, greenest pine. When it fell, he tied a rope around it and dragged it back to the cottage. They knocked the snow off and shoved it inside as they sang Christmas carols.

The curtains stood open, showing the family nailing the dead tree onto a platform and posing it in front of the window. Showing the children hanging gaudy objects from its branches. Showing the resin tears of the dead tree clinging to its trunk. Outside, the trees whispered to each other. Their limbs pressed forward, the trees in the back pushing through to add their strength, shattering the window.

The trees crowded into the room, surrounding the family. Held tightly in the trees’ embraces, the boughs suffocated the family’s screams.


mickie_bolling-burkeGrowing up on the east coast, Mickie kept her wrist watch at California time. When she finally made it to the palm trees and Pacific Ocean of the west coast, she knew she’d come home. Working as an actor fed her creative soul, until her beloved Los Angeles grew too big for her. She and her family now live in a small corner of the southwest, where she finds the sky as majestic and blue as she did the ocean. Mickie spends her time writing, reading, hiking and watching ‘The Three Stooges’ with her much adored rescue cat, Pal.

Mickie has three short story collections available on Amazon.