by Sean Mulroy

One night, when seas were high, a bright red crab was washed upon the shoreline of a giant city.

Untitled

Ken-ichi Ueda via Creative Commons

At first the crab was angry at being swept from his home and friends, but then, whilst scuttling back into the surf, he looked above the tide and saw the moon. Awestruck the crab stayed onshore till morning when the pale orb was replaced by a garish sun. He wept.

The night after seas were high and again the crab was swept ashore. This time, however, he was not angry. On the morrow seas were calm but the crab found himself on the beach anyway.

Friends noticed his absence and pondered where he kept going every night. But the crab was a jealous fellow and kept his midnight wanderings secret.

Many tides and moons later, the crab being old and weak-sighted now, he snuck ashore. Having lost his once excellent sense of direction, for the first time, he accidentally faced east—not west—at the ocean. Startled he beheld many moons, countless bright lights, and what’s more they were low, within reach.

Immediately he scuttled sidewise towards them, uncertain whether he’d reach one, but thinking the risk worth it for a closer look at the unattainable.


Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, Australia. His short fiction has previously been published in Oblong, Every Day Fiction, and WitchWorks, among other venues.

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 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 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 L.L. Madrid

Candle

Joe Le Merou via Creative Commons

“Do you know how to get to El Tiradito?”

I nod; everyone in Barrio Viejo knows where to find the wishing shrine.

“The sun will set soon. Go for your Mama.”

“Poppa said she’s going to be fine.”

“Pay attention, Lucia. You only get one wish, don’t waste it.” Nana hands me a paper and pen. “Write it down, neat as you can. Fold it tight, but don’t lose it.” As I write, she places a candle—St. Jude—and a matchbook into a bag. “When you get to the shrine light the wick and say a prayer for the sinners. Slip your wish between the cracks of bricks. Don’t put the candle on the altar. Place it in the corner away from the wind, it has to stay lit all night or the wish won’t come true. Do you understand mi hija?”

I nod again and Nana kisses my forehead.

In the morning, Poppa is pale faced. Nana crosses herself and whispers that the flame must have gone out.

It hadn’t though. I knew when Poppa handed me a box with the patent leather shoes I’d wished for. He’d bought them for me to wear with my funeral dress.


LL MadridL.L. Madrid (@LLMadridWriter) lives in Tucson where she can smell the rain before it falls. She resides with her four-year-old daughter, an antisocial cat, and on occasion, a scorpion or two. Her favorite word is glossolalia.

 

by Allison Epstein

It wasn’t a glamorous way to die, but he’d never liked attention. Not like Scott McKenna, who drove his Pontiac off the 496 overpass when the Grand River plant closed. Scott had style and an axe to grind, and everybody knew it. The State Journal had a field day.

For him, no bangs, no whimpers. Just drink expanding to fill the space available, doubles doubled double-time, until his liver pink-slipped the whole mortal coil.

Praying headstone

Ray Wewerka via Creative Commons

He glares at the granite angel praying on his headstone. Praying. He wonders what for. If he had his say, a recliner, an IPA, and the Tigers on real quiet in the background.

More likely, world peace. Angel stuff.

He kicks the headstone. It doesn’t connect. Obviously.

“Fuck you,” he says.

The angel doesn’t reply.

When she comes, she’s wearing the peacoat he bought her, the one she never wore. She’d skipped the funeral, of course.

He’d been so long about dying. Rude, really.

He hopes some of him will catch her eye. An elbow, or a scruff of beard. She could tell him from a beard, sure. She’d always hated that beard.

She stands a minute, not more. Then she smiles, off-center.

“Rest in peace, you sonofabitch,” she says, and turns.

The angel prays on, just to spite him.


Allison Epstein is a twenty-something writer, editor, proofreader, marketer, feminist, and amateur Shakespearian living in Chicago. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, Adios Barbie, and Ugly Sapling. Find her on her blog, on Twitter @AllisonEpstein2, or wherever heated debates about em dashes are underway.

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.

 

 

In this edition of Aspiring Voices I sat down to chat with ED Martin, author of the forthcoming novel The Lone Wolf. We talked about humanistic psychology and its role in her writing, how finishing her first book led to ideas for more, and the downside of having creative impulses in the morning.

Love and Redemption, Part 3

J. Star via Creative Commons

Paul: So I was kind of drawn to the tagline on your website that reads, “…stories of love and betrayal, sacrifice and redemption”. What is it about those things that attracts you as a writer?

ED: I have a degree in psychology, and I really enjoy examining people’s motivations for their actions and reactions. The themes I write about are universal, no matter the genre. So many conflicts people have revolve around love, but for me there’s no story in that. For me, it gets interesting when you have a character who loves someone, but maybe he betrays her somehow. How does she react to that? Or a character loves someone, but her goal isn’t the same as his. What’s he willing to give up to help her? And more importantly, why does one character react one way but another reacts differently? These themes are something we can all relate to; by writing from different perspectives, maybe I can help readers open their minds and better relate to other people.
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