by Dominic Daley

The Year I Made My Comeback

Thomas Hawk via Creative Commons

Eric gasped awake. He had been sleeping. Was it sleep? He remembered his arm sliding down the edge of his hospital bed sheets, the IV tugging at his wrist.

He was at the edge of a small blue room. In front of him, a staircase disappeared upwards, and a wooden table stood to his left. Eric gathered himself, got to his feet and saw that there was a sheet of paper on the tabletop, with words inscribed upon it in cursive and a ballpoint pen to one side. He looked closer.

Consider your life,

it read.

Ask yourself:

Did you do all you wanted?

Was there anything you would change?

Was it alright to have been you?

Please write any recommendations you can think of in the box below so that we can improve the experience for others in the future.

We appreciate your feedback.

Eric considered a moment. Then he crossed out the first and the last questions and wrote beneath the second:

A little less third-period maths. A few more friends.

Better brakes on mountain bikes.

And an easier way to shave without getting spots on your chin.

Then he took the stairs.


Dominic DaleyDominic Daley is a final year student from the U.K. His work has appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry, Urban Fantasist – Grievous Angel, MicroHorror, Hellnotes, and 365tomorrows. He has a twitter (@APierAppears) and a WordPress.

or, The Inability to Communicate in an Ironic World

by Soren James

Irony

EyeMindSoul via Creative Commons

I’m campaigning against irony.”

I never know when you actors are being serious.”

That’s why I’m against irony. I want to be taken at face value—be seen for what I am.”

And this is not an ironic stance you’ve taken?”

Are you winding me up?”

I’m just being thorough—it’s my job.”

You’re not filming one of those spoof comedy programs?”

No, I’m a serious journalist. I’m genuinely interested.”

In a satirical way?”

In the normal, reportage way.”

You’re not just playing the character of a journalist?”

Are you winding me up?”

Are you winding me up?”

Was that sarcastic?”

Are you out to trick me? To make a fool of me?”

Is there a level of meaning I’m not getting here?”

That T-shirt you’re wearing—what does it mean?”

Exactly what it says: ‘An ironic crisis is worthless; a crisis in irony is ignorable.’ It’s self explanatory, isn’t it?”

What do the two faces represent?”

A communication paradox. But we should get off the subject of irony. I understand you have a new film out—a satirical comedy. Was it difficult playing a delusional actor who has to feign artificial-intelligence in a virtual-reality environment based on an imagined world of an insane entertainer?”

I feel empty and confused sometimes.”


Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in an upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen here: http://sorenjames.moonfruit.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 Ron Gibson, Jr.

after Maggie Nelson

This cursor blinks its steady pulse: birth pangs of the universe.

Once we were a void. Once we were beautiful.

Where once a beautiful void, big rigs now knife down the interstate between frosted hills, under a blue period, a finality I cannot dispute, redistributing the future without you.

*

When we read books together, we would wear the author’s skin for a time. The fresh scars, the humility, the beauty. Their story became our story.

For weeks after Maggie Nelson’s ‘Bluets,’ blue dealt blows to the senses, it intoxicated. It made me question my relationhip with the world around me, and made you question your relationship with the world within you.

*

Humans have difficulty understanding evolution, difficulty understanding what we do not see. We do not see slowly moving changes to our world.

*

When I looked at you, through you, you became more haze than you. Each day you became more blue. Each day the hue deepened, and soon you were a fossil to record, a footprint to cast, only our words left tripping over snow-falling asterisks on blue screen, lost.

This cursor still blinks steadily: product of an event beyond our control.

Void

Jan Kraus via Creative Commons


Ron Gibson JrRon Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in Noble / Gas Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, The Vignette Review, Ghost City Review, Cease Cows, Spelk Fiction, Ink in Thirds, Gravel Magazine, etc. And can be found on Twitter at @sirabsurd.

 

 

by Ruchira Mandal

Hiding

Stewart Black via Creative Commons

By the sides of a dead city’s dusty roads, ragged dogs seek shade beneath burnt out memories of trees. They will wake at night, prowling the pathways for lost souls. But for now, they slumber.

The man stumbles, blindly gaping. Skeletal houses breathe in hot, scorching gasps while his aching body dreams of beds and the darkness of sleep. He yearns to sleep into oblivion, but the thought of emptiness keeps him going. Outside, on the road, there is the mirage of a destination, the illusion of reaching somewhere, the still beating hope of meeting someone like him. Someone weary of the walk but clinging to the hope of a future.

At night, when the dogs wake, he will change places with them, both respecting the boundaries. At sunrise he will walk again, and on. And he will walk as far as his heart carries him, and then walk some more. For hope thrashes on, even when all breath is dead.

Then he will cross the lines to the watchful dogs, to their knowing, expectant eyes and open jaws, promising sleep and the end of loneliness at last.


Ruchira MandalRuchira Mandal has a day-job as an Assistant Professor of English Literature and tries to write in between checking millions of answer scripts. She has sporadically published travelogues in newspapers, fiction and poetry in a variety of medium and has also been part of a few indie anthologies. You can follow her @RucchiraM on Twitter.

by Soren James

The depression is getting to me. Of course, I mean the depression in my leg from sitting on this stone.

I don’t allow for the other type of depression—it’s too expensive. From its weight alone I’m guessing it must cost several thousand dollars. I doubt I could afford more than half an ounce of depression per week.

Christopher Melnychuk via Creative Commons

So how am I to survive? Roving happily through life—a weightless drifter through circumstance—no longer standing out or drawing attention to the depth of my existence. I guess I’ll have to face a life of increasing irrelevance to myself and others, likely ending up forgotten—firstly by myself, then the rest of the world.

Much like the depression in my leg which will disappear if I move. That’s why I won’t move—the fear of there being nothing there. A fear of my disappearance from this planet.

Stay very still and keep a handle on this self of yours. Keep a tight grip. Well done—you’re maintaining yourself now. I can feel the weight of me. I know who I am and where I am.

Two days later a doctor arrived. The lack of circulation had caused gangrene in my leg and it would have to be removed.


Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in an upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen at http://sorenjames.moonfruit.com/.

by J. Bradley

Fire Extinguisher

Jennifer Luis via Creative Commons

Helen stared at the smoke seeping through the seams of the closed oven door, the fire consuming last night’s pizza box. I opened the front door. The fire extinguisher case was bolted next to the apartment door across the hall. The landlords thought ahead. I freed the fire extinguisher, opened the oven. The kitchen didn’t give me enough space to aim properly. We stumbled through the mist of smoke and sodium bicarbonate, onto the balcony.

Before my father “rescued” us from my mother, he listed all the reasons why we were better off without her: listened to talk radio, sucked her teeth at the dinner table, stole the blanket while they slept, never voted in local elections, believed The Doors were better than Pink Floyd. He said the list gave him the conviction he needed to walk us out of her life.

I looked over at the refrigerator. The sonogram pinned to the freezer door looked like a black and yellow blotch from here.

“My hero,” Helen wrapped her arm around my waist.

When Neil is old enough, I’ll show him my list. He’ll see on the first line: doesn’t look in the oven first before turning it on.


J. BradleyJ. Bradley is the author of the forthcoming story collection, The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016). He lives at iheartfailure.net.

 

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 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.