by T. L. Sherwood

Mambo is outside, talking to my kids about going back to school or getting his GED. “I drop out, they gotta let me drop in.”

I nod at his reasoning and cut another slice of cheese. There’s a nick in the blade, each piece has a ragged line. Mambo won’t care. Last week he said, “Doesn’t affect the taste none.”

Bumblebee

Tony Cypert via Creative Commons

Jonah, my youngest, tells a joke. I can tell because no one answers right and when he says the punchline, he is the only one laughing. Paula’s next words drip with sarcasm. I want to smack that mouth of hers sometimes. It sounds just like my own, and I know what pain it caused.

I toss some crackers on the plate and go out to the porch. They swoop in like bees to a bloom. Mambo, a bumblebee; mine hungry wasps.

“Damn, this is good, Missus J.” Mambo’s thanks is better than a cat call back in my tight ass high tit days.

“Glad you like it.” I look across the street, a similar after-school connection is being done over there, using Cheetos instead, the easy way.

I say, “You kids got homework?” They shift, moan, go upstairs.

I take Mambo back to my room. We start with orals; he earns his bachelor’s degree.


T. L. SherwoodT. L. Sherwood is the Assistant Editor of r.kv.r.y Quarterly Literary Journal. At Literary Orphans, she serves as a fiction reader, book reviewer, and interviewer. She is the 2015 Gover Prize winner and her blog can be found here: http://tlsherwood.wordpress.com/

by Christina Dalcher

Three weeks

Your last meal at the base camp was spaghetti, bread, carbs carbs carbs. You remember only names, not tastes. Your last meal ever is Bob, whose name you remember and whose taste you’d rather forget. Good old protein-rich Bob. He’s taken you this far. Wherever this far is.

Three days

Ice experimets

Michele Cannone via Creative Commons

Your last match flickers and sputters and…Shit. That was your last match. Necessary for melting all that gorgeous powder around you. Maybe not necessary. Do not eat the snow. Do not eat the snow. Repeat this until you no longer want to eat the snow, knowing you will end up eating the snow.

Three hours

Your last block breaks the shelter’s back and you start again on the walls with hands hard as shovel blades but not quite as useful. At nightfall, you settle for a trench. A shallow, icy cocoon that feels unpleasantly like a coffin. Or pleasantly. Hard to tell the difference.

Three minutes

Your last word (Mommy, not God) stifles itself under a heavy, sliding blanket. In your mind is a mountain, a camp, a friend, spaghetti. You recite the rule of three and think how lovely it is that you will only need to wait three minutes before all thinking stops.


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

{Fast Forward}

The great ephemeral skin lies splayed out inside the Psi Morgue. Black on the outside and likewise on the inside, not red or white. It must be burning degree six. I consider the minutes before burning degree zero: supple skin pressed against supple skin—warmth given and taken, adrenaline rushing, the moments spent caressing, kissing, suckling of pores, and the kindling of passion, rising and rising upward—the triggering of that unheard of sparkle from the base of spine.

{Fast Forward}

“Tox screen confirms hypercarbic vessels and high alcohol level in the system of the male victim. GI report confirms overly gaseous intestine.”

Guy Mayer via Creative Commons

{Fast Forward}

“Aided by ethyl alcohol and gasses of the male, passion lit up kundalini. Female victim, having sustained burns degree four, could’ve escaped from her lover’s embrace but for male’s upper limb burn contractures. A singular twin case of spontaneous combustion—male source of flame himself, female source of flame male.”

{Rewind}

“Ephemeral skin lies…”

{Long Rewind}

“William Zahida. Paranormal Sleuthing, Inc. Case one.

“My olfaction traces no fuels of any kind, only the whiff of burnt fat. Suspect Kamadeva hypoxyphilia. No visual trace of cigarette butts or electric dildo. Suspect Libido-blocking Agents. I see lovers lying smoked up, Gods charred and embraced.”

{Stop}


Ahimaz RajesshAhimaz Rajessh has been published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Flapperhouse, The Fractured Nuance, 7×20, unFold, Pidgeonholes, and 200 CCs. His writing is forthcoming in Cuento, Milkfist, theEEEL, and Strange Horizons.

by William Squirrell

It took three beers to smell the sweet grass burning in the pool room of the Pembina Motor Hotel, five to hear the murmur of Cree. One night in December a trucker from Trois-Rivières kept buying rounds. I got so shitfaced I finally saw the ghosts.

gaspesie

clod via Creative Commons

I looked up from my shot and a woman stood over the far pocket. She stared at me through the torn curtain of her wet hair; muddy water bubbled out of her mouth and trickled down her chin. At the table behind her, beneath the flickering Molson Canadian sign, an old man sat smoking Players Menthol. The pack lay in front of him, the foil quivering in the furnace breeze. There were no eyes in his gaping orbits. Sallow skin hung from his cheeks, stained as boarding house sheets.

“Come along with me, boy,” the trucker shouted. “You can see the world. We’ll stop in Thunder Bay. I know a whore there who can make her pussy talk: not whole sentences but words.”

Outside the traffic swept down the highway and through the dreaming suburbs. The dead woman began to sob.

“Are you man or maman? Come on!”

“I think I’ll stay,” I said.


William Squirrell is a Canadian writer living in western Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Blue Monday Review, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and other venues. More information can be found at blindsquirrell.blogspot.com

by Scarlett R. Algee

He swims out to the reef and waits for her, because hell is empty and all the devils are here and he has not yet learned to be afraid.

She comes: bare and white, hair and eyes and skin, flat feet and webbed fingers and thin mouth stretched in a too-toothed smile—

(the sky is lead and the sea is black and she is white save her gills and more secret places, fringed-rich-red, pulsing, waiting)

—and her mouth is too wide for proper kissing but he does it anyway, warm flesh to cold, his hands slotted into hers, short nails pulling at the membranes between her fingers.

Tempest

Jack Flanagan via Creative Commons

She tastes of rain, of salt, of blood: and he has not learned to be afraid—

(he will be found in three days’ time, neck broken in three places, bitten through to porcelain shards of spine)

—and when she laughs quicksilvery he tips his head back, baring his throat, stars wheeling briefly overhead in his vision before blanking out, and there is hunger raw in the rows of her teeth but something in her eyes like kindness—

And he is not afraid, because hell is empty.

Originally appeared in Cthulhu Haiku II (2013) by Popcorn Press.


Scarlett R AlgeeScarlett R. Algee has most recently contributed to the anthologies A Shadow of Autumn, Zen of the Dead, and The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel, as well as to Body Parts Magazine. Previously a teacher and librarian, she lives in the wilds of Tennessee with a Hound of Tindalos cleverly disguised as a beagle, and blogs at scarlettralgee.wordpress.com.

by Daniel Lind

With an absent heart, my insatiable hunger is turning bones brittle. I fought for Britain, then a bomb blew my platoon into confetti. Some of us ramble in the twilight, but we’re unable to go back to Blighty.

Now we confine ourselves to outskirts, living off scraps and dirt. I don’t feel cold, the goosebumps days are gone. My uniform is unrecognizable. Eastern winds wither what’s left of my face, and the uneven soil fills the potholes in my feet as I stumble through the woods.

Twilight Silhouette

Tony Austin via Creative Commons

Perhaps we won the war: I notice an increase in coaches waving the Union Jack. People picnic in the open, drink tea and eat mince pies—unaware that we regard them with drooling mouths. The innocence in the childrens’ eyes betray them. They don’t know the horrors we’ve endured to allow them this privilege.

Snarling, I point my severed limb towards the family, and my squadron silently surrounds them.

Their fleshy insides are ruptured first. A surge of blood covers the blanket. We’re deaf to their screams; our hunger is louder, and their pleas only fuel our desire.

I put on the father’s stained overcoat, rip its medals off, and leave them behind in the scarlet grass.

With new clothes, and sated cravings, we retreat to await the evening.


Daniel is a Swedish teacher living in London with his wife and two children. He plays the guitar and changes diapers in his spare time. His work has previously been published with Zetetic: A record of Unusual Inquiry, Flash Fiction Magazine, and others. You may find him on Twitter: @lindhoffen.

by Alex P. Grover

Left Behind

Omar Eduardo via Creative Commons

I still rub my eye a lot. 

I used to rub both of my eyes. I think that’s why the left one started to twitch. 

I’d always been worried something would get inside—I’d seen too many videos of botfly larvae removals, right from the crevice between the globe and the socket. I had a craving for that kind of macabre.  

I don’t know what I touched—what my finger captured, maybe under one of its deep grooves.

Go to the doctor.

It’s not too bad, I’d said. 

Because it wasn’t horrible at first. It’d happen after laughing at a joke. After sneezing. Innocent.

It took only a month. The twitch became unbearable. My left eye swelled up, ripe with hurt, always semi-closed. I couldn’t move without it stirring.

Go to the doctor.

Tomorrow, I’d finally said.

The night before my appointment, I slept. It was rare, but there were moments of rest in between the irritation. I was happy in bed.

I woke calmly to buzzing pain in my face. Then I screamed.

I could only see with my right eye, since the left was out of its socket, optic nerve pulled taut, the whole thing slowly crawling away on six legs.


Alex P. GroverAlex P. Grover is currently a digital production associate at Penguin Random House. His work has been published at Strange Horizons and A cappella Zoo, among other venues for the weird, as well as on the Quirk Books blog. Fortunately, his rational side left him long ago. You can visit www.alexpgrover.com or follow him on Twitter @AlexPGrover to find out why.

by Stephanie Kraner

Sleeping Woman

Otto Magus via Creative Commons

I don’t know what I miss more: sleeping or waking. Both represent a change, something new and terrifying. Not many people see it that way, but I have a unique perspective.

The last time I went to sleep, I woke up dead.

Caught me off-guard, especially since I still went to work. Christ, that was a bad day. The goddamn computer wouldn’t work and nobody even looked at me. Then I went home and found my body. If I could’ve shit my pants, I probably would’ve.

My ex-wife used to say I’d die before I stopped working, and I guess the bitch was right.

I stretch, watching her as she lies in bed.

Not everyone gets to come back. Just the stubborn ones. The anal ones, Karen would say. The ones who don’t even call off dead.

Karen stirs. When she sees me, she’s going to flip. Then I get to tell her she’s dead. Win.

It sucked being alone when I woke up for the last time, so I made this my job. A man—even the ghost of a man—needs a purpose.

Karen’s spirit gets up. She sees me and glares. Then she sees her body. Then she starts screaming.

Typical Karen—always making a scene.

“When you’re done,” I say, “we need to talk.”


Stephanie KranerStephanie is a small-town girl who recently moved to Pittsburgh—and she loves it!  Her hobbies include people-watching while stuck in traffic, being overly-opinionated about the aesthetics of bridges, and getting lost in parking garages. She also likes lizards, hockey, and trying craft beer based entirely on the design of its label. Her fiction has appeared in flashquake, Defenstration, The Battered Suitcase, and was Editor’s Choice in Anotherealm.

by Ruchira Mandal

I'll follow the sun...

Kaleenxian via Creative Commons

The mountain is like a screw, pressing down the land along the spiral of the road that wounds round it, each bend taking us closer home. I can hear our hearts beating, over the stuttering of the old engine and the noise of the indifferent crowd.

He is standing away from me, under my brothers’ watchful eyes. The mouth that I used to kiss is bleeding. His blood is my blood, the blood of our ancient ancestor. The blood that makes our love forbidden. I wonder if they’ll have DNA testing at the trial. The thought makes me laugh, in spite of the broken bones that feel like they’re on fire. He opens his bruised eye, and smiles at me, like he knows what the joke is. Immediately, my youngest brother bangs his head against the wall. My uncle’s fingers dig deeper around my wrist, warning me to shut up.

“Haven’t you brought us enough dishonor?”

The bus turns at a bend, the wind from the window slashing my face like a knife.

With each turning of the screw, our hearts thump a little louder—a frenzied pumping of iron and oxygen into cells desiring a little more time. The bus rolls on towards our final destination.


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 Tara Bradford

4 U Leonard Cohen

Ex-InTransit via Creative Commons

She bent over, examining herself in the mirror, splayed in folds. She pulled her legs apart and saw the pink recede into darkness, becoming indistinguishable. It disappeared into her, silent, and she thought, no, this will never do. So she rubbed her finger and thumb together until it held onto the leathery tip between her legs. When she pulled, she felt a falling, a lengthening of herself into another place. It rounded in her palm and she let it drop powerfully between her legs. Yes, she said, better.

She felt it swing between her thighs and her confidence expanded with its girth. There were comments on the sway of her hips or the taste of her lips or the fall of her hair long and low down the curve of her back. She could not tell if these voices were echoes in her head or said a moment ago, a week ago, now. The extra girth gave her confidence, though. It bulged in front of her like a light leading her to this instance—this time. She knew, with this thing between her legs, that she would finally be taken seriously.


Tara BradfordTara is an international teacher with itchy feet and busy fingers. Having found inspiration in Japan, England and Kuwait, she is now venturing to Ukraine to see what new stories the ‘Old Country’ will reveal to her. Find Tara on instagram @tarajeana or her website www.tarajeana.com.