by Sophie Hammond

Trust me, he says. Like it’s that easy.

portrait | Blindfolded

Alessandro Saponi via Creative Commons

The funny thing is, for him trust isn’t easy at all. He always has to be the one in charge, the one keeping the blindfold wrapped around my eyes, the one arranging my hair so that it falls in rough choking silk across my mouth and nose. If I ever offered to do it the other way around—to blindfold him, to hold him steady for the unforgiving gaze of the camera—he’d panic. He wouldn’t protest, but his eyes would go wide and desperate and his knuckles would clench white around the steady base of the tripod.

So I don’t offer. Instead I stare blindly, through layers of hair and crêpe, as he soothes me like I need it. His slow, patronizing voice is perhaps the very opposite of soothing. It sets off itches beneath my skin, shuddering waves of goose pimples, and my stomach clenches. Far more soothing is the anger, dark and hot, which pulses through me like a second heartbeat. This he cannot control, no matter how much he wants to.


Sophie Hammond is sixteen years old and a senior in high school. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Moledro Magazine and the 2016 Navigating the Maze teen poetry anthology. She is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and has read on a teen writers’ panel at the Bay Area Book Festival. You can find her on Twitter @SophieCHammond.

by Amanda Bergloff

I sighed… hoping it would attract some sort of attention, but he was fixated on eating. I thought that dining al fresco tonight would spark interesting conversation, yet we ate our meal in silence.

I remembered how I used to be insatiable for our intoxicating exchanges. However, tonight I didn’t have much of an appetite.

He looked up and burped. “You ready?” he asked.

I nodded. I wondered if he realized I hadn’t even said one word during the entire meal.

During the walk home, I came to the conclusion that all relationships must have a life cycle. The beginning part was very exciting, but the end part was actually quite annoying.

Do not speak unless you can improve on silence.

Lucy Marti via Creative Commons

It was finally time to go to sleep. He lifted the lid for me.

“Good morning,” he said as he helped me climb in.

“You have some flesh in your teeth, dear,” I said, folding my hands across my chest.

He closed my lid with one hand as the other picked his teeth.

I listened to the sound of him opening and closing his own lid.

Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought, “I must talk to Wrenfeeld about moving my coffin to a different part of the abbey.”


Amanda BergloffAmanda Bergloff is a science fiction/fantasy writer who has had stories published by Darkhouse Books (Stories from the World of Tomorrow) and World Weaver Press (Frozen Fairy Tales.) She is also a surrealist artist who loves all things pop-culture, and the interior of her mind looks like 1950s sci fi pulp art. 

Writer’s Website: http://abergloff2.wix.com/abergloffwriter
Artist Website: http://abergloff2.wix.com/artistgallery

by Brendan Foley

There’s a clearing in the forest, a clearing where you’ll find six stumps.

Study the gnarls of bark and discover the lines and woes of life. See what once were men.

a face in the woods

Anjan Chatterjee via Creative Commons

The world got to be too much. So they left. Went here. Went wodwo. Spent their wildness and came to rest. They wanted to be one with the woods. Now they are.

There’s one with lips still parted. His eyes still frozen half-lidded.

Listen, and you will hear his whisper.

He will tell you his name, for he alone among the circle still remembers his name.

He will tell you his grief, for he alone among the circle still knows what it is to hurt.

He will ask you a boon. Your heart will got out to the fading whisper and you will ask how you might help.

He will beg for death.

And you will have no way of giving this to him, save a fire that would only serve to destroy that holy place. And you will not commit such sacrilege, not for just one soul.

So you will back slowly away from the clearing.

His screams will be faint. You will hear them all the same.


Brendan Foley lives in Massachusetts, where he has made a habit out of not knowing what he’s doing. He’d like to make a career out of it. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter: @TheTrueBrendanF, or email him at brendanmfoley@outlook.com. Three years from now, it will be revealed that he was dead the entire time.

by Karen Bovenmyer

haunted-house-1124241_640An empty house lived at the end of his street. Trees like claws stopped other kids, as if they grabbed ankles and wrists and hoods of sweatshirts. He found a way there by looking somewhere else, sidewalk-crack-sidewalk, then dead grass. Up. White oval shapes lingered behind black windows. In. A slamming back door echoed staple-guns putting up his HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD posters. Three years later, after his classmates had grown into pimples and too-short jeans, he came out, hollow-eyed and shaking. He struck the trees, also, with a wet axe from the living house, his body now a man’s body, sweating hard. They took him to a hospital, depressingly white and clean and smelling like medicine, but he still saw the house by not looking. When the demolition cranes came, they were like hands that scooped shingles off the roof, the strange Victorian spires crumbled, broken plaster and creaking timbers screamed, undefined white shapes tumbled down in a cloud of dust. The house at the end of the street died. After, he went home with a face blank as a sheet of paper, something so normal and unwritten, and, in the night, his memories clutched at him, as if they grabbed ankles and wrists and hoods of sweatshirts.

This story originally appeared in Festival Writer and also appeared in Cavalcade of Terror.


Karen BovenmyerKaren Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and is the Nonfiction Assistant Editor for Mothership Zeta Magazine.

by Anne E. Johnson

Aquamarine crystal

Jim H. via Creative Commons

Gemma donned her protective glasses. After ten years together, that sight still gave Sylvia chills. “Oh, dear. Here we go.”

Her wife grinned under bulging plastic eyepieces. “It will be great.” In gloved hands, she held up a rough blue crystal. “Aquamarine. Prized by psychics. I want this rock’s power.”

Sylvia distrusted Gemma’s maniacal tone. “Why not simply make a crystal ball?”

Gemma cackled. “Why be simple, Silvery Silvia?” She used that nickname only at her most intense moments: lovemaking and scientific breakthroughs.

“Be careful, honey.”

To her left ear Gemma attached a cable clip, clipping another to a jagged corner of the rock. “I’ll transfer the stone’s soul to my mind.”

“Or you’ll electrocute yourself.”

Sylvia clenched her hands when Gemma flicked the switch. Sparks showered from the stone and from Gemma’s ear. A monstrous buzzing drowned out her screams.


At Gemma’s funeral, friends and family whispered, “Why does grieving Sylvia smile?”

In fact, there was no cause for tears. The experiment had worked in an unexpected way. In her palm Sylvia cradled a stone; her lover’s soul peered from the aquamarine’s glowing depths. With that crystal nestled into Gemma’s pillow every night, Silvery Sylvia could never be a widow.


Anne E. JohnsonAnne E. Johnson is based in Brooklyn. She writes speculative and historical fiction, both for adults and for kids and teens. Learn more on her website, AnneEJohnson.com.

by Maureen Bowden

Vintage 70s Serbin Lime Floral Maxi Dress

Justine Carroll via Creative Commons

I regain consciousness in a room that smells of bleach. I’m lost, with no name, remembering Geraldine, needing only her. Behind my closed eyes, she stands with her back to me. Her dress is green. Geraldine in green: it sounds like a song, in archive footage of the Soul Music days. Synchronised guys with Afros and satin suits, sway and swirl, click their fingers, and sing of Nadine, Renee, and Geraldine.

“Turn around,” I call to her. “Let me see you, and the world will reassemble.”

A voice speaks. “The procedure is complete. Open your eyes.”  I obey. A white-coated figure holds a mirror, and says, “See for yourself.”

I blink to clear my vision. My heartbeat pounds in my ears, and I feel my ribs expand to accommodate air-filled lungs. The mirror holds a reflection of Geraldine’s face. I remember her image in the Body Catalogue. She had long auburn hair. Now her head is shaven. A row or stitches encircles her skull, indicating where it was lifted like a toffee tin lid. I know the stitches must run down her neck and her back. She would have been opened, so that my brain and spinal cord could be inserted.

The cut will heal. I’ll grow my hair long, and I shall wear green.


Maureen BowdenMaureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian, living with her musician husband in North Wales, where they try in vain to evade the onslaught of their children and grandchildren. She has had seventy-two stories and poems accepted for publication by paying markets, including ‘Grievous Angel’, ‘Third Flatiron’, Alban Lake’, ‘Mad Scientists Journal’, and ‘Unsettling Wonder’, among others. Silver Pen publishers nominated one of her stories for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize.

She also writes song lyrics, mostly comic political satire, set to traditional melodies. Her husband has performed these in Folk clubs throughout England and Wales.

She recently retired from a long career with HMRC, and in 2013 she obtained a First Class Honours Degree from the Open University. As well as Literature and History, the Degree included modules in Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing. She achieved a distinction in both.

She loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare, and cats.

by Erick Mancilla

The Metro can be a boring ride or an underground trip to Mars. Down there, people can be… anomalous. Going down, I was one of two riders and he creeped me right the hell out. While not staring, he kept shooting looks at me.

I focused harder on my phone. Thank God for game apps.

photo-1448056975861-28196f26abd6

Daniel Roizer

Through my periphery, he began with odd gestures. For the most part, these guys are harmless, but right now, that’s no comfort.

Why does this happen to me? Stay calm, Diana. These things don’t always end badly.

It occurs to me to get off a stop before mine and wait for the next train home. Damn, his gesticulations have become more animated, frantic.

“Mother,” he gurgles.

I’m quick off the train as planned, leaving him riding on. I’m the only one on the platform, what a huge relief. Then, soft footsteps alert me to someone at the far end of the station.

He yells at me, “Mommy, don’t leave me.” His wailing keeps on and on until the train arrives.

Thinking of home, I jump in and pass him by.

Finally, at my stop and stepping off, a woman whispers in my ear a word that makes me sick.


Erick MancillaErick Mancilla works day and night trying to find the door to that Other Dimension. He writes short stories in the hope The Key will be found within one of them. He is a blogger at observationdeck.kinja.com and can also be found @DeapGreanDream.

by Maxine Kollar

Ophelia stepped over cracks her whole life. She doesn’t remember hearing the rhyme, just knowing it.  Quick tippy toes then large leaps, whatever it took.

Paved Over: landslide headscarp

Hitchster via Creative Commons

She questioned herself, others questioned her. Why the stutter step? Why the leap? Saving Momma was all she could answer.

Then one day there was no Momma to save. The thing had eaten her alive. Her screams were still fresh in Ophelia’s mind. No gentle walk. Why didn’t she save Momma from it?

Because she was afraid. Where did the cracks lead? She sat on the sidewalk outside her house. The house. Any house. Empty now.

There was a large crack by the sycamore tree. Its roots pushed up the sidewalk at an angle that said “my roots uproot and your cement cannot see what is meant.” The tree laughed at its own joke. And pushed.

Ophelia bounded onto the crack and went far down. She saw Momma in the clutches of the bad thing and she hid.

Momma’s back was broken. Ophelia strode out into the open and demanded her Momma back. The bad thing roared but Ophelia knew she could make it back down.

She grabbed Momma and pulled her back. Up past the roots and onto the sidewalk.

Momma, your back, said Ophelia, stroking Momma’s back.


Maxine Kollar is a wife and a mother of three. She has a degree in Political Science and intends to save the world as soon as she catches up on laundry.

Her works have appeared in Mamalode, Gravel Mag, Funny in Five Hundred, Rat’s Ass Review and elsewhere.

by Constantine de Boudox

She was the last one. She witnessed the water evaporating, same as always. She witnessed the rain not falling for years, which was unheard-of. She witnessed the earth turning to sand, under her feet. She witnessed the Earth turning to desert, everywhere she looked. She witnessed wars for water, the death of millions. She witnessed the envy victors, as they died of thirst, felt for the defeated.

Eye.

Dee Ashley via Creative Commons

She cried. She witnessed her tears forming streams. She witnessed the glorious song of flowing water and her heart sang along. She witnessed the song she expected never to hear again.

She cried of joy. She witnessed when the streams formed rivers and the rivers formed ocean. She witnessed the Death coming to claim her and the fear he felt of her, the fountain of life. She witnessed when something stirred in the ocean.

She was the first. She witnessed as eons passed her by. She witnessed the children giggling in the distance—the children born from her tears.

She cried seeing their naivety. She witnessed their lack of knowledge.

She was the first and the last. She witnessed it happening before. She witnessed that it will happen again.


Constantine de BoudoxBorn in Meissen, Germany in the winter of 1984, Constantine is currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. He lived and worked in many different places all over the world. When he was six years old, he read The Hobbit for the first time and fell in love with the fantasy. Since then, he had a dream to create his own world. He is working on the series of epic fantasy novels ‘Mindshifter’. You can find his steampunk novel and short stories on Wattpad.

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.