by Nikki Boss

“When you come back, I will be here like this.”

“What does that mean?”

“Nothing to you but everything to me.”

“Sarah.” I love how he says my name, Say-ruh.

“Come here.” I pull him to me, my hands cupping the back of his neck. He pulls away.

Ray Moore via Creative Commons

Ray Moore via Creative Commons

“I have to go.”

“You could stay if you wanted to.”

“I can do anything I want.”

“Except stay with me.” And there it is. It does not matter what I want or what he wants; there will always be this.

He scans the room for his clothes.

“In the bathroom,” I tell him. He goes to fetch them and I use the moment to light a cigarette. Inhale deeply and let the smoke unfurl from my mouth.

“Say-ruh.”

I ignore him.

“Say-ruh.” I will not go to him.

“James.” I state his name rather than reply. Take another drag and let it poison me.

“You can lie in that bed all day and it does nothing.”

I spit back. “I can do whatever I want.”

The door slams. He is leaving me again.


Nikki Boss

Nikki Boss lives in New England with her husband, children, and too many animals. She is currently a MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches middle school English.

 

 

 

by Ville Meriläinen

Ladder

David Alliet via Creative Commons

It was the end of the world as we knew it, but some things never changed. You were always a hopeless romantic, and I hated to let you down. When I said we should start thinking of tying the knot, you thought I meant something sweet, so instead of a noose I got you that ring you were eyeing before all this shit went down.

I took you to the old church and we sat on the roof watching stars and the city teeming with the dead and listening to their growls and the song of nightingales in the park. It was then I realised I hadn’t thought this through. We exchanged vows with no way out.

You asked, “Does it count as consummation if zombies climb ladders and we’re royally screwed?” I’d never seen them do much anything than shamble on without purpose, but I guess we’d find out in time. We were supposed to be home by now. I hadn’t brought any food or water, just some rope.

I wrapped my arm around you and told you, “If zombies climb ladders and death tries to do us apart, we’ll tie our hands together and walk as one forever.”


Ville Meriläinen is a Finnish twenty-something student and a miscreant of the arts, with a penchant for bittersweet stories and a passion for death metal. His noir fantasy novella, Spider Mafia, is available at amazon.com for the perusal of anyone who ever wondered what might happen if cats in suits had to save the world from spider wizards.

by Alison McBain

II-ii

Jaan Altosaar via Creative Commons

I saw her hair first, the same color as the wind-blown clouds. She was wearing only a thin shift, and her skin glittered with a thousand liquid stars, as if she had just bathed in the lake behind her.

She smiled over her shoulder at me, but before I could accept her invitation, I noticed something that sent a sudden chill up my back. Her fingers dipped below the surface of the water, but they caused no ripples in the lake.

I’d never seen a kelpie before, but the villagers had piqued my curiosity with a warning about unexplained drownings—I’d not believed them until now.

Glancing one last time at the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, I forced myself to turn away, my heart singing in agony. Her banshee shriek followed me all the way home and echoed through the many seasons that followed.

Decades later, I still dream of her at night, even though I have never returned to the lake. I dream of her with regret, although it is not my only one.

Twice, she broke my heart.

I was born knowing the ways of the world, with a heart that could resist her malicious magic—an old man’s heart.

I had a son, once. But… his heart was young.


Alison McBainAlison McBain lives in Connecticut with her husband and three daughters. She has over thirty publications, including stories and poems in Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex, and the anthology Frozen Fairy Tales. You can read her blog at alisonmcbain.com or chat with her on Twitter @AlisonMcBain.

by Sierra July

La semilla muere...al germinar

Annais Ferreira via Creative Commons

Mason pricked his finger on a rose and fell onto his back, panting. He was certain he’d enter into a coma like Sleeping Beauty. When sleep didn’t come, he studied his finger. Instead of a red blood pearl at its tip, there was a blue substance.

Without thinking, he licked it. Blackness fell.

It was Chloro who went in to dinner, sat with Mason’s parents, and chatted.

Mason’s parents had never seen their son so talkative and imaginative.

“What were you up to before dinner?” his mother asked. “I saw you playing in the garden.”

“I wasn’t up to anything. As soon as I arrived, I came inside to learn about humans. I’ve only seen your species from a distance.”

Mason’s father laughed. “Still in the middle of a game, huh? Sounds like you’re set for an Earth invasion.”

Chloro nodded and went on talking.

The parents laughed as he described dinosaurs and other extinct animals he’d seen since his birth. Detailed how he lived on soil, sun, and water. How he’d waited for a chance meeting with an organism with legs. The parents laughed on, not suspecting a thing.


Sierra July is a University of Florida graduate, writer, and poet. Her fiction has appeared in Robot and Raygun, T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, and SpeckLit, among other places, and is forthcoming in Belladonna Publishing’s Strange Little Girls anthology. She blogs at talestotellinpassing.blogspot.com.

by Deborah Walker

Only astronauts from New State China will travel through the Ghost Rift. In the Ghost Rift sleeting particles of dust make the unseen visible. The Chinese have always known that spirits fill the air.

The crew of the Silver Nightingale laugh at the tortuous routes Westerners take to avoid the Rift. They’re surprised, but they’re relieved when quiet Sung Li, the newest recruit, volunteers to pilot the ship.

She watches the crew as they climb silently into the stasis pods. When they wake, they’ll imagine the feel of ghosts lingering on their skins. They will make loud, nervous jokes.

Sung Li dresses in the captain’s uniform. She has travelled far from the factory slums of Neo Shanghai. She has risen like a leaping salmon from the swarms of her contemporaries. Sung Li has travelled a thousand light years from her childhood, and from her mother’s incessant encouragement.

Sung Li watches the approaching Rift through the metal-glass window. She smoothes down the captain’s uniform, and she smiles. Sung Li has travelled far. She is looking forward to meeting the familiar look of her mother’s disapproval.

Milky Way - Full 180 Degree Panorama

inefekt69 via Creative Commons

A version of this story originally appeared in the Dark Stars anthology.


Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration. Her stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into over a dozen languages.

by Vajra Chandrasekera

They (find you out and they) make you do it. You (have no option but to parley, to) put your cock in the wolf’s mouth one last time, to be dwarfed on the great tongue. The teeth prick. You grab handfuls of fur (as if) to fuck the mouth that will one day eat the sun but you (throw your head back because you) can’t meet his piss-yellow leer. Your balls are (cold and) burning tight, and whether (or not) you’re flaccid only you and the wolf know.

night wolf

Steve Loya via Creative Commons

They begin the rope bondage while you look the grinning wolf in the mouth, in the eye. (The rope chafes: the root and sinew pinch, the beard itches, the spit and silence irritates.) You’re waiting for that first gloaming of suspicion, the twilit moment when (it all goes sour and fast and hot, and) the war ends, peace in your time, ceasefire in yellow and red seeds seeping into the earth to be ploughed by downed swords. You’re waiting to be found out again.

Later, when they tell this story, they’ll (think they’re taking pity on you when they) say it was your right hand.

 



Vajra ChandrasekeraVajra Chandrasekera is from Colombo, Sri Lanka. If you liked this, you should also try his stories in Flapperhouse, Grievous Angel and Three-Lobed Burning Eye.

 

 

 

by Jinapher J. Hoffman

I wade into the water. The boat drifts out further—out of my reach—forever. It’s still on fire, the flames a beacon for lost hope. Ma grips my shoulder, pulling me back.

VikingFuneral8

David Power via Creative Commons

“But, where is he going?” I ask her.

She kneels down and pulls the tips of my fingers to her mouth and kisses them.

I wipe tears from her cheeks. “Don’t worry. Pa said he’d always come back.”

She pulls Pa’s tags from her pocket and puts them around my neck. “Not this time, baby.” She kisses my forehead. “Not this time.”

Her head nuzzles into my shoulder and I stare past her at the empty pasture.

“Ma, where is everyone? Aunt Linda? Cousin Tim?” I pull away from her. “They should be here. Shouldn’t they? They should see Pa off.”

Ma trembles. “Not every hero makes a crowd, baby.” She tugs on my hand. “Come on, let’s go back to the house.”

I shake my head. “I want to watch him go.”

She turns away. She always turns away.

Pa is a blazing dot against the horizon. I reach a hand out, grasping at the flames, but my palm is left empty and the boat is gone.


Jinapher HoffmanJinapher J. Hoffman is the Founder and Writer for her self-named blog, author of the YA Dystopian Thriller Twenty, Co-Founder of Incipient Productions, Scriptwriter, Director, and a current student in Orlando – obtaining a BA in Creative Writing for the Entertainment Business. She’s had some of her short fiction published with 101 Words, Slink Chunk Press, and Flash Fiction Magazine. In her spare time, she is a DH Designs model, cat lover, and attempting to consume less coffee.

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.

counting III (cc)

Martin Fisch via Creative Commons

Word counts: a phrase that strikes utter apathy in the hearts of people everywhere. Well, most people. If you’re a writer or editor, you probably care (at least some) about word counts. They are a rough measure of the size of a piece of writing, and in shorter works (journal articles, short fiction, etc) they can be a measure of effort for use in paying writers. Typically book-length work is paid based on unit sales and/or other complicated algorithms so it matters less how many words something is once it reaches that scope. Now, determining what lengths qualify as “novel” versus, say, “novella” is a whole other discussion, but let’s focus on the fact that word counts are used to determine relative size and values for works that tend to be collected or anthologized.

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