by Alex Creece

Vitality slipped from his dark, calloused fingertips. Blueish, purpleish, and then grey. Stigmata once throbbing raw with rot blackened to an impenetrable void. His palms were a purgatory of coagulate crust. The eyes of the all-seer shrivelled upon the salvationless silhouette of the boulder which obstructed his portal to the next life.

He was dead. Or dying. Or definitely, definitely dead.

Crack

Kenneth Lu via Creative Commons

He stared at the boulder for hours on end, blinking less and less until he no longer felt the need to scrape his sleep-starved lids against eyes so dry and devoid of sight. Rocks and rubble etched secrets and scripture into his back, and eventually he was comfortable enough to settle into his Grotto of Eden as he awaited his exile into a new existence. His nerve endings had ruptured—their own rapture, perhaps—so he no longer felt the searing necrosis of his physical form, nor did he choke on the stench of his own decay. He welcomed rigor mortis eagerly, allowing it to exorcise him of a life left.

A couple of days later, a crack of light seeped through the edge of the boulder. It caught his vacant eyes and singed his peeling flesh. But he remained staunch. He had found his way through days ago.


Alex CreeceAlex Creece is made of dirt and determination. It’s the latter which laces her lungs with grit.

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.