Fiction refers to literature created from the imagination. Traditionally, that includes novels, short stories, fables, myths, legends, fairy tales, plays, etc. The ever-widening scope of fiction in today's world may include comic books, cartoons, anime, video games, radio and television shows, it could be genre fiction, literary fiction or realism. But regardless of its form of conveyance, fiction is a device that immerses us in experiences that we may not otherwise discover; takes us places we may never go, introduces us to people we may never have met. It can be inspiring, captivating, and even frightening. In the end, it exposes us to a life not our own. It can help us to see ourselves and our world in a new light.
We invite you to join us as we embark on a journey of fiction created by these talented authors. We applaud all of our contributors and encourage everyone to continue to follow their artistic and literary dreams. For those whose works we’ve selected, we hope this is just the beginning of an illustrious career in the arts.
by Karen Barr
The bride's bodice clings to her blooming bust. The fitted waistline constricts her ample center. They called her Pudgy as a child. Fatty-Patty in grade school. Pleasantly plump in junior high. Robust for her small stature, she fills the gown with its open neckline revealing just a hint of creamy cleavage, untouched by the sun. The expanding curve of her belly concealed by its multi-pleated skirt.
She stands, no longer at the altar—the bride-to-be—but espoused, in defense. Her head cocked back, lips parted, accepting, yet hesitant, wary,
On the tips of her fingers, a square of white frosted sponge cake pretending meekness, faith, trust in
Opposite stands the man she is bound to, heart, and soul. The husband whose bed she will share. The man whose name she will bear. The yang to her yin; the champion of her causes.
His stance, aggressive, forward, confident. He also holds the cake in suspect, although he wields his weapon more surely and with disarming charm. A young, playful smile lights his face. An easy face to love. And
by Frank Richards
I have studied martial arts all my life: Karate, Judo, Kenpo Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, and Hsing-I, but as I've gotten older, I pretty much stick to Tai Chi. I used to study Tai Chi at a park in Washington, D.C. called Glen Echo Park. It's an old park, not much used anymore. Most of the park has fallen into disrepair since the sixties. There's an old kid's carousel. I'm not sure if it still works. Shabby buildings, overgrown with tall grasses or volunteer trees sprouting up here and there, that's the character of the place.
I used to wear a T-shirt and shorts to Tai Chi. We practiced on Saturday mornings in a building that was also set up as a dance studio, you know, a place with wooden floors and big full-length mirrors in front. No one wanted to arrive late, because if you did, you wound up in the front of the class, and everyone's eyes were on you the whole hour we practiced.
One Saturday I was held up in traffic and realized I had to hurry so as not to arrive late. I parked and began to run toward the class building. I came around the corner of a building and two women ran up to me, one on each side. "How are you doing?" asked one, handing me a bottle of water. The other asked, "How do you feel?" as she ran along beside me. She handed me a sack...
by Glennis Hobbs
July 20, 1942
Escorted by her eldest brother Neil, Annabell walks across the front lawn to meet Bill. her groom. She is dressed in a long gown of pink net overlying pink point
Bill looks forward to living in their own home on St. Clare Avenue. He needs to make certain the chimney works properly. He fears a fire like the one that burnt his parents’ farmhouse. His mother grabbed the seven-month-old Bill and threw him in the manger while she ran for help.
Annabell looks up at her mother’s burnt chimney and sighs with relief. She remembers how, in the midst of wedding preparations a month ago, lightning struck the chimney while her wedding cake was baking. Annabell rushed the half-baked cake over to her next door neighbour’s house to finish it. Her younger brothers tease her about getting a warning from the Lord. She replies that she doesn’t care and insists she is getting married anyway. This becomes a family...
by Teresa Crowe
S is for Scintillation.
Their arms and elbows locked as they vied for control. Major released her grip and dredged her beet-colored nails across his muscled chest. Zane glanced at the four lines of ripped skin, blood dripped onto the rim of his pants. He lunged forward, grabbed a clutch of her hair and pulled her close. His sweaty face was too close. Wafts of garlic and marsh invaded her nostrils. Her stomach rolled and she had to swallow the bile as the edges of her vision waned.
“Bitch,” he seethed. “I don’t know many times we have to go through this. You know the game. You befriend them, and then you bring them to me. End of story.”
“Zane, these ones are too young. They’re scared. They don’t want the drugs or the booze. They cry day and night. What the hell am I supposed to do with them? They won’t trust me.”
He loosened his grip and flattened her hair back into place. His finger followed the trail of blood down to his navel. He brought the bloodied finger to her lips and applied the macabre lipstick.
“I don’t give a fuck how you do it. Knock them unconscious for all I care. When I say I need two, you bring me two. When I say I need one with no hair or breasts, you bring me one with no hair and no fucking breasts. If you can’t get your head around...
by Glennis Walker Hobbs
Black, ginger, and tortoiseshell felines zoom through the open screen door onto the deck. Black Nic pauses and surveys his domain from the top of the steps. Kittens race down the ramp and scamper into the backyard. Glory, the tortoiseshell, runs to the maple in the corner, claws her way up the trunk to the branches and taunts Farley, the ginger kitten. She races across to the poplar tree with Farley in hot pursuit. Nic trots down the stairs and peers around the corner of the shed to check on them. Grey shadow cat, Jonine, peers around the corner of the screen and carefully scuttles down the ramp. At the sudden roar of a lawn mower powering up, she scurries back to the safety of the humans and lurks under the wooden bench on the corner of the deck. As the mower moves closer, she frantically scratches at the screen and escapes inside the house.
I settle back on the bench, sip my morning coffee and scribble in my journal. I try to describe the chirps of birds and the sights of a summer forenoon. A zephyr gently caresses my cheek. Black Nic trots back from checking on the kittens, rubs on my legs and meows his morning report. His gentle purrt turns to a more nagging rowl. He runs down the stairs, returns and rowls again. I follow him, wander around the yard and he trots contentedly beside me.
by Joy Manné
Here am I, on this grey morning, here I am again, entering this day as I entered yesterday and the day before and unless I am spared by death will enter tomorrow and the day after, endlessly growing older with the anxiety that brings, the fear of coming apart in my body, backache, arthritic fingers, tight toes, inflexible mind, approaching the new day with this flabby belly falling in front of me, an old man among old men, a writer but what does that matter, a writer of what and who will read it today, and on my next today, and who read it on my last today, that is my most recent, and who will read it on my final today, that I do not know.
But I am here and I must write, it is expected of me by my tutor, by my colleagues, by my co-students, by myself, by my fame, by my fortune which needs to grow, needs to show that no matter what comes spewing from my pen, I am still the famous author I always was, grey hair and pot belly make no difference, mind is fine, but what is my mind, that grey goo they say feels like butter (melted or hard?) in my head that is responsible for my fame and fortune and my bank balance.
I. This I must come out with something, that is my fingers, arthritic as they are must grasp my pen, ...
by Brigitte Whiting
Mattie opened the front door. "I'll be back in a while, Henry," she said, then stepped onto the porch and clicked the door shut.
It opened behind her and Henry stuck out his head. "Wait, I can come with you."
She shook her head. "I need some time alone. Okay?"
He frowned. "Take your raincoat."
She turned her back to him and walked toward the seashore. If he'd asked her what was bothering her, she couldn't have answered him. It was nothing and it was everything, which made it all the harder to figure out how to solve it. The rocks glistened
Why was she so angry with him? Away from the shoreline, the ocean had smoothed itself into calm gray-blue, the late afternoon sun silvering the waves. No, she didn't want to leave him, she knew that much. But she wished he wasn't so solicitous. All it succeeded in doing was making her feel guiltier about her discontent. If they'd talk, if they'd argue like other couples, then they'd be on an equal footing, and maybe they could break through, that counseling jargon again, into some kind of...
by David Snyder
The eight-year-old 1958 Chevy was purring along through rural Kansas with ease. Don smiled with pride. When it hit 180,000 miles he planned to celebrate with a smoke and an ice-cold Mountain Dew from the cooler. It was a beautiful late April day with the sunny skies and temperatures in the seventies.
“How much longer, Don?”
“Dammit, Gladys,” said Don shaking his head, “it’s a seven-hour trip to Colorado Springs, and we’ve only been on the road for half an hour.”
“It’s not that far,” whined Gladys.
“It is that far,” he said doing his best imitation of Gladys’ bleat. “We just left Nekoma, we’re still on Route 96 and won’t even get to Route 70 for three more hours. We’ve got to go through damn near the entire state of Kansas. If you hadn’t insisted on going by Monument Rocks, we would have saved two hours. Asking me how much further every damn half hour will not get us to your mother’s house any faster.” he replied. He hated road trips with Gladys and the annual pilgrimage to her cranky mother’s.
“Stop your swearing, Don! Monument Rocks is on the way. You know the children, and I love it.”
“It’s not on the way, Hon. I have to turn on 23, then…… Forget it!” At least the kids are behaving, he reflected.
Don rolled the window down to relieve the stuffiness of the old car and to catch a refreshing breeze.
“Don, roll up the...
by Ed Kratz
This is from an assignment in the Innovative Fiction Course taught by Karen
I'm just not making it in my innovative fiction course.
What is innovative fiction you might ask? Well, if you have to ask, I'd say you're one of those rubes who still thinks old farts like Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky are relevant. So you probably don't care.
But if you're artistic, you would understand there is nothing more important and more relevant than innovative fiction.
I'm working on a number of major innovative fiction projects. But due to a lack of cooperation, or just being too far ahead of my time, they're just not working out.
Let’s start with collage.
I know, I'll have to explain this to you. You combine many disparate parts to make a really interesting whole.
Project number 1
Take the boring, dull works of Shakespeare. A few plays will suffice. Cut the pages into paragraphs, throw the paragraphs into a hat, and pull them out.
Paste them all together, photocopy them, and voila, you have a great innovative work far superior to the Bard’s lines known the world over.
Don't use whole paragraphs, using several pages, just cut whole words out. This process expands the originality, creating something completely nonsensical that has no relationships to Shakespeare.
I started this project, but my local library has objected to my modernizing ancient works and says they consider...
by Ed Kratz
The Don, whose real name you do not want to know, ever, has vast experience solving problems. Our organization, Don’t Try to Find Us Press, never advocates violence. We take no responsibility for violent acts committed by those misinterpreting the Don’s recommendations.
Now for our latest questions.
I am totally pissed. I followed your advice to the letter about dealing with the young pool guy and my wife, and now I have lost my wife, my house, and my freedom. The only way I can press for more information is by bribing some screw to get my message out.
Prisoner number 5278
You did not follow my advice correctly. I follow the news to stay informed. You were sloppy. Also, you misrepresented your actual age to me. No one under the age of 80 would refer to prison guards as screws. So, shut up and do your time.
Rumors are circulating that my wife’s niece is seeking the CEO position in my organization. I brought her in as my assistant to give her work and kept her under my wing and close. I did not fear succession issues because she is only a woman. Now it appears she has more ambition than is natural and wants to take over. I am not ready to retire.
Not a Has Been
Dear Has Been.
I suggest you step aside and let Alicia take the helm. The glass...
Todd shivered in the dark, seated cross-legged on the linoleum. Coats and dresses draped gently over his five-year-old shoulders. He flinched as a slit of bright light flashed through the space at the bottom of the door. Seconds later the deep, rolling rumble followed. “Mommy?”
“Mommy?” A flash, a rumble.
“Mommy?” Todd’s voice trembled. He slowly opened the door and crept to the bedroom window. He saw Mommy shoving their push mower through the grass. The sky lurked angry purple behind her. Suddenly, a blinding flash of lightning framed her in silhouette. Thunder boomed almost instantly.
Todd sprinted outside in his sock feet. He yanked the bottom of his mother’s blouse. “Mommy, please! Please come inside. Lightning can kill you.”
“I’m almost done, sweetie. I have to finish mowing the lawn or it will grow back unevenly. I’ll come inside soon.” Sweat dripped off her face.
“Please. Please come inside with me. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I won’t get hurt. Go inside now,” she insisted sternly.
Tears slid down Todd’s cheeks as he raced back into the house to the inky darkness of his refuge. Mommy’s clothes smelled of her perfumes. The familiar scents reassured him. Still, he shuddered with every flash and rumble.
Finally, Todd heard the front door open and close, followed by his mother’s footsteps. He heard the creak of the bed as she lay down.
When he approached the...
by Margaret Fieland
I fell down the rabbit hole straight into the town planning committee meeting. A large basin of Sangria sat in the middle of the scratched wood table in the center of the room, and a keg rested against the back wall. Al, Stan, and Art were already there.
Stan wore a suit, and sweat dripped down his face into his long gray hair as he peered over Art's shoulder.
"It's my Mother-in-law's recipe," Art was saying as I walked in. Light reflected off his head, bald and smooth as an egg. He wore Khaki shorts and a very old Boston Pops t-shirt. His glasses were new, though: a snappy pair with a silver frame.
"Hey, Pete, have some Sangria." Art handed me a large glass without waiting for my answer. The outside was still wet. I wiped my hand on my pants, leaving a purple stain on my new khaki shorts.
I took a sip. It was good. "What's in this?"
"My father-in-law makes the wine himself. He gifted us with a barrel or two. We had to buy the fruit." Art grinned. His father-in-law was over eighty, and Art claimed he still kept his savings in a suitcase under his bed.
"So what's the big crisis? I planned to spend the evening playing miniature golf with my grandkids." I pulled out a chair across the table from Art and dropped into it.
"We need to name some...
by Lolla Bryant
You’re at Grandma’s house again for dinner. As always, the family is gathered together and everybody’s trying to out-talk everybody else. You ask yourself why you continue to go through this ordeal every week, but you know why; it’s Grandma. Also, it’s a family tradition that brings you together with your loved ones—what’s not to love about that?
With the exception of your college years, you’ve been attending Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house from as far back as you can remember. Sure, the experience is a bit different now that you’re an adult—you get to do some of the talking. But, let’s face it; you know you barely get a word in once everyone begins.
When you were a child you could distance yourself a bit from all the chatter. After all, in those days children were to be seen and not heard. You’ve jokingly referred to that era as ‘the simpler times’. Looking over at your brother, you smile as you recall one particular time decades ago when you tried to silence their noise.
One Sunday in December 1980, the family had gathered after church at your Grandma’s house for dinner. The women were in the kitchen cooking and the men were out in the backyard sitting around a bonfire drinking (another part of the tradition that has changed due to your dad’s liver damage). Your mom told your dad not to be out there long because...
At age five, Amy told her mother that the thought of swimming scared her. Not surprisingly, her mother poo-pooed the idea, and said that fear showed weakness and stupidity. From then on, Amy said she hated swimming and never admitted any fear to her mother again. I don’t just hate swimming, I hate you! Amy’s mother never hugged her, gave her encouragement or praise, or told Amy she loved her. Sometimes she smacked her around. Someday I’ll grow up and get away from you!
Amy attended a few of her swimming lessons, but most of the time she thought of a seemingly reasonable excuse to stay home. If her mother still forced her to go, Amy told the instructor that she was just supposed to watch this week. The instructor never bothered to check her story.
At eighteen, a brunette, green-eyed beauty Amy met handsome, blond, blue-eyed, nineteen-year- old Ian. They immediately connected. Amy felt attracted to Ian from the first time she met him. She tried to make sure he would like her too. Yes, she loved football. She mentally stuck her finger in her throat. Yes, she loved the beach and swimming — lie. Yes, she loved Thai food — lie. Amy ‘loved’ pretty much everything that Ian did.
Ian’s family owned a little cabin at a quiet lake. Ian loved going there, so it became Amy’s favorite too. Not entirely a lie this time, as she enjoyed the cabin, sunbathing...
by Natalie Knight
I had been in Oz for a few months when I received an emergency call to come back to South Africa. Every émigré who leaves elderly parents dreads this call.
But this was worse than death. Our family lawyer called me to attend a meeting at the retirement Centre where the Chairman wanted to expel my parents for bad behavior.
“I am finished!” I said to my best friend Marilyn who fetched me from the airport and was driving me to the Centre. “I don’t know if it's a tragedy, a comedy, or a farce.”
Josh and I had checked out the place before we and the kids had left. I had the sole responsibility for the care of my parents since the death of my twin sister. I was filled with anxiety for their health and guilt for abandoning them. I just wanted them to be safe, happy and together.
Instead of being an Old Age Home, it was called A New Age Centre. There were well- designed apartments and fantastic communal facilities. In addition to the three B’s, Bridge, Bowls and Bible studies, they had beautiful grounds and swimming pools. It was like the Garden of Eden – with a Frail Care Wing.
During our visit, we saw a lecture in progress in the auditorium. We were soothed by the sea of heads in a hundred shades of grey and blue. ...
by Brigitte Whiting
The late August sun hung hot in a bare blue sky. Matilda picked up a tattered straw bushel basket and trudged into the garden with it. The rows of beans were dusty green, the corn stalks tall, their leaves edged with yellow. She settled on a stool between the lines of green beans and pulled off the pods.
“Hey, mom, look at me!” Willy had yelled at her. His short hair was sun-bleached summer white.
She’d watched him as he rode his tricycle between the radishes and lettuce, bright green leaves catching in the wheels. Had she laughed or had she told him to stop? She couldn’t remember now.
She stood up, stretched, then pushed the red stool forward a few feet. She threw each dry bean pod into the basket. The air was thick with cricket chirps, the faint buzz of insects. Another year of harvests, the beans today, then the corn, later the stalks plowed under to rot in the soil all winter. She looked across her flat land. It pleased her to work in the dirt, to receive its bounty.
“I’m off,” Willy had said, the car keys dangling between his fingers. “How come you’re always out here working?” His hair was combed back and glistened dark brown.
“Oh, it gives me space to think,” she’d said. He’d seemed tall standing next to the corn stalks and she’d been surprised that he was grown up now.
Nomi stood a few feet from the curb, watching her breath in the November Seattle rain, waiting for her mother. She hated asking for money. The feeling of dread almost compelled her to flee as she saw the silver Mercedes approaching. If only she didn’t need another fix.
“So, what is it that you need this time, Nom?” Gillian asked as her daughter climbed into the car, slamming the door. “Wait, lemme guess.”
“I just need a little bit of money. I ran out and I can’t -”
“Can’t what? Never mind. I won’t have this conversation again. So pointless. I do have something else to say though.”
“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this.”
Taking a moment and trying to soften her tone, Gillian continued, “I can’t keep supporting you like this. I’ve been talking to people, to your dad -”
“Well, by all means, what did he have to say?”
“It’s not just him, Nom. It’s everyone. I need to cut you off. I’m going to give you some money today, but that’s the last of it. I hope you can use it to get back on your feet and not shoot it up your arm. But, I’m done, Nom. If I continue to enable you, then aren’t I partly to blame?”
“Ooh, enable. Someone’s been to therapy.”
“What do you want from me? I mean, realistically, what do you expect me to do? Just keep giving you money, knowing what you’re doing with...
by Albert Orjuela
The toe drags umber, the pressure of holding paint forces the belly to bulge, and the canvas texture causes tired bristles to bend and stretch, casting tinted shadows in their wake. The resulting undertones bring life to the painting. The vitalizing paint bled from the brush is drawn from the veins of a sleepless painter being tortured by a persistent portrait.
Molly is special, until recently. Right now, she is cursed: a painter of the future without a future to paint. Molly idly finishes her current piece and pulls her brush away. She stops staring at the wood grain and comes out of her trance. Barely awake, she turns around to see her painting for the first time, and it’s the same picture for the hundredth. The same image that has plagued her for four days straight, and possibly the rest of her life. The one that now has her out of canvas and her mind.
Staggering back from the easel, the disbelief highlights her gawk. The portrait of herself painting a portrait of herself has her reluctantly on repeat. She has stared at every bit of wood grain in the studio, stood in every spot, and used every size brush and canvas, the result is continuously the same. The future she paints is always of herself painting a picture of herself in the future. Utterly exhausted, Molly collapses onto her back, looking up at the ceiling. The relentless lethargy is almost triumphant when she chuckles briefly, and...
by Gevera Bert Piedmont
She was buzzing in his ear again, the world’s largest and most annoying fly.
“This isn’t the beach you promised me. Can’t we go into town at least?”
He flicked a hand over his shoulder at her, go away, and stared into the waves. His eyes sought and his fingers sketched.
She nudged his arm. “Jeb! I wanna go into town!”
His paintings—pixels on a screen—looked like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, if Vincent had painted New England ocean waves instead of the French sky. Jeb used his fingers and stylus to draw, save, and start again.
His own series of Water Lilies, the same and yet different, following a similar composition to Monet.
“Jeb…” Now she was whining, grabbing his arm, and he made a mistake in his drawing.
The faces were there, in the waves. If he could make someone else see them, he could prove they were there, that he wasn’t crazy. The voices had called him to this place for a reason.
And for some dumb reason, he had brought along Ms. Fly, the world’s most annoying girlfriend.
“Stop it! You’ve drawn enough. Let’s go.”
His eyes moved to the tablet. There. The slightest suggestion of a hand, of a face. Eyes. But when he looked at the waves, nothing.
He shoved his elbow backward, pushing her away with finality, and bent to drawing again.
“You aren’t a nice guy!” She cried. “This isn’t Cape Cod! There’s no Wi-Fi, there’s no signal on...
by By Joy Manné (the student) with Help and Encouragement from Karen Barr (the teacher)
From ‘The Road from Setup to Payoff’ by Karen Barr, (Writers Village University, MFA 250-261 Story Focus series based on the book by Lisa Cron)
One of our most hardwired expectations is that anything that reads like the beginning of a new pattern—that is a setup—will in fact, be a setup, with a corresponding payoff.
A setup is a fact, an act, a person, an event—something that implies future action. (It is) a piece of information the reader needs well in advance of the payoff so the payoff will be believable.
To the reader, everything in a story is either a setup, a payoff, or the road in between.
Setups, when done well, read like fate.
From the student’s private notes.
Setups contain both clues and red herrings.
It was a dark and stormy night
A diversity (clue or red herring) gothic screenplay
the Countess von Ravensblakk (East European) – Weird Owner
Growly (English, of course) – the Butler
Norbert E. Temple (American) – Architect
Burly Dwarf (Caucasian) – Camera Man
Tyke Mison (black) – Director
Producer (race: none of the above) – in wheelchair
Woman (none of the above and different from the Producer) – in Red-high-heels
Gorilla (Africa) – in frock coat
Thin man who looks like David Niven (obvious) – Thin man who looks like David Niven
It is a dark and stormy night.
The rain falls in torrents except when a violent gust of...
by Art Subklew
It is disturbing indeed, to come home from work and find your dog chomping on another man’s boxers. John never wore boxers … ever. He insisted on the secure control offered by briefs, which kept things hidden from the eye; many things are best kept discrete, John thought. He dropped his keys on the hook, patted Roscoe on the head, and lifted the trunks to the light. What he saw was a punch in the gut: a single red hair dangled from the fabric; Janet’s boss, Frank, had red hair.
Suddenly, John remembered all the nights that Janet had to work late, the whispered calls from behind the bathroom door, the distance in her eyes, the headaches when he wanted sex. John shook his head and paced the floor. His mind filled with scenes of impending doom. Then, Janet’s car pulled into the driveway. He looked toward the door. The handle started to turn. He tucked the boxers
Back on the farm—when his feet were too big and his breeches too small, John’s mom burst into his bedroom while he was relieving his desperate new hunger. She froze, blinked twice, then left the room. John wanted to die.
When suppertime came, John found the courage to look at his mom over the meatloaf and mashed taters, his favorite meal. She smiled as if nothing had happened, but he saw a subtle change in her eyes: a distance that hadn’t been there before.
After that night, ...
by Brigitte Whiting
When she was five or six, she'd found a $20 bill lying in the gutter in the debris of dried leaves, twigs, and candy wrappers.
She'd cleaned it as well as she could, folded it and gripped it tightly in her hand. Daddy had explained money to her using silver coins. "A quarter will buy a small candy bar," he'd said. Maybe she could buy five or six candy bars. The owner of Jefferson's Mom & Pop would help her. She hoped she had enough to also buy a can of Coke.
She offered the old man the bill. "Don't know if it's real, kid. Could be counterfeit. Let me see it." He'd reached out his fat hands for it. "What ya want with it?"
She scampered to the candy aisle, picked up bar after bar,
"You got it right," he said, his voice so soft she barely heard him.
Later when she knew what money was worth, she decided it had to have been a $1 bill.
"Hey, Dad, can I borrow twenty bucks? I'll pay you back Saturday when I get paid."
"I'm still waiting, Joe, for the twenty last week and the week before and the week before. The answer is no."
He wouldn't cancel with Sally. She'd never
by Eviano George
“Esu, Esu”, the aged priest in the white skullcap screams, flecks of spittle flying out of his mouth. His Adam’s apple stretches against his reedy, leathery neck as incantations burst forth in a torrent. As if on cue, a monstrous, heavily tattooed novice runs out of the shadows. In the light of the searing bonfire, his tattoos seem to come alive. He
"Esu, ancient of days,
“Esu, Esu, look at this meat, how fresh and limber it is! My
by Joyce Hertzoff
The child sat on the short wooden bench in the shabby old bus station, her legs dangling four inches above the ground. Her right hand clutched the worn handle of the battered brown suitcase, and her blue eyes stared straight ahead. The soft round face was as expressionless as a China doll, the only movement a slight quiver of her bottom lip.
The old woman entered and looked around for a place to sit. Her tired back and legs wouldn't endure for long if she had to stand, but her bus wasn't due for another forty-five minutes. She sniffed the odors of unwashed bodies crowding the space. There, an empty seat. “Someone sitting here?” she asked the child, pointing to the end of the short bench.
The little girl looked up into her face and shook her head.
The woman settled into the seat with a sigh, glancing at the clock, willing the time to fly by. “Are you traveling alone?” The child looked so small to her, her dress, threadbare but clean, her laces untied. “You were probably told not to talk to strangers. Believe you me, I don't usually talk to them either, but you shouldn't be traveling alone.” Now, why was she talking to this girl? She laughed at her own display of nerves then cleared her throat. “What are you? Seven? Eight?”
Even that elicited no response beyond a crossing of thin arms.
The woman waved her ticket and timetable. “I'm going to St. Louis. Haven't...
by Kathryn Pollard
An alarm sounded in the distance. I paid it no mind. Instead, I focused on the peculiar man sitting on the park bench. He looked like quiet—the epitome of it. When he breathed, the slight rise and fall of his shoulders did not compromise his placid composure. His hair, although sprawled across the top of his head, lay inert; not one strand agitated by the breeze just then passing through. His hands lay dormant across his lap and his legs rested, tucked and quiescent beneath the bench. Needless to say, he captivated me. No, Barnaby, don’t stop. Just walk on by. I ignored my thoughts and surrendered to my inquisitive mind.
Immediately, I sensed the alarm meant nothing to him either. His eyes told me. They stared directly ahead at nothing important, at least by my standards; only a brick wall in desperate need of a wash. But, the staring did not fascinate me, it was those hooded eyes. They did not blink, they only gazed forward and they did something else. They drew me.
I found myself sliding my feet intermittently towards that bench, only hesitating when I feared the man might look up and glance in my direction. Normally, I would be enthralled with the crisp scent of pine and the rustling of the leaves when I walked through this particular park, but not today. I slid closer.
When I was but a few paces away, I stopped. As I stood gawking at this intriguing person, a queer...
by Eviano George
Deep in the cavernous belly of the hospital, the frail old man was dying. Inch by inch, he contorted his body to rest on the side that did not hurt. He also wanted to avoid looking at the empty space where the other man had been; the only companion he had had in as long as he could remember. A few days earlier, he realized his friend was no longer replying. That was when he noticed the open mouth and vacuous eyes staring at something unseen on the ceiling. The smell was not long in coming, invading his space and worsening by the hour. At night, the fumes of decay mixed with the dancing shadows drove him half-crazy and addled what was left of his mind. He saw things. Frightful things. Bat-like demons with three heads and countless eyes zinged across the sterile room causing him to scream silently until dawn. For a week the dead man rotted away. For a week the demons pranced around his head. By the time they took the corpse away, the old man was half-dead himself.
Whenever the nurses deigned to pass by and clean him up, they crossed themselves and hastily kissed their crucifixes. Only a few days ago, a young, pimply faced new nurse had looked at him and screamed “Oh God, how emaciated he is! Why do his bones stick out so? And his leg, why it’s rotted away!” She stared at him, eyes bulging, until the more...