Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Tiki Statue by Derek Muk

Two anthropology lecturers go on holiday in Hawaii and discover a statue with occult powers; by Derek Muk.

Avner was busy talking to a fellow passenger about meditation when Albert Taylor woke up from a deep, restful nap. He was surprised he was able to sleep at all considering the noisy engine of the plane. He checked the clock on his cell phone: Damn! Three more hours to go. His mouth was dry so he swished down water.

"So how many days is this meditation retreat that you're going to?" the fellow passenger asked.

"It's a week long thing but we're only going for three days," Avner replied. "You see, this whole trip is about trade offs. My buddy, Albert, asked me to go and I said I'd go if we could spend a few days at this retreat. I had read about it a while back and heard good things about it. Albert isn't really into meditation, though I'm encouraging him to do it more often. He basically wants to do all the touristy stuff in Honolulu. I'm fifty-fifty on that sort of thing so we made a deal. He agreed to go with me to the retreat and I agreed to do the sightseeing for the remainder of the days. I think that's fair. I haven't been to Hawaii since I was in my late teens so it'll be interesting to see all the changes."

Avner, sitting in the aisle seat, was around Taylor's age, early fifties, with shaggy salt and pepper hair, narrow eyes that looked Asian in appearance, wearing a pair of glasses.

"Oh, you'll love it," the passenger said. "Say, has anyone told you you look like Richard Gere?"

"Yes. But the ladies think I'm more handsome."

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wrong Parrot by Russ Bickerstaff

Russ Bickerstaff's surreal story about a six foot clairvoyant parrot.

At first I wondered whether or not I had the right apartment. I actually had to check to make my key actually fit the door it had been fitting every single day for the past couple of years. It wasn't the door that was throwing me off, though, it was the parrot. It was a huge thing, bigger than life and twice as ugly in every conceivable way. I had no idea how it got there. It stood there in the hallwaymajestically with a far away look in its eye on a perch in a big, black cage. After testing the key in the door to my apartment a few more times, I opened the door, stood in my doorway and just sort of... looked at it.

There wasn't any kind of a note attached to the cage or anything like that, so I just sort of left the door open while I went to get myself a beer. (I figured that was the least that I could do at this stage. It had been a long early morning shift and the game wouldn't be on for some time.) I stood there in the doorway staring at the parrot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Good Life by Brooke Fieldhouse

Viv strikes up a relationship with an unlikely partner, but soon discovers that he's not being entirely honest with her; by Brooke Fieldhouse.

'Is that the Bridgend Hotel, Llangollen?'

'...'

'Is Mr Morgan there, Mr R Morgan - he's known as Radio?'

'...'

'He... uses other names - Mr Martin, or Ryan?'

'...'

Viv puts the phone down.

The bastard!

He's given her the number just to increase suspense - draw out tension; knows she's planning something.

He probably hasn't even gone on his bloody climbing trip. He could be just down the road, sitting in his Discovery, waiting to pounce as she leaves the house. Thank God she managed to switch off the CCTV cameras he fitted.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Am I Missing Something? by James McEwan

James McEwan's character is beset by doubts as he buys his girlfriend an engagement ring.

Malcolm handed five hundred pounds cash to the jeweller's assistant, it was the last of his savings.

'Am I missing something?' The assistant said and started to count the notes.

'What do you mean?' Malcolm fidgeted with his wallet and looked down at the builder's dust on his boots.

'Well it's a beautiful ring, I thought you'd be smiling.'

'Aye well.' Malcolm shrugged and adjusted his heavy donkey jacket. 'I'm no sure if she's ready yet.'

'Oh I don't think any woman would turn this away.'

'It's no the ring I'm worried about.' Perhaps he shouldn't have said that, now what is this girl going to think about him? 'But what if she says no?'

Friday, December 12, 2014

I'm Not The Same Man by William Quincy Belle

To meet his new grandson, Patrick Lindsey must travel far further than he ever has before; by William Quincy Belle.

Patrick blinked a few times and stared at the ceiling. It was well lit in a soft manner, not glaring. Was he supposed to do something? Or was he supposed to lie there until somebody came for him? He didn't recall that anybody had said one way or another. Those who had already done this would be in the know, but him? Maybe it was best to wait until somebody told him what to do.

"Hello, Mr. Lindsey."

A face moved into Patrick's field of vision, as if leaning over the table.

"How are you doing?"

The face smiled at him. It was female. It was the face of a young woman. Twenty-something? She looked young, but it was sometimes hard to tell. She must be an attendant.

"I'm fine, thank you." Patrick turned his head to the left and looked at the room. It seemed modern and clean, functional and yet with a certain style. He turned to the right and saw that the woman stood beside the table leaning over him to look into his eyes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Girl in the Cannery by M J Cleghorn

A hardworking girl who guts fish all day at the local cannery wonders how she will afford to bury her grandfather; by M J Cleghorn.

Forty dollars. A week's pay. That's what it will cost to bury the old Swede, the girl in the cannery thought to herself, picking the soft bones and skin from each shiny copper can as they spilled down the conveyer belt.

Forty dollars.

Every day - long into the summer twilight, the girl in the cannery took her place in the slime line, every day since she was thirteen years old. Every day since her mother died - dead from tuberculosis at twenty-five. Her father went to war. He never came home. She tried to remember their faces. Sometimes, when she looked into the mirror, she wondered if it was her mother's eyes she saw looking back at her, or was it her father's face. The girl and the old Swede lived alone in a small shack at the end of the boardwalk. Alone since her brother ran away to sea, lying about his age to join the Merchant Marines. He wired most of his pay home, everything except a dollar or two a month, to buy a few cigarettes and a stray bottle of beer.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Inside Chaos by Brody Lane Gregg

Aron sits on a beach with his wife when his world suddenly ends, in Brody Lane Gregg's hellish vision.

They had the beach all to their own. It was one plot of sandy paradise nestled against the cool flow of crystalline water. Heaven on earth.

All he wanted was to hold her in his arms. He reached out and caressed her tan skin. It was as soft as anything he'd ever felt. She leaned against him, wrapped in his warm embrace. She was his, only his.

"I love you," she whispered.

He pulled her down onto the sand, running his fingers through her long blond hair. His hand caressed her cheek. "I love you too."

He laid down beside her.

A blanket of stars stretched above them and the moon glistened off the placid water.

He noticed her lips tighten into a smile.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Fourth Line by Bruce Costello

Miss Mehrtens visits the first resident of a new infirmary and homeless shelter to ask him about him about his experiences in the Great War; by Bruce Costello.

On the land between the church and the doctor's house is the former sexton's lodge, in the throes of being converted into an infirmary and shelter for the homeless. Its roof is rusty and the timbers are rotting but it has a pleasant outlook with the front facing the church and the rear looking out into open country.

A young lady wearing a red short-sleeved dress and a cream cloche hat pushes aside gorse with gloved hands as she walks along the winding path from church to lodge and gingerly up the doorsteps overgrown with grass.

She steps around piles of donated clothes and bedding littering the porch, all waiting to be sorted and washed by the women of the parish. Blankets, old dressing gowns and pyjamas, boots and shoes, piled in heaps, smelling of mould and mothballs.

Inside there's a door off the hallway. The word 'dormitory' has been chalked in small, neat letters. She enters without knocking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Baby Dolls by Mathew Roach

When Mike goes to buy a present for Kayla, the decision forces insecurities to the surface; by Mathew Roach.

Mike loosens his tie and collar button with one hand as he crosses through the double doors of Wal-Mart. He walks into the cool air and pauses for a moment, taking in the calming breeze. For a second, the defeated the look on his face lifts. He closes his eyes. Then his iPhone rings. Mike sighs as he fumbles in his suit jacket's breast pocket a moment before he finally gets hold of it. He takes it out without looking at the screen, answers it and says, "Yes, dear, I'm at the store."

"Good," comes his wife's voice from the other line, clearly annoyed, "it's about damn time. What's taking you so long?"

Mike pauses in irritated silence.

"You're going to miss everyone sing 'Happy Birthday' to Kayla if you don't hurry."

Grabbing his temples Mike says, his words having a bite to them, "I know dear, but I'd be able to get out of here faster if you would stop calling to remind me I'm late!"

"I'm sorry," she says, "there's just a lot going on here and I don't want you to miss it."

Deflated, Mike says, "I know. I'm hurrying, I promise. Love you."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Redemption Song 1776 by Ceinwen Haydon

Ceinwen Haydon imagines an ancient tale of tragedy, loss and religious redemption.

I shut the front door quietly, hunching against the freezing rain. Snow would not be long in coming this night I'd wager. The shower glistened in the lamplight at the end of the garden path and I pulled up the hood of my cape. I walked passed the closed shops, still bright, redolent with the colours of the winter festival. The icy dampness surged into my shoes each time my foot pressed on a rocking paving stone: I misjudged all too often, and cursed roundly.

I went out that night to fulfil a promise. One made a year since, when I knelt with the ragtag and bobtail congregation that gathers on this sacred eve. My senses were assaulted by the stench of damp tweed, cinnamon, stale drink, goose fat, flatulent emissions and lavender, as I knelt to pray. I huddled gratefully in their midst, warming my poor perished body against the heat of the convivial herd.

That night I had no front door, no inside to enter from outside, no matter how cruel the elements. I had returned from sea, to this small Northumbrian town, intending to keep a promise to my lass. My eye had had an optimistic gleam, as I strode on with nuptials on my mind. Presents from the orient lay in my mariners' sack. Celebrations would burst forth, in the depth of darkness, at the turning of the year.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Deception by Beryl Ensor-Smith

A bachelor moves into the quiet drop of Prentburg with the sole aim of capturing a rich wife; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

Before Klaus van Dyk arrived in the dorp, he had done his homework carefully. It was by no means a random choice; he had given careful thought as to where he was most likely to find a rich widow or spinster who could keep him in the style to which he would like to become accustomed. He was tired of scraping by and realised that his greatest asset was his good looks. It was the only thing of any worth that his useless, long dead parents had given him. His father was shiftless and his mother a drunk. Klaus had learned to fend for himself at an early age. It was a dog-eat-dog world and he had been the underdog long enough!

Klaus was not given to sentimentality and prided himself on his pragmatism. He knew when to voice opinions and when to obfuscate, and realised that in persuading the right woman to take him on, he had to tread carefully.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Tormentors by Stanley Wilkin

Stanley Wilkin's horrific glimpse into the inhuman violence of war.

The sun flashed into his eyes as he peered out of the foliage. He tightened his grip on his rifle. He moved his head back into the shadows sinking slowly once more into the copious fern. He was sick of war. His friends lay in the dust a mile down the road, their many wounds saturated with heaps of busy feeding flies. How many friends had he left behind in such a condition?

“They’re around here somewhere.”

The voice was near, maybe in the nearby copse.

“I’m sure I hit one. At least one.”

It was an old man’s voice.

“Where is he then, if you shot him? Where is he?” Another exclaimed irritably. “Just like you. You thought you’d hit him. Always claiming you hit someone or other.” The man now sounded angry.

“Hey, don’t take it out on me. I’m telling you I hit him.”

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Konichiwa, Mr. Miyashita by Gary Ives

An ungrateful Baby Boomer rants about his parents boring stories about their past; by Gary Ives.

I suppose just about everyone of my generation, that's us Boomers, would admit that his parents had it rougher. But so what? Mom and Dad both grew up on farms during the depression. Instead of heading to college after high school Dad was drafted two days after his wedding and sent off to the war someplace over in the Pacific. Mom worked on her folk's farm. Yeah, yeah those tough times with all that hard work and privations; they're such a big deal now. That war, how long did it last? Four years? Whoop dee doo! But the way I see it theirs is the donkey work generation. We're the smart generation. I'll put my money on smarts every time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ordinary Average Guy by Jim Bartlett

Jim Bartlett's character Lee makes small talk with a friend about a visiting politician, but he has something to hide.

Lee slips out of the car and stretches from the long ride under a sky that looks like rain. Finding a dry spot on the cracked asphalt, he leans his wrapped package against the back door of the car and works his hand trying to get some feeling back. He glances over at Frazier, still behind the wheel listening to the radio.

Damn news. He'd heard enough of those reports over and over again on the trip here to last a lifetime.

He takes a step away from the car and looks around. From where he stands he notes the employee parking lot to be only half full, but it's still early. And it's a Friday.

"Gonna be a big day today," Frazier says, finally stepping out.

Lee shrugs, says nothing. He watches Frazier move to the front, kick a foot back against the bumper, and light a cigarette.

"Not sure why that asshole is comin' through these parts, ain't no one here gonna vote for him no way."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maintaining Appearances by Michael C. Keith

When Hank dreams his deceased friend is calling him from the grave, he decides to take action in Michael C. Keith's silly story.

 I wander in the ways of (dead) men,
Alike unknown and unknowing.
- Robert Burns

Like most everyone else, Hank Capron had an occasional nightmare. Lately, however, they had become more common and taken on a more personal and intense nature, as they centered on his longtime friend, Jacob Howell, who had died three years earlier.

Normally, his dreams about his close buddy dealt with events from their mutual pasts, such as the many trips they'd taken together, gatherings with close friends, games at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, and similar happenings. In other words, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. In fact, pretty mundane stuff.

Over the past week, however, Hank had dreamed that his always-dapper friend was talking to him from his grave. For five consecutive nights now, he had awakened in a cold sweat after dreaming of standing over Jacob's grave and hearing his voice beckon him. The message was the same each time, a plea to dig him up so he could make a crucial appointment. The otherworldly entreaty remained with him during his waking hours.

"Please, Hank, get me out of here. I must get somewhere. It's very important and can't be put off any longer!"