Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Alexandrian Shift by Gary Ives

Gary Ives imagines a world in which Alexander the Great returns as an Olympic god in 1955 and uses television to spread tolerance and peace throughout the world.

As Alexander the Great lay dying in Babylon gods were summoned to Mt. Olympus by Zeus. "Well there you have it. We imbue this mortal with a healthy dollop of our better attributes: strength, wit, an array of intelligences, and this is what it comes to. Before Alexander diverse nations collapsed as barley to the scythe, and then as conqueror he became loved by the vanquished. Like a welcome spring rain, knowledge, tolerance, and peace descended upon all. Hitherto the only thing these idiots had ever understood was brutal conquest, yet when we provide them the conqueror of the ages, a conqueror to teach them compassion and respect for differences, the best they can do is to grumble, mutiny, and now this cowardly assassination, this unmanly poisoning of our dear Alexander whom we had so engendered to fix their dark, broken world. What a wretched disappointment is mankind, promising, so capable with music and poetry to bring us, the gods, to tears, yet that golden creativity is but thin plate over the base metals of perfidy, greed, and sustained, prevalent ignorance. Hades, I'm ready to turn the whole lot over to you."

Athena rose, "Father, may I suggest that mankind needs more time for the seeds that Alexander has sowed to germinate."

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Text Message by Kate Sprandio

Kate Sprandio narrates a wonderfully neurotic and misguided stream of consciousness about her character's new man.

"I'll text you tomorrow, gorgeous."

That's what he said last night, Saturday, when he dropped me off. I'm almost positive he called me gorgeous. If he didn't say gorgeous then he definitely said beautiful, one of the two. It doesn't really matter what he said, the general consensus is he likes my face. He smiled when he said it, it was right after he kissed me on the cheek. My cheek is still glowing red like I was slapped, love slapped. It was our first date and it was, for lack of a greater word, "majestic." We only went to a pizza shop around the corner, but it was the most perfect pizza shop my eyes have ever seen, mostly because I was sitting face to face with him.

We met a few weeks ago at a concert. A fight broke out in the crowd right near where I was standing. I nearly got hit, that's when he stepped in and pulled me from harm.

"I've got you beautiful, don't worry," he said, as he scooped me up into his arms. He said something like that. He definitely said, "I've got you."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

After the Bombardment by Brooke Fieldhouse

Mefta, an Asian expelled from Uganda, battles his self-centred landlord to try and make ends meet as a pensioner in Scarborough; by Brooke Fieldhouse.

'...We expect the full report to be completed next week, but I thought you would be interested to know that the fragments of metal taken from the superstructure of your property came from a shell fired from a German warship on 16th December 1914...'

'It would appear,' says Jim, 'that we are eligible to claim compensation for war damage... plus compound interest over one hundred years,' he adds with an electrified smile.

'It could be the end of our troubles.'

Mr Mefta suddenly feels exhausted.

'It could be the beginning of them.'



Mr Mefta dreaded the Scarborough foghorn. It wasn't so much the dismal adenoidal hum which it made every few seconds; it was the silence which followed each dead note. It seemed that during the intervals between its grim dirges, everything else in the world ceased to exist.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Free-Range by Anthony Merklinger

Anthony Merklinger imagines a bovine supermarket in this creepy flash.

It was eight o'clock on a Sunday morning, and the bovines began to assemble at the local supermarket.

"What are you making tonight, Ma?" the calf said, stretching its legs on the black pavement.

"I was thinking ribs or sirloin."

The cow removed a grocery list from her purse.

"What do you want?"

"If you make ribs, can we have mashed potatoes?"

"Certainly," said the cow, and the calf was beaming.

Together they walked into the market, where all manner of creatures - the big and the small - were bustling.

"Wow. There's a lot of people here today," said the calf.

"Stay close to me, and be careful. The stock gets a little fussy when the market gets busy."

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Monster by William Quincy Belle

A little girl won't sleep for fear of a monster - and sure enough she gets a visit in the night; by William Quincy Belle.

"There's a monster under my bed!"

Julie pulled the blanket up to her chin. Her eyes darted around in the semi-darkness. She held her breath listening intently. Did something move? Was there a scratching noise on the floor? She took a breath, then leaned over to the side table and picked up her flashlight. She flipped it on and pointed it at the floor. Moving the beam of light around, she carefully inspected the entire left side of her bed.

She scooted over to the other side of the bed, then twisted so she had her head and arm over the edge. Once again she moved the flashlight around, trying to see if there was anything there.

"Mommy!"

Julie moved back into the middle of the bed and lay back on her pillow. She held the flashlight straight up and stared at the circle of light on the ceiling. What was she going to do? There was no doubt she was going to be eaten alive tonight.

"Mom!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Luxury Suite by Gabriel Franklin

Addle-brained ageing rocker Nigel Whitehead II stumbles into a meeting with his devil of a manager; by Gabriel Franklin.

Why do all hotels look alike? I hope this is the right one.

Nice, weren't they? The two birds at the door. Just wanted an autograph, they said - but that's a lie, innit? It's never just an autograph, it's just what they think they can get away with asking for. Nice tits, though. Never get tired of the young ones. Well, not true. Some days you just want everyone to fuck off, even hot, young groupies.

What they all want is a piece of the best pie. The slice of 'heaven pie' I think someone used to say. Any piece of you will do, thanks kindly. Autographs are just socially acceptable pieces. They'd take your arm off if they thought they could get away with it.

Which hotel is this? What city is this, for that matter? Los Angeles. Right. Name of the hotel doesn't matter, I guess. I know this is the right one 'cuz I recognized the doorman. Scottish bloke. Nice to chat with someone from the homeland, even if he's Scottish.

Now, my room key is usually in my left pocket and, thank Christ, it's there. There's nothing I hate more than having to endure that amused look the desk clerk gets when I explain that I lost the bloody key. That thin fucking smile they try to hide but fail miserably. 'Oh, he's a funny old rocker, he is. Drugs addled his brain so much, he wouldn't know his arse from a hole in the ground, poor sod.' Fuck you, Miss Desk Clerk. Fuck you very much.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Debacle by Beryl Ensor-Smith

In the sleepy dorp of Prentburg, Christina du Plessis take it upon herself to fulfil her friend's dying wish to be buried with her dog; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

After the event, Christina du Plessis decided that it was only because nothing interesting had happened in the dorp for weeks that her usual sagacity had deserted her and she had become involved in something best left alone.

It had all started one hot afternoon when she was trying to have a conversation with Hans. Trying, because he was not being very co-operative and merely grunted in a most annoying way when a response was required. Perhaps it was that, that prompted her to interest him more in what she was saying? After several grunts, she changed the subject.

"Hans, did I tell you that Minky died yesterday?"

Hans racked his brains. Minky? Who the heck was Minky?

Seeing his baffled expression, Christina said resignedly: "Minky, Hans. Old Mrs. Jacobs' dog."

"But old lady Jacobs died some time ago, didn't she?"

"Six months, almost to the day, but Hilda gave Minky a home and she's now distraught."

Hans pondered some more. Hilda was his wife's best friend and in his opinion, a strange woman. Trying to imagine her 'distraught' was beyond his capabilities.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Believer by Jeannette Pontician

Julie has no patience for religion, but she agrees to take her cancer-riddled mother to a faith healer; by Jeannette Pontician.

Margie is a Believer, so it didn't surprise Julie when her mother said, "The Lord will take care of things, Julie. I believe in Him." Her eyes never wavered as she patted Julie's hand. Julie nodded and forced a smile, dark hair hanging like drapes along her olive face. She kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead, gripping the steering wheel.

"God has a plan, Julie. I know it. My church group is praying hard," Margie said before opening the car door. Julie paused for a moment to wipe her eyes before following her mother into the building.

The elevator ride up to the oncology floor was silent. Julie stood there, holding tight to her coffee, watching her mother rub her fingers over the cross that dangled from around her neck. The doctor's office was on the top floor. The waiting room was full of soft chairs and blue painted walls. Margie walked in, waving to the nurses behind the reception desk.

"Dr. Isen will be with you in a moment, Margie. Have a seat."

"This office reminds me of what it must be like in heaven," Margie whispered to Julie as she sat down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Years After by Pathos

Pathos' character is visited by a child he used to bully in this creepy tale.

"Who are you?"

"You don't remember me?"

"You turned out the lights, how can I remember someone I can't see?"

"I wonder if you ever saw me."

"Who the hell are you?"

I remember feeling frustrated. This strange, dark voice taunting me with riddles of the past. The sun had been washed away by the storm. I could hear the patter of rain on pavement all around me, and I could feel the raindrops heavy upon me. They were different, room temperature, salty. A wail of despair like a clap of thunder startled me from above. And I could then hear it: the weeping. I could hear so many soft voices from the heavens: sobbing, sniffling, crying. This rain: it was made of tears. A monsoon of shame and sorrow beating down upon me, threatening to flood the world like in the times of Noah.

I tried to swim through the nebulous darkness which swirled relentlessly around me. Without light I was without hope. I could be doomed to wander aimlessly through this cruel abyss until I finally drowned in the tears of the forsaken.

"Are you controlling this?" I asked the voice.

"Could one pair of eyes shed so many tears?"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Burning Bush by O. D. Hegre

A businessman who uses God to justify his ruthless capitalism buys a plot of land featuring a religious relic; by O. D. Hegre.

Millard sipped his drink and looked over at the flowering shrub. He had purchased the Scottsdale estate some six months ago. They had residences all over the world, but his dying wife wished to spend her final days back home in Arizona. She had fallen in love with the property - especially the landscaping.

The estate lay nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, not far from the Mayo Clinic where she could embark on a new experimental treatment for her condition. But his attorneys had advised him that the asking price topped the range of comps. The seller had priced the estate with regard to the extensive landscaping and in particular, the rare bramble bush which now held Millard's full attention.

During the negotiations, the seller's agent, a young woman in her mid twenties, had explained to Millard that the owner - a Madame Romani - frequently traveled to the Middle East. "Twenty years ago she had obtained a cutting from what the Monks of St. Catherine's Monastery claimed to be the original bramble and planted it here, in her back garden," the agent said.

"The original bramble?" Millard asked.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Swan River Daisy by Tom Sheehan

Chester McNaughton Connaughton buys a new parcel of land and finds himself in trouble with the local Saxonish authorities when a large paddle steamer appear in the middle of his field; by Tom Sheehan.

Chester McNaughton Connaughton, aptly named for both sides of the family, landowner in the new world, squeezer of pennies and nickels and the very corpulence of coin, embarrassed at times by his own good fortune where his roots had once been controlled and ordained by potatoes and turnips or the lack thereof, gazed over his latest acquisition of a two-acre parcel abutting his prime abode and wondered how he could best utilize it. Mere coinage, he had early assessed, would apply the jimmy bar under Carlton Smithers and separate him from the land in their town of Saxon. Carlton was old, alone, susceptible. It would be a piece of cake. It was, subsequently and as he had forecast, a swift steal, and papers and proper process moved the property under the shield of his name.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All Mixed Up by Elizabeth Archer

When Adrianna has an accident with a hair straightener in her bathtub, she gets a chance to reflect on her relationship with good-for-nothing Charlie; by Elizabeth Archer.

When Adrianna electrocuted herself straightening her hair in the bathtub, a Death Ghoul came to drag her to Hell much faster than she expected. One minute she was screaming in the tub of suds, wondering if those warnings about electricity and water were true after all. The next minute a black blob was slipping under the door, forming itself into a menacing shape. Glowing red eyes peered out of the mist.

Yep. It was a Death Ghoul alright. She'd seen one on TV. But didn't they just drag evil characters off to hell?

She shouldn't be damned. Charlie was the one cheating with that skank Kayla. It was his fault she needed to soak in calming lavender oil. Then her hair started frizzing. If Charlie came around begging her to forgive him, she'd wanted to look her best.

At least now she wouldn't have to unfriend him on Facebook. She had unfriended life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do You Have Any Instincts? by Kacy Cunningham

Kacy Cunningham's oblique vignette about a struggling relationship.

We sat across from each other, a gesture that took effort - you slid the chair away from my side, straddled the thing, its wooden back creaking. You searched everyone's face but mine.

"Coffee's good," I said. Your leg was tapping under the table, your eyes still moving. "Is it too hot?" I asked.

"It's fine," you said, looking at your cup suddenly. "It's good."

It was a drafty corner place made of thin sheets of wood. Your father lived just three blocks uphill.

When we first met, we spent hours in cafés. I was only sixteen and the bartenders always knew. We ordered hot teas, black coffee, espressos, muffins, and warmed scones. Anyway, I liked those café days.

Why am I telling this to you, you who was there too? Why not to someone new, someone who wasn't there? It's a good question. The way I figure it, you must've forgotten. I mean, you must have. Even me. I started forgetting too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Own Executioner by Michael Saad

Jebediah-Todd Fallard attends an ordinary Sunday church sermon, and unexpectedly comes face-to-face with a horrific moment from his past; by Michael Saad.

Church is supposed to be a place to infuse one's life with spirituality, a place to reconnect with God, the teachings of Christ, and the larger Christian community where "good things take place." It wasn't supposed to be the place where you suffered a blindside ambush, an encounter so horrifying that the insides of your stomach melted as though you had just swallowed a bottle of drain cleaner. Yet that is what JT felt, watching the guest speaker for today's sermon standing at the podium, speaking on the topic of cleaning up one's life, and welcoming Jesus Christ into his world.

Oh my God, what the hell? JT thought, squirming in his seat. He had no idea this man was going to be here today. JT had come to church thinking it would be another routine Sunday sermon, hearing Pastor Terry talk about fellowship, sin, looking to the Bible for answers. Instead, the Pastor spoke for only two minutes, then introduced the guest speaker. JT hadn't thought much of the introduction - he had never heard the special guest's name before, but his interest spiked upon hearing that the man had been involved in an urban gang, and served time in jail. It only took looking up into those dark, beady eyes, then a mere five seconds of hearing the man's voice, and JT found himself face-to-face with the Devil - the man who had tormented his dreams, and lured him into the darkest of his fantasies - for the past twenty-five years.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Experiment Requires by Anne Goodwin

A lecturer introduces a group of teenage schoolchildren to the study of psychology be re-enacting an infamous 1970s social experiment; by Anne Goodwin.

TEACHER: Okay, let's see how many of those word pairs you've remembered. I'm going to read out the first word of each pair followed by four alternatives. Your task is to tell me which of these four words was originally paired with the first. You got that?

LEARNER: Yes.

TEACHER: Let's get going then. Green - grass, shoe, box, hat. Answer, please.

LEARNER: Box.

TEACHER: Correct. Next one: Fish - hand, pie, walk, slow. Answer, please.



Stella shepherds her troupe into the classroom and closes the door. She struts to the front and pretends to check the papers on her clipboard while she watches how the sixth formers select their seats. As expected, they mostly congregate towards the back of the room. Only two of the group, a slouching red-haired boy with a complexion more acne than skin and a poised young woman with ironed-straight hair and perfect makeup, brave the front row. Stella marvels at the varying manifestations of late adolescence: he with all the social graces of a thirteen-year-old, while she could quite easily pass for twenty-five. She sighs as the boy struggles to manoeuvre the clip-on desk into place. The more he tries the more complicated he seems to find it. It reminds her of a scene from one of those excruciating Laurel and Hardy films that her grandmother used to find so amusing.

"For God's sake can somebody help him before he wrecks the furniture," she says.