Friday, October 21, 2016

Retirement Plans by Mary J. Breen

Peggy travels to visit her estranged sister and finds her to be friendlier than she remembered - but is something else at play? By Mary J. Breen.

Peggy dropped the bills and fliers on the table, and took a table knife to slit open a small, creamy envelope. A piece of thick paper unfolded itself. "Look at this, Keith. A real letter. Who the hell writes letters anymore?"

Keith sighed and looked up from his bowl of no-name, no-sugar, no-fat cereal.

She turned it over. "Well, well. It's from Ty. What kind of stupid name is that anyway?"

Keith shrugged. "I think it's Tyrone. He's English."

"I know that, but... Lord. Cora and her men. So, listen. I'll read it to you."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mixed Doubles by Michael McCarthy

When a passenger plane disappears over the ocean, Susan is captivated by a man hopelessly waiting in the airport for his wife to return from the flight - but Susan's partner thinks she is being foolish; by Mike McCarthy.

'It's amazing how your life can change or end just like that. Pure luck.' Susan waited, knowing the response, if any, would not be immediately forthcoming. 'Ian, do you realise how lucky we are?'


'I'm talking about that plane that disappeared over the ocean.'

She looked at him, his eyes riveted to the screen of his tablet as he played yet another round of his favourite game, something to do with kidnapping and escape. That set the scene for the journey home from work. In fact it didn't so much set the scene as continued it. But she tried.

'You know, Ian. There must be people at the airport, waiting hopelessly in vain for their loved ones. Maybe we could just help. Offer a shoulder.'


'Ian!' She jabbed him in the ribs.

'Ouch! That hurt. Can't you see I'm busy?'

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chained! by Matthew Harrison

Matthew Harrison imagines a dystopian future in which conjugal rights are strictly enforced.

Steve hadn't read the small print of his marriage contract, and with the honeymoon over, the breaches began mounting up.

From his cubicle in the Finance department of Proscribed PLC, he glanced up at passing female colleagues, even talked to one of them, and he more-than-glanced when passing the cubicle of Tina the certified office hottie. At lunch in the canteen, his seat in the raised area afforded a view of the cleavage of female colleagues sitting below.

As if this wasn't enough, Steve browsed some debatable websites, and on the way home passed a poster of a scantily-clad starlet. The sensors recorded all of this, relayed it to the blockchain where it was compared with the prescribed parameters, and presto! he was notified that he had gone over his contractual limit.

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Atlantis in the Pacific Ring of Fire by Bruce Costello

Bruce Costello's bleak vision of the aftermath of an Apocalyptic earthquake in Dunedin, New Zealand.

When the 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Dunedin, New Zealand’s southernmost city, in October 2021, Clive Pengelly was asleep with his wife Julia in their hillside home, high above the central business area and the lower suburbs.

There was a noise like a crashing aircraft and the house bucked and reared, tossing both against the bedroom wall, before hurling them to the floor.

Julia ran screaming from the room. Clive felt about in vain for the emergency torch from the bedside cabinet, and then groped his way along the hall towards the front door, where he could hear Julia. Something collapsed in front of him with a roar of bricks and mortar. The air was like breathing in a vile kind of icing sugar and he coughed and wheezed until he started dry retching.

Retreating with his hand over nose and mouth, he stumbled through the kitchen towards the back door, but the floor was awash with a slippery mess and he fell, banging his head. Dazed, he realised he was lying in the chicken soup that Julia had made the night before and left on the bench to cool.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Fourteen Fourteen Curse by William Quincy Belle

Donald starts experiencing time jumps in his apartment in William Quincy Belle's creepy story.

Donald tucked the blue recycling bin under one arm and stepped into the hall. He pulled the door closed and walked down the corridor.

"Hey, Donald." The man came toward him, looked at the blue bin and held up his own. "Saturday's chores. Let's all be good to the environment."

"I try to do my part, Mr. Buntrock." Donald nodded and smiled as he passed. In the utility room, he emptied his bin into a chute in the wall. He listened to the various items clatter as they fell fourteen stories to the basement.

Back in his apartment, he went into the living room and saw the stack of newspapers from the previous week. "Oh, shoot." He got out the blue bin and filled it then walked around looking for other things. He took an almost empty bottle of orange juice from the refrigerator and smelled it. After pouring out the contents, he put it in the bin and headed back to the utility room.

"Hey, Donald." Mr. Buntrock walked toward him and held up his bin. "Saturday's chores. Let's all be good to the environment."

"Yes." Donald half-smiled, took a few steps and stopped. He stared after Buntrock then shook his head and continued with his errand.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mia Maybelle's Troubled Relationship With a Puppy of Pure Evil by Dakota James

Lonely young woman Mia gets the world's cutest puppy, only to find that everyone seems to care more for the dog than for her; by Dakota James.

"A puppy, it seems, has no desire that does not directly come from the instinct to get attention, as much attention as possible; as a result, a puppy can have no true relationship with, much less empathy for, its owner. Thus it would seem that while Dog may be Man's best friend, Puppy may be its worst enemy - no matter how cute the little shit is."

- Lost Excerpt from the Dialogues of Plato

One's early twenties can be a lonely and troubled time. It certainly was for Mia Maybelle. She had no friends, for one. She did have furniture, and she spent a lot of time on that furniture. And she clipped her toenails a lot.

Mia Maybelle, twenty-something-years-old, relatively financially successful, sufficiently well-humored, an avid runner, a reader of six or seven books a year, was desperate for companionship. So she decided to just do it. She could afford it, right? And she had enough money, didn't she? She had more than enough time, gosh darn it.

Mia got a puppy. She named it Samwell.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Another by Daniel Freeman

A writer-poet is confused when he finds books reserved in his name at his local small-town library, in Daniel Freeman's existential mystery thriller.

The wheels of my life began to come off one beautiful summer day when I drove into town to collect a couple books from the library. I had ordered a book on mazes and another about African masks, but when I walked to the reserve shelves, I found four books containing white slips of paper bearing my last name and first initial.

I pulled out the books to see their titles, and while the one on mazes and the other on masks were there, so were two I didn't order: Randomness Disproven: A Dialectic and The Art of Subterfuge. You may be thinking there really is nothing so unusual about this - after all, surely other people use the library who may share your last name and first initial. I grant you, while this may be likely for the J. Smiths, R. Johnsons and A. Robinsons of America, it doesn't hold in my situation. My name is Zachariah Sugkuria, so you could imagine seeing "Z Sugkuria" at any library would be unusual, let alone written on paper sticking out of books right next to mine in a small branch in the remote town of Guerneville, population 4,534. Aside from my mother, father and sister, all of whom lived back east, to my knowledge there were no other people with the last name Sugkuria in the U.S., let alone in the world. Our original family name - Sogkoria - had been exceedingly rare in Greece before it was mistakenly changed when my grandfather had come to America, and with that alteration, we ostensibly became the only people on the planet with that surname.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Last Train Out of Hell by Julie Carpenter

Julie Carpenter's comedic description of her stay in Hell, in which she must care for a demon cat, work a Sisyphean job, and eat clammy fries.

The train station was on the very outskirts of Hell. There was only one train coming in, Old Number 13, always coming in, never leaving. It was pulled by an ancient steam engine, and it was no match for most of the Hellscape, so it heaved and dragged itself to the outer edges of Hell and belched out its payload of souls onto the dilapidated platform. The train tracks ran into Hell Station through two steep, red, rocky banks, bubbling with blood red lava that seemed to come from nowhere and go nowhere, upon which small swarms of crimson demons clambered and scurried, switching their forked tails and brandishing pitchforks. They spat out small clouds of green poison, though it was mostly for show. It was their razor sharp teeth that kept the hillsides littered with bones. Their job was to keep the tracks clear to make sure the train could bring its payload of souls in from the Upper World and to make sure that no soul ever escaped back through the banks and tunnels that led back. None ever did.

The train station was located in Metaphorical Hell, Expected Hell, the one marketed in the Upper World. True Hell, the Indescribable Hell, was further in and deeper down. True Hell is hard to describe because, in the end, there's not much to it.

If you looked at all of Hell from the top, the very center was a sink hole, a huge black cavity with diameter enough for millions and millions of souls to fling themselves from the edges at once. Eventually, so we were told, the huge hole became smaller and smaller like a funnel. It was supposed that if you could make it to the very, very bottom you would find... nothing. Perhaps become nothing.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Portrait of the Invincible Overlord as a Young Man by William Squirrell

William Squirrell's visceral fantasy flash about a man born and bred on violence.

The screaming of the peasants was a lullaby from long ago. Aethelwulf could hear Mummy singing her tra-la-las: up and down their voices went, up and down, up and down. The shafts of cold light pierced the dust, and the smoke and the fog were sunbeams through the nursery shutters. The grime and the sweat and the blood tasted of oats and milk and honey. He was happy, happy at his work, happy to feel the heft of his sword at the beginning of its arc, happy to feel its weightless zenith, happy at the jarring shudder of contact. They weren't much of a challenge, these tithe rebels with crooked spears and dull axes, no challenge at all, but better than nothing, better than playing cards in some dreary barracks, better than drunken arguments at the Spitted Pig, better than putting the city militia through their paces again and again and again in the cat-piss stink of the drill yard at the north gate.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Educating the Nerd by Beryl Ensor-Smith

University lecturer Andrew takes a sabbatical to complete his doctoral thesis, but despite his secluded surroundings he finds himself distracted by a bored canine; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

When he first arrived in the quiet country village, Andrew was convinced he would complete his doctoral thesis in the year's sabbatical he had taken from university lecturing. When he left two months later he carried the weight of yet another responsibility, one for which he felt ill equipped; and his thesis? It had barely got started!

In the beginning everything looked rosy. The old family holiday house he had hired through a colleague suited him fine. Its thick walls kept out the summer heat and it was isolated from most of the houses in the village. Not that there were many; just a few on either side of the main road, behind the few shops and businesses that lined it.

He had only one neighbour as the plot next door on the right was an overgrown tangle of weeds and shrubs. To his left was a house of similar vintage to the one he was renting, but at a lower level, so that when he stood on the big veranda onto which the kitchen opened he could look down onto it. It was presently uninhabited with curtains pulled across sightless windows. Both it and the house he was in were on long plots that sloped down to a wire link fence at the bottom, separating them from farmland on which was built a massive dam.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Neighbors by Eva Silverfine

Suzy tries to connect with her incommunicative neighbour in Eva Silverfine's quietly powerful flash fiction.

She had first noticed him a few weeks earlier. He was ambling along the fence line when the school bus pulled over to drop her off. He stopped in the bus' dust cloud and watched as she descended. She knew who he was - the Adlers' boy from the farm down the road. But she didn't really know him at all. Their parents had been feuding over some property since before she was born.

That night she asked her parents about him, Troy. How old was he? Now that she was in middle school, shouldn't he be on her bus? In fact, how come he'd never been on a school bus with her?

He's slow, they told her. He should be in high school, maybe even finished, but his parents took him out a long time ago. If they had any sense they would have kept him there, where at least he would've learned something. But those Adlers don't have much good sense, now, do they? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Macabre on Quimby Square by Sylph Trillingham Quimby, 18th Lady Rockingford of Rockingford on Quimby

In the years after the Great War, a young aristocrat befriends a disgraced recluse and helps him achieve his mysterious ambitions; by Fred McGavran.

How precious are the memories of a privileged girlhood. When the House of Lords was in session, Mother and I would accompany Lord Rockingford from his ancestral estate at Rockingford on Quimby to Quimby House in London to help ease his transition from country lord to passionate advocate for aristocratic causes. Mother, who was in service, often left me alone in the evenings, whilst she awaited Lord Rockingford's return from his club in the event he desired a hot toddy or other refreshment. Our room was on the third floor overlooking Quimby Square.

Like a sailor high upon the mast, I watched for the carriage lights that would signal His Lordship's return. Across the Square loomed the black, unlit bulk of Jaeger House, where in my childish fantasies I imagined all sorts of evil things dwelt. When I stared at it long enough, the fa├žade emitted a pin prick of light, as if some monster were peering out for its next victim.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Which Way the Wind Blows by Charlie Taylor

Troubled schoolchild Finn plays truant and whiles away the time at home - but something is stalking him from the barley field out back; by Charlie Taylor.

The field of ripening barley at the rear of 34 Butcher's Lane moved with the breeze. The passing clouds created alternating shadows and sunbright patches that added to the illusion that the whole was a living thing. Distortions in the hand-blown window panes exaggerated the effect.

Finn was in the kitchen. He watched all of this from the window, first closing his left eye, then his right, then both. His imagination lingered in the field and from the recesses of his mind sprang to life Cowboys and Indians, then Commandos on daytime raids and then adventures in Africa. He was alone in the two up, two down, cottage in rural Lancashire, but his imagination knew no limits.

He poured himself a cupful of Tizer; fizzy, red pop barely masked the tea-stained inside of his cup. What did he care? He had drunk out of worse. An old tin can that had not very long before held maggots for his fishing expedition was fine for a slurp or two of Sarsaparilla last week on the banks of Ormerod's Pond.

Frankie, his fishing mate and best friend, had asked if they'd both get poisoned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Four Hours by Fred Skolnik

Fred Skolnik narrates the last four hours of Jake's life in stream of consciousness style.

The day of your death is a very special day. Ideally it should be planned, but of course we seldom know precisely when we are going to die so we come downstairs feeling just slightly unwell, thinking maybe it's heartburn, and don't pay much attention to it because we've had that feeling before, as when Jake came downstairs and saw Edna in the kitchen making breakfast though she knew he never ate before nine and here it was only eight so they started bickering right away and when he went into the dining room he saw that the paper was just thrown down on the table instead of being laid out at the proper angle beside his place mat where his coffee cup should have been as in the early years of their marriage when he had called her Edna Too Good for Too Good To Be True, which was a play on her maiden name, and had loved her madly. He sat down and glanced at the paper. From the kitchen Edna shouted, "You want coffee?" and Jake said, "I'll get it myself," but didn't get up because he wasn't in the mood for coffee either and that too happened occasionally though his life was perfectly ordered, machinelike even: downstairs by eight, the newspaper, the coffee, a quick look outside to see what the weather was like, breakfast at nine, and the house to himself till lunchtime because Edna was still working half a day as a cashier in the family delicatessen and would bring cold cuts back for lunch though she warned him time and again that they weren't the healthiest thing to eat. He'd been eating restaurant food for forty years and figured it was no worse than any other kind of food, not paying much attention to the health faddists just as he paid no attention to the antismokers being a cigar smoker himself so in any case there wouldn't be a problem there, as he saw it. Jake usually had his first cigar after breakfast sitting out in the yard and finishing the paper and often went down to the club where men like himself played gin rummy or pinochle most of the day, settling up outside because gambling wasn't allowed on the premises, but today he didn't feel like going out just as he didn't feel like having coffee or his breakfast and Edna said, "You all right?" and Jake said, "Yeah, yeah," in the tone he used when he didn't want to be bothered.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cake by Genevieve Shapiro

Doug's obsession for sweet treats may have gone too far... by Genevieve Shapiro.

Doug added a king-size bag of assorted gumdrops to his shopping cart and clicked on "fun size" in the left navigation column. Twenty pages. Too much. He filtered the results by clicking on "chocolate." Five pages of mini candy bars.

"Okay, now we're talking," he murmured, and began flicking through the options. Babe Ruth for sure. They'd been his favorite since he spent his first allowance. He added a 11.5-oz bag of those. He was an old-fashioned dude when it came to candy. Mounds were his other favorite, and he got a five-pack of their snack-size bars. He was going to keep looking but a reminder popped up on his screen:

"Time to go home."

No snoozing on this task. He clicked "dismiss" and went to the checkout to pay for his goodies. Within four minutes he'd completed his purchase, saved the report which had been open in the background for the last half hour, logged off his computer, changed his shoes, and left the office. What should he get for dinner?