Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bad Positive by Feyisayo Anjorin

Banjo Johnson decides to end his promiscuity in favour of his dream woman Bukky Modele, but a former fling throws a spanner in the works; by Feyisayo Anjorin.

You loved your reputation as a ladies' man. Your lovers loved it too. They loved it for as long as your lies lasted. About a dozen girls had thought you were the only one for them, and they for you; until they came face to face with the shocking truth. Many hearts have been broken. But these things happen. These issues of the heart separate the women from the girls. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger; so they say.

They also say that change is the only permanent thing. So, you got tired of your reputation and decided to change. You had it in mind before you met Bukky Modele. She helped with the determination, no doubt about that. You have been seeing yourself in a different light after meeting her. Getting the pretty girls had been easy for you; loving only one and ignoring the countless others could be difficult.

The difficult became the appealing; you were sure it was time for change, and the girl you thought was the one in a million, worth growing old with, was Bukky Modele.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Love of the North Country by Ceinwen Haydon

Ceinwen Haydon's character gets a letter from an old boyfriend who broke her heart.

This beautiful summer's evening should wrap me in its arms and make me feel complete: starry sky, warm wind and gentle dunes. I should be happy to be here, away for several days with no obligations. Away in Northumberland, staying by the coast I love the best; lingering by the wild, unpeopled ocean's edge.

I should be happy, but I am not. All I can think about is the letter, the one that came last week. He, Tom that is, wants to come back. Tom wants our life together to be reprised. The words scramble my brain, making it impossible to concentrate, or to submit to gentle mindfulness in this lovely place.

I'd thought that Tom was my alter ego, my soul mate. After years of rollercoaster relationships, the ups and downs of frenetic pairings, lust making, disillusionment and separating, I'd been ready at the age of 35 to be steadier, to explore more deeply. To maybe have a child. Enter Tom: the man who sat next to me on the train from London to Newcastle, a random meeting as I headed north to Hadrian's Wall. I'd planned a week's walking. We talked; he made me laugh and I spent the week in bed; lying prone in in his small flat in Jesmond. No, not having wanton, orgasmic sex, but being nursed to health by this apparently kind and gentle man. Somewhere around Doncaster, a fever had broken, and influenza surfaced. I'd left London strong and purposeful, and arrived in November's North Country as a trembling, perspiring child with fetid breath.

Friday, September 26, 2014

No Good Deed by James Shaffer

Hank waits out a storm in his caravan and thinks back over his romantic life with Alice; by James Shaffer.

I put on my flashers and pulled the caravan over to the side of the road hoping to wait out the worst of the storm. I kept the engine running but silenced the wipers. Heavy raindrops pounded the cab's roof like a tenor drum chorus and rainwater zigzagged in rivulets down the windscreen. Intermittent flashes of lightning cast shadows that glistened and slithered over the cab's interior. Even in the darkness between, I knew the silent serpents were still moving. It put me in a tribal mood. I caught my face in the rear view mirror. At that moment, I could have put on war paint, run naked in the road and sounded a Commanche war cry. It felt like that kind of night, filled with a mysterious mist and windswept streaks of rain. I switched on the headlamps and through the slant of sparkling raindrops, watched the barren road disappear in darkness beyond the reach of any light. The driving rain and darkness gave me pause. I was safe and dry inside the cab. I smiled at what I'd contemplated as I fired up the wipers and pulled back out onto the road.

Civilization was once again spared, I mused. The sight of me running naked in the rain would no doubt have been perceived as a setback, an irreparable fault in the space-time continuum. It would have set everything just a bit askew. Better to spare the future, unwitting generations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Rooming House by Fred Skolnik

Fred Skolnik's character can't remember where he lives in this unsettling tale, with echoes of Kafka and Karinthy's Metropole (originally appeared in 34th Parallel, no. 4, Sept. 2008).

I got back late in the afternoon. Cars were double-parked in a roped-off area in front of the building but there were no cars parked at the curb, which I found odd. A teenage girl came by on a skateboard and at the end of the street veered to the left and continued down a side street rather than continuing straight ahead as I had expected her to do. I went inside and climbed the stairs. My room was on the second floor but when I got there I didn't recognize the door so I went up another flight of stairs thinking that the second floor might be the one above it, the ground floor not being counted, but I didn't find my room there either and as the doors had no numbers on them I was at a loss and couldn't understand what had happened. Some of the doors were open and the rooms seemed larger than mine and men were coming out of a bathroom that was also extraordinarily large, as big as the rest rooms at a public beach. I went back down and saw one of the spinsters who ran the rooming house in the sitting room with a mother and child who must have been boarders. I went to the front desk and told the woman there that I had forgotten where my room was and she directed me to a tall girl behind the desk who looked for my name in a big ledger.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fifth Period Stats by Kaila Allison

Kaila Allison's frightening insight into the mind of a psychopathic schoolboy.

So, it's Eric here, duh, coming at you from fifth period Stats class where I am - you guessed it - bored as all Holy Hell. I don't get why people do this shit. Looking at the fat, broad back of Mr. L as he scribbles formulas on the chalkboard makes me sick. That globby fold of skin at his neck is not a pretty picture. Bet you he hasn't been laid, well, ever. Poor bastard. Gave me an A last quarter, can you believe it? And I didn't even show up to all the tests and everything. Just told him my sweet old doggy-woggy died and I'm suffering from post-traumatic depression so couldn't come to class. Bastard will believe whatever shit comes out of my mouth cuz he's secretly in love with me, that fairy. I'm really a good student when I want to be.

Perked my head up when one of the questions that the old L gave us had been about suicide rates and amount of homework given at school. Wow, these profs really trying to tell us something, are they? Raising a generation of zombie-children, are they? Suckling on books like they're food or something. Lotta stuff you can learn from books, like how to build pipe bombs and how to get guns when you're underage. But we don't read those kinds of books in school. We read shit like Shakespeare. That guy's pretty smart, with all his puns and stuff. Quite like his bloody scenes too, like all those deaths at the end of Hamlet. I like when Ophelia drowns herself. But the profs don't linger on that because they have deadlines to meet with the state.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Traditions by Kendra Beauchesne

Kendra Beauchesne's touching flash about a ten year old bonding with her mother while fixing a car.

I remember sitting and listening to my mom talk about that car. Her eyes would light up as she spoke. Her father was a television repairman, but he had an addiction to fixing cars. He bought it used. More like very damaged. She would talk about how she would spend hours in the yard with him. He taught her everything he knew about cars, and the proper tools to use. She also learned about life. They would talk for hours as he worked.

After she found my grandfather dead in his home, the car and house was given to her. She doted on that car. I think perhaps because it was her fondest memory of him. We didn't have much money, but when something would need fixing on that car she did everything she could to fix it. One summer afternoon we were headed home from the grocery store, and smoke began to come from under the dark blue hood. Trying to shift gears, it sputtered. A loud grinding sound emanated from under the car. She turned to me and said, "Want a pound while I'm grinding?" She laughed so hard. I was only ten at the time so I didn't get the joke.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let America Happen by Feyisayo Anjorin

Feyisayo Anjorin's Nigerian character sees his girl stolen away by bald little Jassy Akanmi, and becomes convinced that he needs to visit America to win her back.

So your favourite girl did something that shocked you and surprised you. The girl you loved like a love song. There was a time when you thought of your future together; unbridled thoughts of a rosy future that made you heady. You didn't listen to the people who told you with solemn or stern expressions to take it easy with this love thing. After all you were an idealistic youth and it was far easier to gloss over issues and put a positive spin on them than it was to listen to the advice of people who seemed to think that every hopeful person would turn out as miserably as they've turned.

But you felt like a loser when your girlfriend did the unexpected. It would have been more bearable if she had not left you for Jassy Akanmi, the one that was called baldlilthing in your days in secondary school because his small head was always shaved, and he was the shortest in the class. You knew him before he travelled to the US. You remembered his worn-out and oversized shirts, and his ankle length trousers. He was usually in his bathroom slippers with his feet covered with a brown film of dust. There was a time when his feet had cracks of dryness. Baldlilthing was one of the most pathetic sights in your town until he travelled to America.

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

An addle-brained ageing rocker stumbles into a meeting with his devil of a manager, Nigel Whitehead II; 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.