Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Untitled by Ulrich Burke

A charismatic fantasy featuring mutant mercenary bikers, by Ulrich Burke.

"Eathy money, you thaid. No problemth, you thaid."

I grunted and tottered into the cave, only too thankful to be in one piece. Shucking the heavy, tight-sealed, brown maxplas box and the large leather satchel I'd been carrying for the last eighteen miles, I sank down on the floor next to it. "There didn't seem to be any harm in a little well-paid courier work."

Harich dropped his box and satchel beside mine and began looking around the cave. "Tell that to our fan club."

We'd met a man in a bar, three Settlements back, with a daughter who was getting him noticed by everyone, for the girl was obviously radiation-affected. He'd wanted a couple of boxes carried to a farm. He'd given us boxes, map, even a couple of battered motorbikes. At the other end, two thousand creds. In addition to the thou that had come with the boxes. Harich had glanced at the map once and eaten it. I've got to cure him of that one. He'd seen it done in some ancient film, tried it once and got to liking the taste. Nobody who doesn't know him could believe he could remember a map after one glance. But he can. He does everything top speed.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Good Vibrations by T L Cummings

A non-humanoid alien race, who communicate by tapping into the resonant frequencies of their planet, react to a visit from the human race, by T.L. Cummings.

The guests left after giving polite congratulation and soon they found themselves alone.

Despite what had seemed years of preparation, the wedding was completely unlike the event they had planned. But in the days leading up to today they had anticipated little else. It was done and they were married, and that was the important thing. Secretly both wished they had delayed the event, but neither had wanted to voice this, and so it had transpired as scheduled.

At this point, in the course of any normal wedding, the couple would remove themselves from the celebratory noise, from the gathering of friends and family and officials and find a quiet, secluded place where they could be alone. Leading up to a normal wedding the couple would be shivering with anticipation for days or weeks before the union, desperate to come together, at last, on this the most sacred and important of nights.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Planned Retirement by Bill Monks

Bill Monks' fascinating tale of a loveable rogue's plan to escape to a lifetime of wealth and happiness.

I sat on the sand watching the breakers beat upon the beach. I found it hard to believe that I had been on Maura for five years. The early morning surf fishing finished, I gathered up my gear and ambled up to my villa on the hill. By my appearance, I could be taken for a native islander. The part of my body that was not covered by my sarong was brown as a coffee bean. My long, white hair partially covered by a red bandanna was tied in a knot.

On deciding to become a permanent resident on the island I had purchased a large tract of beach property and had a villa erected on the hill overlooking a lagoon on one side and the endless Pacific on the other. I had brought the blueprints of my new home with me, all part of my retirement plan. I imported the workers and material from Kyushu for its construction.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Helpless by Emmy Smith

A very close and personal, though mysterious, friend picks apart the emotional state of the complex protagonist in this story by Emmy Smith.

You make me laugh when you brush your teeth, always leaning uncomfortably over the basin so you don't get toothpaste foam on your towel. Every day it stays tucked neatly over your ignorable breasts, leaving nothing uncovered except your shoulders. I like those, one of the few things I do like. They look so smooth and satisfyingly round, I would touch them if I could. Rivers of black flow past them, wet and straggly. You should brush it before it gets too bad.

In the morning you look five years younger than usual, glutted with sleep. Your puffy cheeks fill up with the gas of dreams and you wash it all away in the shower.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fig Leaf by Andrew Coburn

An encounter on a New England nudist beach sparks off an unorthodox relationship in Andrew Coburn's characterful work.

They met on a Cape Cod beach, he a man of God and she an assistant district attorney, the two of them starkers. It was that kind of beach. He approached while she stood in a near-trance at the surf's edge, the cloud-soaked sun little more than a lemon stain. The cloud was shaped like Italy, a Sicily floating near its toe. The man's sudden shadow interrupted her reverie, and his voice put her on alert. His belly dished in, he told her she looked familiar and asked her name.

Margaret. His was Todd.

He knew no Margarets. She knew no Todds.

His inky sunglasses were perfect circles, hyphenated, around which Margaret sought to read his face while editing away the rest of him. Not bad-looking, but what was he, an overage hippie with a traditional haircut? A weekend naturist? She certainly wasn't, despite the circumstances and surroundings. With her modest breasts and supple legs, she was, for the nonce, a sprite.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dumb Shoe by Steve Fitzsimmons

Steve Fitzsimmons' brilliantly punny hardboiled P.I. spoof about the web of intrigue surrounding slug drugs.

I woke up and wished I hadn't. Sunlight was streaming through the windscreen of my Lincoln. The car was a hothouse of whisky fumes, stale cigarettes and dull pain. I'd have winced but it hurt too much. My neck felt like I'd been sleeping on a pile of rocks. So much for all the advertisements of opulent comfort. The shift lever was halfway up my trouser leg and my tie was caught up in the door window. No wonder I felt like I'd been hanged.

I groaned a groan that started at the tip of my toes and stopped at my ankles because it was too painful to go on. My head was as thick as Mulligatawny soup, my eyes looked like blood oranges, my face felt like a piece of pounded steak and my mouth tasted like a three-week-old pot of yoghurt. All in all, I was quite a dish.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Desensitised by Chris Gaskin

Chris Gaskin's philosophical confession of evil, expressed with such rage and disillusionment it is frighteningly believable.

Sentimentality makes us weak. That conclusion I arrived at while still a young boy and I suppose it was a contributing factor in my voluntary moral decline. I saw sentimentality as leading to a number of society's problems, including love between incompatible people, obesity, the decline of our Empire and bad pop music.

Without sentimentality, everything is permitted - or at least every thought is permitted. A non-sentimentalist such as myself never reproaches himself for suddenly deciding that he feels absolutely no respect for one of his closest friends or relatives. The best we can do is skulk around, wide-eyed and with gritted teeth, using every last drop of energy we possess to try and keep our disgusting thoughts internalised and hide the fact that we feel nothing except resentment, derision and the numerous complexes that accompany a belief in our own superiority as an organism.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Bastard by Adrian Kalil

An adolescent boy wakes up to find that his family will never be the same again in this thoughtful piece by Adrian Kalil.

I recall there was a violent and terrible winter storm and my brother and I had just had severe words. Our differences were momentarily quelled when our home unexpectedly lost power, forcing us to hunt for candles with our only flashlight.

That evening, we had comfortably passed the dark liquid hours reckoning a modest truce in front of the warm fireplace. The room's soft, quiet colors contrasted harshly with the conditions outside and I found our time strangely amicable. Indeed I wondered why we had ever had any disagreement at all; perhaps it was inevitable from our difference in age, I'll never know. Regardless, we were never able to discuss it at length and the more that time passed, the less of an issue it became.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Auto Da Fé by Rotimi Babatunde

Sinister playground games prove to be a rite of passage for the characters in Rotimi Babatunde's African moral tale.

All day long the talk had only been of the film to be viewed that afternoon and already a small crowd of uniforms was clustering around the door of the screening hall but far away and lost to all the frenzy, the boy with eyes half-closed stands rooted to the concrete expanse of the hostel rooftop, solitary on that giddy plane bare but for the cup crusted green in the corner and the sunbleached book gradually weathering to dust (beside the closed metal hatch door flat with the surface of the roof), his shirt billowing in the high winds gusting strong and steady.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Woolf in Vita's Clothing by Andrew Coburn

Two emotionally deadened misfits find themselves running away from everything except each other; by Andrew Coburn

Ten years ago a man named Benson married her and took her to North Dakota, where gigantic skies diminished her, winds haunted her, and winters oppressed her. Her only means of escape was a Greyhound bus. People in the town called it "riding the dog." She rode the dog to Chicago, arriving with forty-four dollars in her bag, which was a weight because much of it was in coin.

In a coffee shop she chose to sit beside a man who appealed to her in a comforting way. He had the sort of face, not entirely unattractive, that looked as if it wanted to be forgiven, the sin left to the imagination. At other moments, however, when he gazed at her over his coffee mug, she sensed something unexplained and inaccurate in his face.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gladiator by Sigfredo R. Iñigo

Philippine children bet on gladiatoral battles between spiders, by Sigfredo R. Iñigo

Dawn found Achilles spread-eagled on his web, now glistening with the cold dew, which he had spun the night before on the branch of a mahogany tree deep in the Philippine jungle. Suddenly, the branch stirred although there was no wind. Achilles tried to scurry inside a curved leaf when a tiny hand abruptly snatched him. The intruder, a boy, blew softly into the spider wriggling inside his cupped hand to soothe him back into sleep. When Achilles ceased struggling, the boy eased him gently into a tiny compartment in a spider house made from a discarded matchbox.

As he climbed down, the boy was excited. Achilles was a good catch, that he was sure of. He could tell by the way the spider wriggled its strong spindly arms when he grabbed it, its tiny mass sending electricity up his arm.

Faith in Cats and Unseen Things by Susynn Jane

A young girl sneaks out of bed on Halloween night to watch her mother's annual attempt to summon Norma's ghost, by Susynn Jane

Norma was the name my mother had given to the ghost she claimed lived in our house. According to Mama, Norma was responsible for any and all of the above: missing keys, misplaced shoes, pictures askew, and miscellaneous noises that seemingly had no explanation, like doors and cabinets that opened on their own. The house had belonged to the real, living Norma many years ago while she was alive, my mother told me, but old Norma would not move on to that better place in the afterlife.

For six years, each Halloween night, my mother had tried to contact our ghost to no avail.

Bad by Gary Brooks

Gary Brooks' colourful descriptive comedy about the fallout after a party in a student house, full of character, flamboyant turns of phrase, and strong language

'Get up! Why aren't you in bed?'

This from Martin's housemate Julia, an attractive girl whose fine brows were currently furrowed in a mark of exasperation, and - possibly - concern. Concern because Martin was lying on the floor of their shared shabby living room, dry mouthed and bleary eyed, with his body arrayed in a most uncomfortable position upon the shabbier brown carpet. Atoms of grit and dust clung tenaciously, like needy children, to both sides of his face; while both of his hands were coated in a sticky residue that could well have been beer, but could equally well have been something else entirely. What he assumed to be a cushion propped his head up, while what he knew to be an empty wine bottle performed the same service for his feet.

He flicked a cigarette butt from off his crotch.

The Alien Encounter by Kirby Belle

This very short story was written by Kirby Belle, a budding author who is only eleven years old

The street was bathed in a ghostly light, and an eerie drone filled the air. I headed for home after returning from my friend's house. Cautiously putting one foot in front of the other, I was none too aware that it was the witching hour. As I neared my destination, a large and round object touched down in the middle of the road. My trembling hand clutched the gate of my house; the unidentified object shimmered and glowed, making a humming and buzzing sound as if a hive of bees was living inside. I watched in fear as an entrance appeared and a ladder swung down, and a bizarre-looking creature wobbled to the ground.

The Angel of the Window by Loren Presley

Radiant angel Luxia and her faithful companion Corbett, a giant seagull, embark on a grand and dangerous Odyssey in Loren Presley's epic fantasy

The small angel floated amongst the world of the Stars and the Moon. The nightly heavenly bodies shone serenely in the dim, blue world all around. And though she knew it was all around her she almost never opened her eyes to see it. She spent most of her time with her face in her hands, crying.

She was a most beautiful angel. Her long hair was a shiny, glimmering, silvery blue, and glistened like bright moonlight on the ocean. She wore a beautiful, white dress that shone with luminosity. Perhaps her dress's light came from something else, as the moon gets its light from the sun. Her eyes were bright, glowing blue, yet not quite blue. Not a color seen ever on Earth, but it was a most gorgeous color, and would have reminded anyone of the color blue.

Baggio's Story by Charlie Fish

A man is determined to give up everything he owns, including his free will - but it turns out to be harder than he thought.

I would like to be a philosopher.

Well, anyone who has used the word "why" can argue that he is a philosopher. I want to be more than that. I want to be remembered as a philosopher.

One day I will be dead. People will look back at my life, and they might say I was a martial artist, for I have earned a seventh-dan black belt (in both karate and judo). They might say I was a musician, for I have composed successful operas (in three different languages). They might say I was a footballer, for I used to represent Italy (and scored twenty-seven goals for my country during my career).

But above all, they will say, he was a great philosopher.

The difference between a hobby and greatness is total immersion, to the sacrifice of all else. I must devote my entire life to this pursuit; I must give up absolutely everything for this cause.

I assumed that giving up my material wealth would be the easiest part of this quest, but it is proving not to be straightforward.

Cora by Charlie Fish

The aftermath of a drunken house party leads to a mysterious midnight encounter.

I realised I was the last person awake, apart from the hosts, so I prepared to leave. They weren't having any of it - they gave me a couple of sofa cushions and insisted that I crash in the spare room, if I could find any floor space.

I got up and wove my way through the debris from the house party. The hosts showed me the way and bid me goodnight. As I climbed the stairs, the light dimmed until I was feeling my way along the walls.

I stepped over bodies asleep on the landing. I nearly toppled twice, my balance compromised by holding the bulky sofa cushions. I felt my way to the spare-room door, and groped around in vain for a light switch.

Giving up, I swept my foot along the floor like a metal detector, trying to find an empty space in the pitch blackness. But there were people sleeping here too.

Death by Scrabble (or, Tile M for Murder) by Charlie Fish

A disillusioned man expresses his rage through the medium of Scrabble.

It's a hot day and I hate my wife.

We're playing Scrabble. That's how bad it is. I'm forty-two years old, it's a blistering hot Sunday afternoon and all I can think of to do with my life is play Scrabble.

I should be out, doing exercise, spending money, meeting people. I don't think I've spoken to anyone except my wife since Thursday morning. On Thursday morning I spoke to the milkman.

My letters are crap.

I play, appropriately, BEGIN. With the N on the little pink star. Twenty-two points.

The Man Who Married Himself by Charlie Fish

A strange comedy about an unusual union.

"Why not?"

With those two words, my good friend Reverend Zatarga changed the course of my life. When he said them to me, he had just spent two hours on the telephone with Bishop Fleming discussing various sections of the Bible in excruciatingly fine detail. He pointed out that Leviticus warns Christians not to marry their sister, aunt, mother, mother-in-law, daughter or even their granddaughter (should they be tempted). But nowhere in the Good Book is there a rule against marrying oneself. So when I told Reverend Zatarga that was exactly what I wanted to do, he eventually conceded those two fateful words:

"Why not?"