Monday, December 30, 2019

Toilet Paper is Expensive by Frank Beyer

Frank Beyer gives us a glimpse into the harsh life of seasonal labourers in southeastern Australia.

How's it going? I asked a guy sitting outside a tent reading Harry Potter. Do you know where to get work round here?

Yea, cotton chipping is the go, I work with Clive - he's got a full gang at the moment, but Bert is always looking for people. You should be able to sign up at the campground reception.

Cheers mate, I'll do that!

I went straight over to the reception signed up. I told Ross about it and he resentfully came out of his tent and went over to sign too. I had teamed up with my mate Ross in Sydney, he'd been doing some bar work there, but found nothing steady. Now we were in the middle of NSW, a one hill town, where Ross reckoned it'd be easy to find work. A pretty enough place, from the top of that one hill you could see orchards and vineyards stretching towards the horizon. Ross left looking for work to me, he stuck to reading in his tent, no Harry Potter though, more likely Che Guevara.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Stolen Heart by J.V. Mulcahy

A beleaguered soldier tells of his escape from captivity and prejudice; by J.V. Mulcahy. Also subsequently published in Altered Reality.

I was having a heated argument with my sister Araminta when Arys hailed us.

"Am I interrupting?" he asked, his mild question contrasting with our argument. We sat at a table near the outer wall of the tavern's terrace, surrounded by tables of officers and men.

Araminta shot him a bright smile. Her complexion, like mine, was the rich color of cinnamon, which set off the flash of her eyes in the sunlight. "Just Jorg here, making a fool of himself." She waved our friend to the empty chair opposite her. "He thinks I'm too frail to fight for my own freedom."

Araminta and I were sharing Morgasian ale, while traffic moved past on the crowded main boulevard of Jehan's Lair. In each direction, on both sides, there were tables and carts, with red, and green, and yellow awnings. Flint-eyed merchants, eager farmers and cheating traders sold and bought glassware, weapons, cloth, corn, oats, sacrificial animals, leather; most items that could be found in any small city, which Jehan's Lair closely resembled.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Annie Apple by Raima Larter

Molly moves in to a rickety old house in North Dakota, and finds a ghost trying on her clothes in the basement; by Raima Larter.

Molly first saw the ghost in the cellar, behind a shelf filled with dusty canning jars. The ghost was - or had been - a young woman. She had long glossy hair and a sprinkle of freckles over her transparent nose, and was floating in front of an old mirror. Molly could see the cellar wall through the ghost’s transparent arms, which were the only part of her body not covered by Molly’s dress, the scoop-necked gold satin.

Why was the ghost wearing Molly’s dress? And where was her camera when she needed it? The ghost grabbed hold of the skirt and turned this way, then that, in front of the dusty mirror. When she twirled, the dress billowed out like a bell.

The ghost’s reflection was visible in the mirror, which seemed surprising. Did ghosts even have mirror reflections? The ghost twirled again and, this time, caught sight of Molly. She dropped her hold on the dress and, just like that, was gone. The gown hung empty in the air for a few seconds, then slinked to the floor, pooling into a puddle of satin.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Flames of Freedom by Iftekhar Sayeed

A lyrical and transgressive story of political intrigue, love and rage, set in Bangladesh and Burma; by Iftekhar Sayeed.

PART I

CHAPTER 1
AT MONGLA

I shall always feel affection and respect for the man who wanted to destroy western civilisation. I remember clearly how we met - that was an adventure in itself. We met through Faria, and I met her at Hotel Poshur at Mongla.

I was having a melancholy meal by myself in the octagonal Royal Bengal Restaurant; melancholy because I'd just failed to get campaign money for the General's election: he'd been powerless too long, deposed several years ago by donors and students. It was a sultry evening, and the air-conditioners hummed.

When she entered, the room seemed to become warmer and more humid. She was a tall, brown-complexioned girl in a black, flowered saree. She strode, her high heels striking the floor, to a table close to mine.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Norah's Gift by James Wright

Norah is a deeply unhappy child, and her secret superpower may only make it worse; by James Wright.

"Why are you looking at the rest of the class like that, Norah? Like you mean them harm. A scowl really doesn't sit well on your pretty face." Miss Froome gave Norah and the rest of the class her best toothpaste ad smile.

"Because I want to leap into their brains," Norah replied coolly. "And make their bodies do terrible, horrific things." She followed it with her own practiced smile. Norah and Miss Froome could have passed for mother and daughter. Norah hated that.

The class murmured with uneasy laughter.

If only they knew, thought Norah, with a fizz of sadistic delight. Lucky for them, she wasn't wasting her time on a bunch of sappy fifth graders anymore. Lucinda Froome, however, with her perfect blonde hair, her perfect southern manners, and oh-so-perfect, rich boyfriend, Eddie Beaumont. Now that was a project which showed ambition.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Haunting of Piedras Blancas by DC Diamondopolous

Lovesick ghost Astrid wanders the California coast, longing and fearing to leave the Earth forever; by DC Diamondopolous.

There is no end to my love for Jemjasee. I pace the ragged cliffs, searching the sea for her ship. My longing will not cease until I am entwined in her marble wash of lavender and green arms.

It's dawn. The sunlight's red varnish stretches across the Santa Lucia Mountains. The mist from the sea floats through the Monterey Cypress. Backlit in pink stands the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.

The waves caress my vestige feet. The foam licks my revenant face. The damp never seeps into my gossamer bones. My long silk robe opens, my breasts exposed to the witless wind. It hisses, jeers, but I am invincible, adrift in my chariot of grief.

The gulls perch in conference on the white rock. Beyond is the blue empty sky, the vast sea without sails, no horizon. Blue. Come, Jemjasee. Am I to roam this rugged coastline for eternity, this journey without distance? I feel doomed, my struggle invisible. You must come, Jemjasee. Save me from my weariness.

I skim the jagged bluff. The elephant seals raise their massive heads when they see me then fall back to sleep.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Pardon My Persian by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

A young American writer feels oppressed by his father's pride in their shared Persian roots; by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri.

Your father has dragged you to another Persian party, even though you know almost nothing of his culture, a culture he has attempted to impose upon you, deeming you too American because you like movies, don't adhere to his chauvinistic notions of gender roles. Because you lead a social life that is anathema to his own vision of things. At this stage, you're young, in your early twenties, and don't yet have the balls to draw lines in the sand.

The facts: You are American, by birth, by sensibility. English is your natural idiom, the language in which you create and curse out people you despise. The language in which you argue with your father, the mustache man. You're in your early twenties, and have lived in this city, attended party after party for years. Your father calls you Persian, slipping that fact surreptitiously into any conversation.

Women and men with grotesque smiles kiss and hug you, streaming in slowly, half an hour late, the pace picking up. Salaam, salaam, they proclaim. Peace. Peace. Your father shoves you into their line of fire, space invaded by labyrinths of arms. They grow in number, expanding, like a bad Sci-Fi Channel movie. Persiannado. They wear fakeness like a veil. You cannot pronounce their names. They offer a few words in English, retreat into their social orders, into the Persian language, a language replete with fake sweetness. A spoonful of too much sugar and bullshit.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Family Property by R. C. Capasso

An Ohio hermit plucks up the courage to meet her solitary neighbour, and finds out the dark reason for her solitude; by R. C. Capasso.

When I first moved to Westline Road, I didn't intend to meet neighbors. I wanted to be alone. But when I saw her and realized she was a woman or a girl, alone like me, I thought maybe we should at least be on speaking terms. Woman to woman. In case something happened. But I didn't expect or intend for anything to happen.

I saw my neighbor first from a distance. The way she dressed, that baggy coat hanging to her knees, shapeless pants, thick boots, and a tight knit cap, she could have been a short man. And I would have guessed old. She moved so sleepily, not like someone young. But with all that yard work every day it couldn't be a terribly old person, I thought. And although she was small, she couldn't be a child. The authorities would never let a child live that alone.

I tried not to think about my neighbor. I was there for solitude, after everything else that had happened. Yet my eyes kept turning toward the other yard.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Watchers from Above by James Rumpel

Chaos ensues when a moon-sized spacecraft starts orbiting Earth, even though it seems to be doing nothing but watching; by James Rumpel.

The attendance at the Saint Benedict's High School class of 2004 twenty-year reunion was minimal. The lack of alumni attending the get-together was perfectly justified seeing that the world was about to end. While most reunions featured conversations about stuffy teachers or outlandish pranks, the conversations at this one dealt with the large alien craft that had been orbiting the Earth for the last six days.

"The vessel is large enough that it has affected the tides," said Captain David Wolfe. He was seated at a table with another St. Ben's graduate, Deb Barton.

"I believe it. The thing is the size of a small moon," added Deb. "The scariest part is that it's just sitting there. It's been nearly a week and it's done nothing. At least the rioting and looting have slowed down. Things are returning to normal, at least as normal as they can be with a giant space ship looking down from above."