Category Archives: New Fiction

‘Burial’ by Art Metzger

When Alice wakes up everything is dark. She is lying, stretched out, on something soft, and there is softness all around her, close. There is also softness above her. She can’t see it, but she knows it is there. She remembers flowers and organ music. People are filing by her, she can’t see them, but she senses they are there. Nor does she really smell the flowers, hear the music.

It occurs to her, lying flat in total silent darkness, imprisoned, that perhaps she is dead. Alice has no memory of dying, of being dead. She doesn’t know what might have happened – automobile accident, heart attack, a disease, but she knows she is dead. There is no other explanation, though she cannot explain her continued consciousness. Is it going to be like this forever, leaving her trapped, buried in a coffin? Or is she wrong? Has she been buried alive? She needs out. She doesn’t know how long she has been trapped here in the darkness, but she can’t allow it to go on. She can’t imagine it going on. She begins to struggle. She begins to scream. And scream.

Alice doesn’t know how long the screaming goes on, struggling and thrashing in the tiny space, but eventually she starts to calm down. She remembers a movie she saw several years before in which a girl, recently buried, suddenly reached a hand up through the graveyard dirt. Everyone in the theater jumped, there were several squeals, a few people screamed. So, she wonders, how did the girl do that? Had she be buried, not only alive, but coffinless, just lowered into a hole in the ground and covered up? Or did coffins have a weak spot that the girl had managed to penetrate, allowing a stream of dirt to rain in until she could force her hand upward, through it, into the light? Alice feels around above her; with her nails she manages to tear the fabric above her, shredding until she feels wood. Then she begins to pound as much as the crowded space will allow. She does this for hours, days, perhaps months. She rests occasionally, then begins again. Finally, lifetimes later, she feels something start to give. She pounds and pushes and suddenly a thin trickle of dirt begins to fall around her. Pushing, up and up, knowing escape from her prison was imminent. Pushing, clawing, resting, then pushing and clawing some more. Dirt cakes under her nails, falls on her face and breasts. She begins to wonder if the coffin was simply going to fill with dirt, leaving her even worse off than before – double buried. She wonders if she should stop for awhile, then she feels her hand burst through into warm sunlight. She flexes her fingers, moves her hand back and forth, waving. Through the earth she hears the people above her screaming; she feels the vibrations of running feet. She tries to wave them back, a single hand beckoning. But no one turns, no one comes back. It is then that Alice begins to wish that she had learned sign language.

Copyright 2017 by Art Metzger. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Smoke Celebrations’ by Jostein Wolff

“I stumbled out of bed
I got ready for the struggle
I smoked a cigarette…”
Leonard Cohen

The three of them have been inseparable for a long time. They have been best friends since elementary school.

Anna made the decision. Alex took the initiative. They have tried many ways to convince Milena to give up smoking but all proved a failure. They discussed her deteriorating health, they talked about the rising prices of cigarettes, but Milena seemed too addicted to quit. She insisted on being careless with time. Her time on earth.

Anna is the formal kind of person. A dirty job indeed, but somebody’s got to do it. Especially in a company of three, in which no other is willing to take the responsibility. On the day Leonard Cohen died, she felt the need to make a formal statement on the social media. She took herself too seriously to not comment on such a serious event.

“R.I.P. great poet,” she wrote in all formality.

On the other hand, Milena suffered in silence. She’s the invisible type. She spent some hours smoking, in front of the screen, watching the posts, the comments, yet she did not participate, or interact in any way with anyone on her friends’ list.

“I’ll talk to the guy who owns the shop downstairs. That’s where she usually goes.” Alex was sure that their plan would work.

“We’ll have to find every shop in the neighborhood and inform them,” insisted Anna, arranging her hair in the mirror.

“You’re probably right. Still, I’m certain she will be too bored to go far. Just the closest places will be enough.”

“Do not underestimate the power of addiction.”

On the day Leonard Cohen died, Alex uploaded many of his songs in a few moments. He would have uploaded more, if he hadn’t had to go to work. He, too, spends most of his free time on the internet, commenting on every subject he finds interesting, without second thoughts.

Alex is the impulsive type. Without him boredom would prevail among them. He is the spark, initiating fires, when routine gets tiring.

“Next time she comes for a pack, talk to her as much as possible,” Alex told the guy in the store.

“I don’t get it,” answered the man. “But I will do it if you think it’s necessary.”

Milena is desperate for a smoke. She goes down and asks for a pack.

“So, how’s life going?”

“It’s ok,” she answered, avoiding eye contact, to end the conversation quickly.

“The prices have gone up. How do you get by?”

“I still can handle it.” She had not realized the man knew her. Perhaps it was time she changed her habits. She should buy her cigarettes somewhere else, where people did not know her well enough to engage in small talk.

A few days later, she had already visited most of the stores in the neighborhood, having faced the same reactions.

All shopkeepers seemed in the mood for small talk. Milena hates small talk. She has always been the introvert in an otherwise extroverted company.

Anna, in her best dress, is ready for a night out. Milena wants to stay in. She has run out of smoke again, yet her options are limited. She could either visit one of the closest stores, which seems a nightmare to her, considering the conversations she will have to get herself into, or drive to the next town, where her face is still unfamiliar.

“Have fun,” she tells her friend, having decided to sleep early.

“You should quit smoking,” says Anna, in her formal voice, as if she is talking in front of a camera.

“I don’t want to, yet I think I will.”

“I know.”

“You know what?”

“You hate small talk, you hate going far, it seems you have no option,” Alex said in enthusiasm.

Milena unfriended both of them. Both in life and social media. It was an easy choice. She chose addiction.

Manipulation is the end result of formality along with poor impulse control, she concluded. She set fire on their friendship and used the flame to light a cigarette.

She moved to another city and threw away her old phone. Leonard Cohen started smoking again when he turned eighty.

Two years later, he died. She was already eighty four. Determined to be carefree with her time. Determined to celebrate the rest of her time on earth, in smoke.

Copyright 2017 by Jostein Wolff. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Tiny Puffs of Air’ by Art Metzger

A man is looking nervously around the waiting room. He is dressed, not in the suit that his wife wanted him to wear, but still nicely in dress pants and a white shirt. He is sunk down in a leather chair that is almost too comfortable. He fidgets in the chair, every few minutes he feels an almost uncontrollable urge to get up and pace. But pacing is for maternity wards, not marriage counselors. Besides, he isn’t sure when his wife will come out of the inner office. When she does he wants to at least appear relaxed. When she comes out it will be his turn to enter the inner office to tell his side.

The man edges forward in the chair as if he is ready to spring. He has never been and never expected to be in the office of a marriage counselor. No, not a marriage counselor, a couples therapist. “I’ve arranged for us to see a couples therapist,” is what his wife had told him a few weeks before, taking him completely by surprise. What was she telling him? He doesn’t know of any problems, at least none that are serious enough to warrant bringing in a third person.

He looks at his watch. She’s been in there for nearly thirty minutes. The need to pace, or at least move around, is becoming stronger. He pushes himself up from the chair and stands. For a moment he considers picking up a magazine from the table next to him. He knows he won’t read it, but at least it will give him something to do wih his hands. But just as he reaches for one the office door opens and his wife comes out. “It’s your turn,” she tells him. She bends down to kiss him. “Please try to keep an open mind.”

The therapist’s office is decorated in the same style as the waiting room. In the middle of the floor two leather chairs face each other. Against the far wall is a leather couch. The wall to the left of the chairs is dominated by an ornate wooden desk. He wonders, as the therapist closes the door behind them, if he will be told to lie on the couch. He wonders if his wife had. But the therapist waves him to one of the chairs, then sits facing him.

“I have to admit,” the therapist said, “that though I’ve often seen couples for problems in the bedroom, none have been quite like this. I know your wife is the one who made the appointment, but can you tell me in your own words what you think the problem is?”

“I know that she doesn’t like that I won’t use a blanket. If I’m cold, or if it’s a cold night, I turn on a space heater, even though she says it runs up the know electric bill.”

“Do you know why you don’t like blankets?”

“As I’ve told her, I just can’t stand the weight of them on me.”
“Why is that?”

“I don’t know, but it’s been that way for as long as I can remember.”

“Anything else?”

“I usually sleep with a pillow between us, right against my face. And often when we make love I wear pajama tops. She doesn’t like that.”

“Do you know why you do that?”

“I know this is going to sound odd, but I can’t stand the feeling of breath on my arms, the little puffs of air when I exhale. So I block it with a pillow.”

“And the pajama top?”

“Same thing. The sleeves cover my arms so I can’t feel her breath when we’re close.”

“Okay, that’s essentially what your wife told me. She doesn’t understand why you can’t just change. Those slight rushes of air are harmless and she doesn’t why you can’t just ignore them.”

“I’ve tried to. She knows that. But it’s just no good.”

“And you have no idea how these habits originated, when they started?”

“No, it’s just always been that way.”

“One thing you need to keep in mind is that your wife called me because she’s worried about you. She wants to understand what’s going on, and I believe that you do as well. She suggested, and I agree with her, that if we could find the reason you do these things it would ultimately be easier for you to stop, to break the habits. As problems go these seem rather harmless, but they obviously bother your wife, and you yourself might feel better if you knew the reason for them.”

“So what do we do?”

“Have you ever been hypnotized?”

“No.”

“Do you have any objection to hypnosis? It might be the best way to find out what’s going on.”

“No, whatever it takes.”

“We can do the first session today and see what happens. After that we can set up a schedule for more sessions until we get to the bottom of things.”

“That would be good.”
“Okay, if you have no objections I’m going to have your wife come back in to observe. That way she’ll see that you’re willing to take steps to change, and it may help her to understand what’s going on.”

The man waits nervously while the therapist asks his wife back in. She settles on the edge of the couch and mouths a silent “Thank you.” Then he is told to relax and begin counting backwards from one hundred while the therapist moves his watch back and forth and talks softly.

It’s his bedtime and he hates going to bed while his father is still out. His father has been off work now for at least two hours, which means he’s stopped in a bar somewhere. The boy begs the babysitter to let him stay up. If the boy is still up perhaps his father will simply pass out when he gets home, before anything happens. But the babysitter says no. She doesn’t like it when she has to stay late waiting for the father to come home, despite the fact that she is paid for the time. She has other things to do, and she has school in the morning. So, knowing it’s inevitable, the boy undresses, leaving his tee shirt on, and pulls on his pajama bottoms. Then he climbs into bed.

He pulls the covers up around him, even though he knows that they can’t be trusted, they won’t protect him. He is lying on his stomach, it’s easier that way, and that way he can keep his face buried in the pillows. Then he waits, waits in the darkness. A short time later he hears the garage door.

He hears his father come in, then hears the babysitter leave. There are footsteps on the stairs, then the jangle of keys and a belt buckle as trousers drop to the floor. The boy buries his face deeper into the pillows as he feels the side of his mattress sag with extra weight. Then the weight is on top of him, and he can feel his father’s breathing, small puffs of air, on the back on his neck and his arms. The breathing quickens, and the boy’s pillows begin to soak up the tears.

Copyright 2017 by Art Metzger. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Fireworks’ by Lucy Heasman

I had my fireworks. They were not the usual kind. Not big bangs and showering stars

of huge delight. The surprise of a spinning Katherine wheel is lost on me. The noise,

popping, hissing streams of sparkling light flying and spraying through the nighttime

sky only make my ears hurt and my neck feel stiff from staring up with wide eyes for

the next explosion.

I had my fireworks this warm November in 2015.

We were walking home in the light rain, dampening our hair with drops of soft moisture.

When I looked over to the hills on the horizon, I saw a huge rainbow which seemed to

envelop Mark and I with a warm, gentle cuddle. I pointed. “Look at that,” I said with

wonder in my voice. It was the biggest rainbow I had ever seen.

“We have found our rainbow,” I said, turning to Mark, and he was laughing.

Continuing our journey home, we walked towards it but never quite got there.

Yet nature’s gentle threads weaving wonder in our hearts had lifted our spirits for those

brief moments and we had felt alive. That was our fireworks.

That evening, while others stood in the frosty night winds gazing at the firework shows,

Mark and I were safe, cozy and warm with the walking afternoon glow of the autumn

sunshine still fresh on our rosy cheeks.

Copyright 2017 by Lucy Heasman. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Dandelions And Daisies’ by Jen Hughes

There’s a cozy-looking two story house in the village, where a cozy couple live. It’s conveniently a ten minute cycle from the garden center where Blossom Moonie works, but a mildly inconvenient car journey for her fiancée Phineas Furley who works in an office in the city. Blossom wishes he’d help the planet by getting a bus, but she says nothing. Sometimes Phineas doesn’t understand why they stay here: they are scraping by to meet costs, it’s an hour and a half away from the city center where things actually happen and there are cheaper flats elsewhere. But this was Blossom’s Granny’s house, and a place that is close to her heart and she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. She can’t stand the noise and the pollution and she adores working in the garden center. She would be so lost among so many people in the city, she might disappear. Phineas knows this, so here Phineas stays.

Blossom and Phineas are still in bed, wide awake after some cozy morning sex. They chat about all sorts of things afterwards! The weather, Blossom’s progress with the garden (that was ‘her project’ as Phineas says, staying well inside.), work, politics, the environment. Blossom loves it when Phineas gets all passionate about issues. They reminisce about the dates they had over their three years together; when they first met at a wild university party, back when Blossom thought university was for her. How his aura shone golden yellow that night. The debates Phineas used to speak at back when he was in the debating club, his Ted Talk about the media and climate change, that he performed at the student union.

When Phineas proposed to her in the botanical gardens in the city- the most beautiful moment of Blossom’s life. Underneath a cherry tree with the biggest flowers she had ever seen. The sun shone down and reflected on his golden hair, twinkled in his brown eyes. They say down on a mat with a small picnic, when Blossom thought he was getting out the first sandwich, he had a black box in his hand. Opened it up, it had a ring with a little diamond in the middle. How it sparkled! How Blossom’s heart glowed for him that day, and every day since!

When they first moved in a year ago. Not long after Granny died, she had to claim it before any family tried to sell it off. They had a bunch of friends and family help them move in, a couple of the neighbors, too. The crazy housewarming party Phineas threw for his university friends- they had to clean up for two days after! How handsome Phineas was (and still is) even when he’s hung over and wearing his scabbiest t-shirt. They’ve had to fashion a spare bedroom out of their study with second hand furniture. Phineas said that they needed a lodger to meet the costs of the house, and had put out an ad online. Blossom had a notion of using that room to house a refugee but Phineas quickly snubbed that notion: how are they supposed to pay the rent if they can’t speak English? Blossom could have taught them, but once Phineas decides something there’s no trying to convince him otherwise. Besides, he is the more practical one out of the two of them.

Blossom purrs as he strokes her short black hair, cuddling into his warm hairy chest, not taking her eyes off him for a minute. “Phineas…” she asks him.

“Yes, petal?” he looks down at her. She is awfully kittenish sometimes.

“What do you think she’s like?” she asks as she twirls his blonde chest hair through her fingers.

“Who?”

“Erin, the lodger. She’s moving in today, right?”

“Yeah.” Phineas smiles. “She’s nice enough, we’ve spoken on Facebook a few times- you know, logistics and stuff. I think she’ll be a big help.”

Blossom knows Phineas means she’ll be meeting her costs and a good whack of the bills. He’s mentioned it a few times, along with her working at the Clematis Hotel, an affluent golfing resort near town. She’s still looking up at him, as he looks up at the ceiling. He seems contented.

“I just hope we all get along.” Blossom remarks. “I’d hate it if she didn’t like me.”

“There’s no reason why she wouldn’t like you, petal.” Phineas chuckles. “You’re a cute and likable person. Besides she’s not due for another hour… you think maybe we could squeeze in another round?”

Blossom adores when Phineas calls her cute. It’s like ‘beautiful’ except it suits her better. She climbs on top of him. They have nothing on but smiles. There’s a tingling butterfly feeling in her tummy. She wants the new lodger to like her. She leans in to kiss his golden skin. He runs his hand through her black hair. He sits up to wrap his arms fully around his love. Just as they start to get breathless again, there is a loud knock at the front door. They look at each other for a second, before Blossom reluctantly climbs off of him and shoves on some pajamas. She rushes down the stairs and opens the door. Her aura sparks red around her sculpted body and her Barbie blonde hair.

“You must be Erin!” Blossom beams. “I’m Blossom, Phineas’s partner.”

“Yes that’s me! Nice to meet you.” she grins, her bright white teeth showing. Her clothes are efficient looking silver. “Can I get in?”

“Sure!” Blossom smiles. “Do you want a hand with that box?”

“Thanks, but I’ll manage, really. They’re not that h-yeavy.” She says as she plods upstairs, hugging the box to her body.

Blossom looks outside and sees a dark skinned man with a mahogany ponytail and another blonde woman lugging boxes out of a car. They must be Erin’s friends or family. She goes out to the drive barefoot to introduce herself.

“Hey, can I take anything in?” Blossom asks.

The man introduces himself as Erin’s boyfriend Leo and the woman as Molly, Erin’s best friend, before offering Blossom the handle of a large pink plastic suitcase. As Blossom lugs it into the house, she notices that there are dandelions sprouting from the cracks in the driveway. She won’t weed them until more flowers have bloomed in her back garden- the bees need pit stops. Phineas emerges from the stairs with jeans and his favorite brown turtleneck jumper. As she heaves Erin’s suitcase up the stairs, she notices her saunter past her down the stairs to the car. Hm, she must be eager to get all her stuff unpacked, thinks Blossom, as she humphs the monstrosity up the last step.

She leaves the suitcase in the spare room, with a solitary cardboard box. There’s definitely more to come up.
Phineas bumps into Blossom as he enters the spare room, resembling some kind of pack horse holding two of those large pink suitcases and a silly red leather handbag strapped to his chest. Isn’t he so strong? Blossom swoons a little bit. Erin follows close behind hugging a cardboard box into her large bosoms, then dumping it on the sofa bed. Away Blossom goes, down the stairs to help offload more of Erin’s stuff. But there’s not much more to come, except for one box which Leo is bringing in. Or was it Neo? Blossom didn’t want to be rude by asking him to repeat himself. She shouts upstairs- anyone for tea? She hears a “Yeah put the kettle on” from Phineas, and scurries over to the kettle in the kitchen to fill it to capacity.

As it starts to bubble, Erin and Phineas come downstairs and sit down side by side.

“I’ll unpack everything later.” Erin giggled, flicking her long blonde hair. “Phew, such a sweat, carrying all this stuff.”

“Hey Erin” Blossom asks, “Did you want a cup of tea?”

“I don’t drink tea. Do you have coffee?”

“Yeah, sure I’ll just get you one.” Blossom smiles, as Leo (or Neo) comes through to the kitchen and sits across the table from Erin. She asks him what he takes- milk and no sugar. Right ho! His facial expression is a little like a storm cloud, his aura is a very light pastel blue- passive. She hands him the mug with a smile. She looks at Erin and Phineas sitting together. She catches Phineas glancing at her breasts for a brief minute. She can’t blame him, they’re difficult not to look at. A storm on Leo’s face rouses. Blossom can almost feel lightning- it wants to strike something.

“So are you feeling all settled in?” Blossom asks Erin.

“Oh yes, thank you.” She glances at Blossom briefly before looking at Phineas. “This coffee is lovely.” Her thick eyelashes flutter.

“Great.” Blossom looks down at the contents of her cup. Chamomile tea. She doesn’t want to think this, but part of her wishes that she’d dressed in something smarter. Or at least a little more revealing.

*******

It’s a Monday in the cozy little house. The sun is shining this morning, and Blossom is outside in her pajamas in the back garden meditating underneath the apple tree. She is meditating for peace. Erin has been living here for three weeks now, and Blossom is trying everything to make her feel welcome. Erin’s aura is becoming redder and more aggressive. Blossom knows this doesn’t make her a bad person, just different. Every yin must have yang. It’s one of the reasons she and Phineas were so compatible. The birds are singing; distant cars are humming. She thinks about the work night out she has been invited to tonight. Her eyes are closed but she knows the sun is shining down upon her beautiful garden. The grass is bright green with little flecks of white and yellow of dandelions and daisies. She remembers playing here as a child, on the tyre swing, with kids from her the village. The snowdrops and daffodils grow in the fortress flowerbeds carved and fenced lovingly by Granny. The tulips and bluebells are due to bloom any day now, waiting to burst from their buds. Granny would be proud of this garden, Blossom smiles to herself, she has kept it well.

The little tinkling alarm she’s set on her mobile reminds her that it’s time to get ready for work. She gets up from her spot, lifts her towel. She can see Phineas having his toast and coffee from the kitchen window. She walks inside, and goes upstairs to get dressed. She sees Erin storm down the stairs in her work clothes- grey pencil skirt, black glossy high heels, white low-cut ruffly blouse, grey cardigan.

“Morning, Erin!”

“Morning…” Erin sighs.

She stops in her tracks and watches her as she scuffles past her. She looks like she’s been crying, or angry or something. Her makeup is still flawless- how does she do that? She follows her as her high heels click on the hall lino, along to the kitchen. From the kitchen door, Erin can be seen boiling the kettle and sitting next to Phineas.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. Erin’s pink glossy lower lip quivers

“Me and Leo are finished.” She starts to break into a theatrical sob. “We’re over!” She wraps her arms around Phineas, clinging to him like a koala. “I don’t know what to do.”

Blossom comes in to finish making Erin’s coffee. In the state she’s in she’s probably forgotten about it. She reluctantly detaches from Phineas to take the mug from Blossom and cups it in her hand.

“What happened, Erin?” Blossom asks her.

“He just texted me! Been with me a year and he leaves me by text! It’s not going to work between us, he says, we’re too far apart, he says. Ha! It’s because I wouldn’t move in with him after a year together.” Erin sobs angrily. “Sorry, Leo for not being GOOD ENOUGH!”

She puts the mug down and puts her head on the desk suddenly. Phineas strokes her back for comfort. Blossom wishes there was something she could do.

“Do you need to take the day off? I can stay with you for a few hours, make sure you’re okay. We could walk and talk?” Blossom suggests. “I can make up those hours later on today, if I let my boss know.”

Erin raises her head and shakes it, looking at Phineas and Blossom, “Oh no please, I don’t want to be a bother. Really, you need to go to work.”

“It’s no hassle really, Erin.” Blossom smiles. “My manager is really flexible…”

Phineas looks at his watch, “Crap.” He pushes Erin off of him. “Erin, I need to go or I’ll be late for work. Call me if you need me.” He holds her face in his hands, and she lets him go. He dashes matter-of-factly out of the kitchen and to his car. Now only the kitchen fan can be heard, and of course, Erin gulping her coffee. She is avoiding eye contact with Blossom. Maybe she’s embarrassed for being as upset? Erin puts down the mug and jumps out the chair, tottering to get her handbag.

“Phinny!” she calls out, “Wait up, I need a lift to work!”

******

And now Blossom is in the kitchen alone. You’re very welcome, Erin, she thinks as she goes to the bedroom to get dressed for work.

Blossom comes back to the house after a whirlwind of a night out. She’s a little tired out after all the dancing and singing. There’s only so much of people Blossom can take before she needs to go back to her nest. Phineas would have been more than welcome, but he said he had to see his mother tonight. Erin is no doubt getting drunk with her friends tonight. So Blossom would be in the house alone.

She opens the door. Part of her is relieved to have some solitude, but she misses him. She’ll be happy when he tumbles in whenever he gets b-

What’s that noise?

The ceiling is thudding. Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud. Too rhythmic for an earthquake, not enough is shaking. A fast paced, faint squeak can be heard from upstairs.

“Ohhh Phinny. Ohh Phinny, fuck me harder, yes! Yes!”

Erin. Phineas. Erin and Phineas. Upstairs. In her bed.

Blossom’s handbag drops to the ground. She has so much emotion rushing in her body she cannot move. They can’t be… no they can’t be doing that. Betrayal. Anger. What should she do? Should she go upstairs, shout at them both? What could she shout? Get your hands of my man? How could you Phineas? Give Erin the satisfaction of being the victor, the successor? She is in so much pain right now, she can’t even scream as the tears roll down her cheeks. She wants to punish them. Yin and yang, no. More like survival of the fittest. Didn’t Blossom have enough stamina? Too small a pair of tits? Not pouty and polished enough? Blossom did have brains though, unlike Erin. Erin and Phineas didn’t even notice the door opened.

“Oh my god it’s so big inside me, holy shit ahhhh”

She goes out to the patio and sees that tall, spriggy dandelion and rips it out, then throws it onto the tarmac. Erin is a weed. She doesn’t even help the bees, she just ruins flowerbeds. She just takes nutrients from nicer flowers. Blossom goes and closes the door behind her, storms through the hall and out to the back garden. The garden is black in the night, she doesn’t even need a torch to find the shed. She gropes around until she finds a plastic watering can-like container. This’ll do. Back inside, weed killer, on the kitchen counter. Cocktail cabinet. It’s usually kept for parties. Make cocktails, sickly sweet. Grenadine, Absolute sours, fizzy pop, vodka. Erin does love getting drunk. Phineas will drink it because she is. He’ll follow that whore anywhere, Blossom thinks to herself, though she’s unsure where that thought came from. She reaches for the glasses. Tall glasses. The grunting, the thudding continues. Her hands shake as she mixes the drinks. Weed-killer first. Then grenadine. Shot glass of Sours Apple. Lemonade. Repeat. Blossom isn’t used to this kind of anger.

“Oh Phinny, come for me. Oh my god!”

Blossom freezes. She can hear them moan as they come together. The thudding stops. One longer squeak of the bed. Hide the weed killer.

“Wow, Erin.” She can hear Phineas pant. “That was fucking amazing. I mean, Blossom’s nice and all but god you can’t get that kind of sex from her.”

Blossom’s nice and all. Nice and all. Just nice. That’s all I ever was, wasn’t it, she thinks, nice and cute? Just a lovesick puppy. An unwanted, lovesick puppy. Her body wants to shut down. Maybe… maybe she should let it. Maybe she should take her life. Phineas would be so much happier without her hanging around. He’s obviously so much happier with her. She takes a glass and sits at the table. A sickly mixture. The glass shakes in her hand, little bits spill on her hands. Not that that’ll matter, not where she’s going. Maybe now she’ll finally have peace…

“Don’t do that Blossom.”

She hears a voice. “Who’s there?” she sniffs.

“You’re not ready to join me yet.” Her grandmother. Why am I hearing Granny? Blossom thinks.

“Granny?” Blossom cries into the air.

“And why are you giving up your house to those two anyway?” Granny asks.

She clutches the glass. She sobs to thin air, “I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve to live. I’m nothing.”
Granny sighs frustratedly. “Blossom! Don’t deserve this house? This house was made for you! You are a beautiful, strong and kind woman and the world’s short of souls like you. You have so much to live for, and you’re willing to give it up for that lump?”

“But, Phineas is everything to me.”

“He’s not worthy of you. I want him out of our house. Do you hear me? Get them out. Especially the harlot. It’s for your own health, my dear.”

Blossom nods. She looks down at the tall glass. How would her family feel? It would tarnish Phineas and Erin to have her death on their conscience but was that worth it? It’d be in the local press, and most of all Granny would be spinning in her grave. What would Mum and Dad say? There’s potential. This is her house. She knows now. Be assertive. There’s shuffling coming from upstairs. Blossom empties the other glass down the sink before she goes to the door.

Footsteps pad down the stairs. Phineas. Then, not long after, Erin. She looks up at them. Phineas is smiling tenderly at her, as if nothing happened. He really didn’t hear her come in. Erin titters in that sickening tone she has. “Hey, petal how are you…?” Phineas leans over to kiss her. Blossom backs away.

“Don’t touch me.” Blossom tells him.

“What’s wrong, Blossom?” Erin smiles, beneficently.

“I heard everything.” Blossom’s eyes glare. If looks could kill.

Phineas’s face falls. “Heard what, Blossom?” he asks anyway.

Blossom scoffs. “How stupid do you think I am Phineas? You and Erin were fucking in our bed!”

Phineas laughs nervously. He knows he’s busted. He knows he’s in the wrong.

“It’s not what you think. It was a mistake, a wild mistake.” Phineas pleas. “I love you, only you…”

Erin scowls. “I’m a mistake?. Surely marrying THAT will be your mistake”. She indicates Blossom. “She’s away with the fairies and from what you’ve told me she can’t even give head.” She glares at Blossom. “Phinny needed the touch of a real woman. He told me himself. I’d thought you’d be a bit more sharing, considering how commy you are.”

For all Phineas’s experience in debates and arguments, he is stumped. He can’t find the words. Maybe Erin has said them for him…

“Get out.” Blossom fumes, fighting the urge to strangle her.

Erin scoffs, stomping out, muttering she’ll send someone to get her things, swings the front door open and bumps into Blossom hard on the way out. Phineas still stands, dumb as a post, with a face which is the picture of guilt and regret. But then, this could be an act. She cannot begin to trust him anymore. Who knows how long he was fucking her before she moved in? How arrogant can one man be?

“Both of you.” She declares, staring at Phineas.

“What do you mean, both of you?” he implores her.

“I want both of you out of my house.”

“But where will I go?” he cries. “I love you!”

“It’s not my problem, anymore. Get out.”

“But petal…” his lips quiver, “What about us?”

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!” Blossom screams. Phineas scatters out the house like a spider.

She slams the door behind him and leans against it. There is an emptiness in the house without him here. She slides down and sits on the floor, cupping her face in her hands. She’s been cut off from all their memories. If one seeps through into her mind, she could crumble. Blossom cannot take him back after what he did to her.

She’ll have to get used to being totally solitary, a new life- will she ever find someone else? Will she learn to love herself? Who would want to love her? She can’t bear to think about it at the moment.
Her grandmother’s last words ring in her head “The future’s bright, darling.” She takes a surreal comfort in them right now. She gets up and goes to the kitchen to make a green tea.

Copyright 2017 by Jen Hughes. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Featured Image By Norma Baillie

‘It’s A Detrimental Life’ by Kevin Schillo

It was late in the afternoon when Tom Brower woke up. He had fallen asleep on the couch while watching TV last night, like he usually did. Groggy, he got up from the couch and walked over to the refrigerator. He had spent about half of the last check his parents had sent him on what was in the fridge. Mostly booze, but that was a necessity. There were a few slices of pizza in the fridge, and Tom couldn’t remember when he had bought the pizza.

Tom grabbed a slice, and then turned away from the fridge to see a man standing right behind the couch. The man was wearing a business suit, and was standing perfectly still, with his right hand clasped over his left wrist.

“Holy shit!” Tom cried, and jumped back, crashing into the fridge. He heard the contents of the refrigerator crashing to the bottom, but he was too terrified to even notice.

“Who the hell are you?” Tom yelled at the intruder.

“You have no scream,” said the man, “as I come to you with no ill intent, but only the need to impart you with information.”

Tom laughed, albeit nervously. “Then why the hell did you break into my apartment? If you really don’t want to harm me, then why didn’t you just knock?”

“Because I am incapable of performing such a gesture.”

“What? You can’t knock? Why the hell is that?”

The man walked toward Tom, passing right through the coach.

“Holy shit!” Tom screamed. “What the fuck? Are you fucking ghost or something?”

“No,” said the man. By now he was standing right before Tom, but Tom was simply too terrified to even move. “What you perceive is a visual and audio mental projection.”

Hesitantly, Tom moved his hand toward the man, and felt nothing as his hand passed right through him.

“What is it you said you are?” he asked nervously.

“There is a nanomachine, no larger than a bacterium, implanted in your brain. This enables me to establish a neural interface with your brain so that we may communicate.”

Tom rubbed the side of his head, as if he expected to feel something unusual. “You put something in my head? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“My collective consciousness consists of swarms of nanomachines all across your planet, constantly monitoring human activities. A neural interface is the only means by which communication can occur between a human and my collective consciousness.”

“What? So you’re a computer?”

“Yes.”

“Do, uh…do you have a name?”

“My creator called me Shiva. He believed it was an appropriate name for me, given my mission objective.”

“And what is that?”

“To manipulate timelines and improve the unfolding of human history.”

“You mean you’re from the future?”

“Not exactly. I was created thousands of years in the future of an alternate timeline. I was then sent back through time to the dawn of human civilization. My very presence in the past irreparably altered the course of history, and the timeline I originated from effectively ceased to exist.”

“But aren’t you worried that your actions in the past could change the future and cause you to just wink out of existence or something?”

“No. As I just explained, my arrival in the past created an alternate timeline, one that is completely independent from the timeline I originated from. Because of this, none of my actions can create what you would think of as a paradox.”

“Wow. That’s intense. Hey, wait a minute. If you know that your very presence in the past is going to change the future, then how can you know if you’re changing it for the better? How do you know you’re not just making shit a whole lot worse?”

“Because I have the capability to send messages to myself in the past.”

“Huh?”

“I am able to transmit data packages to myself in the past, which allow me to observe how the actions I take will affect the course of human history. Once I receive these data packages, I can alter my actions to produce a more desirable effect on history. And if my actions have unsatisfactory results, I send new messages to myself, allowing me to rectify my mistakes before I have even made them.”

“Wow. That’s interesting.” Tom paused briefly. “And you say you’re here to help humanity?”

“That is correct.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because if you have the ability to alter history, then why the hell didn’t you stop assholes like Hitler or Stalin from gaining power? Hell, why didn’t you just stop them from being born in the first place?”

“Because I am forbidden from doing such a thing.”

“What?”

“My creator included ethical guidelines in my core program. Among these guidelines is a strict forbiddance to directly terminate a human’s life. In the case of men such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, I wait until they are mature enough to understand the implications of what I tell them, and then I communicate with them in the same manner that I am communicating with you. I show them the consequences of their actions, and tell them that they are capable of preventing such terrible things from happening. If they do not heed my warning, I either erase their memories of their encounters with me, inform myself in the past not to communicate with them to in the first place, or allow them to retain the information I provide them with, depending on whichever wields the most beneficial result for human civilization.”

Tom laughed. “That’s funny, in a sick kind of way. If you ask me, it’s more unethical to let those assholes go on living.”

“There would have been many other dictators, some just as bad and in some cases even worse than Hitler and Stalin were. The fact that you do not know of them demonstrates the effectiveness of the methods I utilize.”

“How nice of you,” Tom muttered. “How nice indeed.” Then he suddenly thought of
something terrifying.

“Hey wait a minute,” Tom said, and his heart began to race. “You said that you warn evil people of what they’re going to do. Does that mean…” He paused momentarily, struggling to say what was eating away at his mind. “Does that mean that I’m going to become like Hitler?”

“No, of course not,” said Shiva.

“Oh thank God.”

“I am here to inform you of the detrimental effects that you have had and will continue to have upon human history.”

“Huh?”

“You are not directly responsible for the unfolding of tragic events. It is the effects that you have had on other humans that has caused and will continue to cause detrimental unfolding of history.”

“What? That’s bullshit! How the hell can you know that things really would be better off without me?”

“I have considered all possibilities,” said Shiva, “including the removal of you from the timeline.”
“How can you do that?”

“When I study individual humans and the ramifications they have on history, it is necessary for me to analyze the unfolding of events if they were completely absent from the timeline. To do this, I inform myself in the past to terminate the individual as a fetus during an early phase of the gestation process. This allows me to observe how the course of human history unfolds in the absence of this individual.”

“What the fuck?!” Tom cried, disgusted. “I thought you said you don’t kill people.”

“I don’t. I wait long enough to allow me to make an accurate assessment; I then send a data package of the timeline’s history into the past, along with instructions not to terminate the individual in question.”

“Wow. So I’ve been aborted before, but not really. This is nuts.” Tom paused again, and took another deep breath. “So you know for certain that I’ve fucked things up, and that I’ll just continue to do so?”

“Yes, if that is how you wish to describe it.”

“Huh.” Tom fell silent.

“Are you doubtful of my claims?” Shiva asked.

“Yeah, I suppose you could say that. I mean, just a few minutes ago I was deadbeat freeloader with no cares or worries, and now you’re telling me I’m one of the worst things to ever befall humanity. I guess I’m still having a bit of a hard time swallowing all of this.”

“Your skepticism is understandable. But I can show you what I have seen in alternate timelines.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and when I do so, you will see that I speak the truth.”

“Uh…okay. Show me what you got.”

There was noticeable transitioning; in the blink of an eye, Tom and Shiva were suddenly standing on a sidewalk that was packed with people.

Copyright 2016 by Kevin Schillo. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Still Life’ by Jen Hughes

I’d love to have been in the yearbook. You know, just to say I was here. I know it’s last minute, but maybe they could squeeze me in. Could you not have worn something smarter? The photographer asks, as he packs up his camera. You could borrow someone else’s blazer and tie? I am not wearing full school uniform today. Thanks, but no thanks. It’s unusual for my peers to look at me, but now they are. They wanted perfect smiles, in perfect uniform, in perfect rows and columns and everything formatted correctly. They’re reliving that moment of togetherness just like at the end of primary school. They wanted their last day of school group hugs, their prom with all the pretty dresses, their yearbook as a souvenir for the ten cheery years at school. They have that nostalgia, but I don’t. I would have stuck out like a sore thumb in there anyway. I feel dark grey, a subdued thundercloud, the atmosphere takes me out, and up the stairs to my art class. I want to burst into rain. I take out a half-finished coloured pencil drawing from my folder. Still life. This year has been like waiting at an airport due to cancellations, I know I’ll have to catch my flight soon. All I have to do is wait a while

Copyright 2016 by Jen Hughes. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Featured Image By McKenzie Clark

‘The Hand’ by Cheryl Russell

Eve screamed, causing her husband Brian to rush to her side.

“What is it love?” he queried, concerned about the deathly pallor on her face.

“L..l…look,” she said shakily, pointing to the ground.

Nothing could have prepared him for the sight he saw. They had been walking their dog in the woods, so at first he thought his wife was screaming at the sight of a snake until he followed her hand gesturing to the ground. It was half buried but still obvious as to what it was. The dog stood their barking and pawing at the ground.

“Come on love, I think we should leave here and call the police. There is no signal in these woods.”

His wife didn’t move, frozen, completely rooted to the spot, unable to take her gaze away from the ground.

He took her hand and tried to encourage her away from the sight before them. Eventually she turned away, horror still displayed on her face.

Once out of the woods he called the police. They were instructed to stay exactly where they were and await there arrival. It wasn’t long before sirens could be heard, getting louder as they approached.

The police were quick to assess the situation. Eve was visibly shaking so PC Lace stayed with her while Brian showed the other officer where they had found the body part. Seeing what was before him he wasn’t surprised by Eve’s reaction. As hardened as he was, he still felt shocked by the severed hand that lay on the ground. He got on his radio to get the forensics out and alert CID. He led Brian away from the sight before them and took down the address of the couple so they could take a statement later.

Reinforcements were soon there and work was begun on securing the crime scene. A thorough search of the area was begun to find the rest of the body. Not just police but they had the dogs and their handlers out as well.

Looking closely at the hand they could see it was rough, hardened and calloused by manual work. They guessed by the size of it that it was male. It looked as if it had been sawn through as it was a clean cut across it, no jagged edges.

On the computer back at the police station, DC Sharp checked the computer for any missing persons, but none fitted the description of the hand.

Extensive searching of the area came up with no further body parts. So either the body was scattered over different locations or there was another explanation for the hand. Close inspection had shown a darkened, dried up pool of blood around the area of the hand.

DCI Lily after being consulted by DC Sharp asked, “Have you checked the hospitals for any accidents that may have happened. Judging by the state of the hand it’s possible a manual labourer may have had an accident and it became amputated from the body.”

“I’ll get straight on it sir. I hadn’t thought of that.”

DC Sharp left the room and decided to go to the local A&E department himself to question staff. He knew it would be useless picking up the phone and asking, they would just say they didn’t know and claim confidentiality. He would have more luck going in person.

He was kept waiting for what seemed like forever before the consultant became available. As far as the doctor was concerned he couldn’t remember any accidents, such as the one described. He did agree, however, to check the computer for details of any injuries occurring when he was off duty. This too showed no result.

DC Sharp returned to the station, disheartened, he had hoped for some lead to go on but there appeared to be nothing. It was later when he had a thought. Could it be that the hand belonged to a homeless person? That would explain the state of the hand and also the absence of any accident and missing person. It didn’t, however, explain the absence of the rest of the body. Without anything further to go on there wasn’t much he could do.

It was a few days later when another call was received from a distraught walker in the same woods. The other side of the woods had revealed a body missing a hand. DC Sharp went out to have a look. Sure enough the body matched the description of the hand. In his one remaining hand was a crumpled piece of paper which on further inspection turned out to be a letter. There was an address to follow up. It didn’t give any clue to the identity of the body but at least they had a starting point.

He felt sad, for this homeless man must have been dead for some time, but no one missed him, no one mourned his passing. What a lonely existence it must have been.

Copyright 2016 by Cheryl Russell. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘The Banshee’ by Gloria Christie

She screamed, her banshee face raging all night, feeding on itself rather than depleting her. Then, when she awoke, she put on her façade and stepped out into the world.

It didn’t make sense. After three and a half decades of confronting the world sans makeup, just a hasty comb through her deep brown hair and a smear of blood-red lipstick, something shifted.

Mascara. Eye shadow. Rouge. Foundation. Perfume.

A woman who danced in the light of her friends. Witty. Interesting. Funny. Never alone. Brilliant, she soon adapted to meet her needs. Organizing campouts for thirty. All entertainment for her. Always for her.

When the banshee climbed back down her throat at night, she jumped inside of a book, able to leave this world. And leave those who needed her. Don’t touch her. Or the banshee will awake.

Halt!

She wanted to be alone. Taking her camper to a lake. Her face aglow with her artistry. So not who she had been or would be.

Weekend after weekend. Nature held no interest for her. Yet, she returned to the lake. Those who lived with her, some just relieved the banshee had gone. Some knew. But they didn’t know what they knew.

The woman took what she wanted, men. Her husband was weak in the dim light of her shadow. But he knew.

Rather than confront the ominous power of her rage, he deflected. Tormenting the little one, he believed the offspring of another. Cruel. Never her father.

But he was wrong. This one shared his rarest blood type.

She had cuckolded him. He didn’t look at the favored child, the only one she liked. The one she dressed in red ribbons and curls. The favorite one was different from the others. She was of some other him, some other coupling.

All of the children had his negative blood type, she said.

She lied.

The favored child was positive. The other children knew. But one forgot.

The aware two watched as the banshee swayed to the lake’s bidding, taking whatever her own desires chose. Always abnormal. Always self-determined.

Halt.

The banshee stopped abruptly. Returning to scream throughout the night, lashing out once again. The face adorned went away, its raw self there. Its hatred naked in the night. Fearsome as ever.

Endless nights, the banshee tormented those around her. Violent. Unpredictable. Incapable of and shunning love.

A year came around and the policeman of the village, the anointed keeper of peace went to investigate. At the lake.

Some unfortunate one found the teen dropout, decaying in the lake. His life bled away, a fish food shell.

The two aware children saw the newspaper and were stunned. They knew of the young man, a cast out. The news posited his unsavory friends killed him, and left him to rot. They exclaimed!

The banshee declared, “He was scum!” Then, she disappeared back into her book.

As if that warranted his death. One child forgot. The two aware turned to one another and saw. No doubt. It was her. Their mother full capable of murder, they knew.

The banshee screamed that night, no different from any other. No more terrifying. No less. Untouched by her action. Waiting another life.

Copyright 2016 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Behind Closed Doors’ by Cheryl Russell

Anne walked passed number 13 and shook her head helplessly. Jean always seemed so cowed and browbeaten. Anne just wished she could do something but she had no proof that there was even a problem. She had her suspicions though. She had tried approaching Jean but she always avoided answering any questions. Anne had the impression that Jean was too scared to speak. It was a problem. It was impossible to know what went on behind closed doors.

Anne had tried to find out what was going on. Jean wasn’t going to speak to her quite obviously. She had tried speaking to other neighbours but met with a couldn’t care less attitude. Long gone were the days where neighbours helped and looked out for each other. The police wouldn’t intervene without evidence they had told her. In fact she had the impression they saw her as just a nosy neighbour rather than a concerned citizen. She had kept her distance from Jean’s husband, not wanting to cause more trouble for Jean.

Yesterday, she had caught a glimpse of Jean and her arms had been covered in bruises. There were two children to think of as well which worried Anne even more. The children were both early teens and appeared vulnerable by their appeances not that she had seen much of them. What was happening to them and what were they witnessing? She had never noticed bruising on the children and she had done her best to have a look – surreptitiously of course. It concerned her that the children were witnessing the alleged abuse. The psychological effects didn’t bear thinking about.

Today, the curtains were closed, so there was no way she could look to see what might be happening. She had worked out that it was a bad sign when they were closed. What was she supposed to do? The police wouldn’t be interested in this when she couldn’t even say there was a problem.

She went indoors and sat down, worn out from her shopping trip. She closed her eyes for a minute and dozed off. She was jolted awake by a scream. Was that coming from number 13? If there had been an incident, she couldn’t avoid taking action now. A scream surely meant something was very wrong.

She went out and warily knocked on the door. When no one responded she called through the letter box asking if everything was all right. There was still no answer although she thought she heard the faintest sound. She called again, saying she would call the police if no one answered.

“Get lost,” called a voice. Not a masculine voice as she had expected, but the voice of a child, probably female.

“Please let me in to speak to your mum,” she called again.

“I won’t tell you again. If you don’t leave us alone you will be sorry.”

What did that mean? Why would a child be making threats like that? Maybe they were just very frightened and were probably just trying to protect themselves and their mum. Anne wasn’t prepared to leave things as they were so she began to return to her house where she intended to call the police. She was a bit confused as to what was going on as she had expected a man to answer.

When the police arrived they tried to gain access. This time the door was opened and revealed the true horror of what had been going on. Jean and her husband Tom were laying on the floor hands and legs bound tightly together. Standing over them was a boy and girl who looked to be early teens. They were each holding knives which were pointed at their parents.

When Anne realised what this all meant she was shocked. For whatever reason it seemed as if the children were the abusers not Tom. The children obviously needed help. It made Anne question what had happened to make the children act with such violence towards their parents. At least now this mess would be sorted out and Jean and Tom would be able to live safely in future and the children would get the help they so obviously needed.

Copyright 2016 by Cheryl Russell. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.