Category Archives: Fantasy

Leap into the Sky

Leap into the Sky
by Steven x Davis

I’m getting ready to jump up to heaven, but my legs aren’t strong enough yet. For the past several weeks, I’ve been practicing a variety of leg exercises, which should strengthen my calves and thighs so I can make the leap. I wanted to buy an all-purpose weight machine, but the boardinghouse where I live won’t let residents install exercise equipment, so I made do with some bungee cords and a couple of cinder blocks.

I read online that you should eat plenty of protein when you want to build muscle, so I went to the grocery store and bought a crate of ribeye steaks from the butcher. He gave me a great deal because the mad cow outbreak has scared everyone away from eating beef and the ribeyes were on the verge of going bad. He couldn’t sell them to anybody else, but I don’t mind sour meat as long as it’s cooked, and I’ll be in heaven long before mad cow disease can affect me.

I’m trying to eat between four and six steaks a day, depending on how much exercise I’m able to get in. I quit my job at the sandwich shop, but I still do odd jobs around the boardinghouse for Mrs. Potter, the landlady. Sometimes she calls me the “superintendent,” but she really just needs somebody to tape and glue things together after they break so she won’t have to replace anything or hire a real repairman. In exchange, my rent is only half of what the other residents pay, so the work is worth the trouble.

Apart from doing chores around the building, I spend most of my time training my legs. The only other time I leave my apartment is at breakfast.

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Coin-Op Carter

Coin-Op Carter
by Sean Benham

They were punishment for a lost bet one day, a curse from a bearded woman the next. The end result of a business venture gone sour, or sometimes it was a deal with the Devil. The edges of the smaller, vertical rectangle were tinged with a faint orange glow that burned from within. The larger, horizontal rectangle was a digital display; it didn’t quite function like a cheap alarm clock, but it sure looked like one. You could have asked him about them a hundred times and you wouldn’t have received the same answer twice. The truth was, he couldn’t remember how he wound up with a coin-op slot and a countdown timer lodged in the middle of his chest.

His name was Carter, most likely. He didn’t have any ID under that name, or any ID at all. What he did have was a jaggy, faded tattoo scrawled across his neck. It either read Carter or Carten, and he didn’t respond kindly to Carten.

Carter was a bum if you appreciated the indelicate; he was perpetually down on his luck if you didn’t. Slice the wording however you like, but one way or the other, he was homeless and used to be a fixture down on Main. He set up in front of the cake shop on weekdays, but when the weekend rolled around, a cupcake or two could usually convince him to relocate a ways down the block. The frame store didn’t care for their unwelcome weekend guest, but they didn’t have much to offer in exchange for him getting off of their stoop.

He was an odd sight, instantly recognizable. His hair did as it pleased, naturally tending to pile in a messy bird’s nest on top of his head. He couldn’t grow a proper beard, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Long, graying scraggles jutted from his upper lip and drooped off of his chin. He was old, most likely. 55? 60? It was hard to say. He was pickled in hard living, indelicately preserved. Carter didn’t dress for practicality or comfort. Winter or summer, rain or shine, he always wore the same crusty brown slacks and battered snow boots, but opting to go without a shirt. He had to show off his moneymaker.

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Annunciation

Annunciation
by Alicia Cusano-Weissenbach

You ain’t supposed to see stuff like that, so you just pretend you don’t. It ain’t so weird, y’know. There’s lots of stuff like that—normal stuff that you ain’t supposed to see—so you just keep walking.

Y’know what I mean, don’t you? Like when some fat bitch smacks her kid upside the face in a store and you feel bad, ’cause y’know, you been that kid. Or when you’re walking home and you see some guy tweaking, and it’s the middle of the day and he’s on the sidewalk in front of his building, but you just keep walking.

This is like that, but it ain’t. Difference is that other people see them things and y’know it ’cause they’re trying so hard not to, but with this, no one but me and Benny see it. I saw it first, and then Benny did, but not ’til I pointed and made him look at it.

Well, actually, that ain’t entirely true, ’cause y’see, I think my intestines felt it first. They sorta clenched up and got all wiggly­feeling, like they was bursting, and that’s how I knew to look.

Benny says it’s probably ’cause I got a worm, like the one we saw at the Mütter Museum when his parents took us to Philly. That place was all full of messed-up shit, like body parts in jars and the original Siamese twins. Wish I could be stuck on Benny like that. Guess you’d get tired of being together like that after a while, though.

Still, I had to show Benny, ’cause nothing impresses him. He’s too smart for school, and he gets A’s even though he cuts class. He comes down to see me ’cause it really ain’t that far away from where his parents live. They’re the richest people I ever saw, and they live in the good part of the borough. We don’t go there ’cause people stare at us.

People here stare at Benny, too, but no one ever tried to jump him. He’s asthmatic and thin, and he’s got skin like cream. Wears a Rolex at age 14 and has his little suit like a little business person ’cause his school makes him wear it—and he walks down the street alone!

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I Dated Mother Nature

I Dated Mother Nature
by Joshua Harding

I guess the ex I remember most is Mother Nature—or Gaia, as she prefers to be called. What more could a man want, really? She was fertility incarnate, a living Venus of Willendorf, a walking, talking cornucopia of procreation. Her hips were rolling hillocks, alive with the sound of music. Her auburn hair would whisk against her smooth shoulders with the hush of a Montana wheat field.

She was a jealous bitch, though. She’d flood my apartment with heavy rains or drop a tree in front of me if I so much as looked at another woman. Our relationship was, to use a cliché, a little stormy at times. But God, did she have great tits!

My older sister had dragged me to a party in the Jersey suburbs so I could meet some people and maybe find a job and maybe become more responsible. I’d just graduated from Colgate in the class of ’58 with a degree in literature (or “filth,” according to my mother), and I realized the moment the hostess took my coat that I didn’t fit in and never would. I was an artist—a poet—with a spine-cracked copy of A Coney Island of the Mind in my pocket. I had nothing in common with those workaday types. You could practically scrape their quiet desperation off the floor.

I happened to notice a book strategically placed on the coffee table: Henry Miller’s Under the Roofs of Paris. Its title peeked out furtively from beneath the latest issue of Woman’s Day. The hostess, a childless suburban housewife and high school friend of my sister’s, was trying very hard to advertise that she was into banned books. Too bad no one at the party (including her) had actually read the thing and knew the saucy nuances contained inside.

I looked at the book and then at the room full of people all wearing their Chanel and Dior with the sable fur trim, and thought: These ladies think of themselves as worldly and scandalous. They wish they were having affairs (with Henry Miller in Paris) while their husbands are out playing golf. They need to get out more. And I wondered how many of the husbands were doing just that to their wives—screwing someone at the office or the trade show or the regional sales meeting.

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The Whole Tooth

The Whole Tooth
by Steven P. Bouchard

Two kids were studying the grotesque doll in front of Earnest’s carnival tent.

“It might grant you a wish if you’re worthy,” the carny said, straightening his tie.

“Yeah, right.” The girl was maybe 11, the boy, a few years younger. He stared in awe, while she had a typical preteen look of disdain.

The old carny came around the doll’s footlocker. “Right as rain. Push that little button, and if he loses a tooth, you get your wish.”

The doll was four feet tall and dressed in a suave ringmaster’s suit. If it weren’t for his bulging, bloodshot eyes and the set of oversized teeth protruding from his blackened gums, he might have been considered dapper. But Granddaddy never was a dapper man, and he’d have thrashed anyone who even suggested it.

“He’s ugly,” said the boy, making a face.

“Yep. Just as ugly as in life.”

“He’s not alive.” Again, that head-wagging attitude. Granddaddy would hate the girl.

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Unfurled

Unfurled
by Kiya Krier

“No home toys at school, Rylan,” I said, folding myself into the preschool-sized chair.

He pulled the orange figurine from his pocket. His pants were on backward. Again.

“She’s not a toy,” he said. “She’s a real, live dragon.” The model stood, head held high, front foot cocked off Rylan’s scabbed palm, little wings unfurled slightly.

“Beautiful. Put the toy in your cubby.”

His dark brows drew together. “Ms. Kathy, she doesn’t like when people call her that.”

I glanced at my watch. Three minutes late. “Of course, just put it away.”

I followed Rylan with my eyes as I sang the circle-welcoming song to the rest of the class. His ankles showed between his shoes and pant hems. The scabs were back. If only he would stop picking them.

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Coming Home

Coming Home
by Priya Sridhar

Three cops tried to stop me as I made my way down the street. No, three cops is a wrong way to say it. It was more like three cops, each with their personal arsenal of grenades strapped to their belts, attack dogs, and large cars. In fact, I had only seen cars like these in my army days, when I had been a commander.

“I have to get home,” I tried explaining to one guy. He was wearing riot gear and riding an armored truck. I had been shuffling down the street, moving slowly because I couldn’t see out of one eye.

“Road’s closed!” He shouted at me through a bullhorn. “Go back!”

“I can’t,” I said, calmly. It never helped to get angry with the police, no matter how stupid they were. The last time I had lost my temper …

“Move or I’ll make you move!” he screeched. His fingers went to his grenades, preparing to toss them.

“Then make me,” I said, unbuttoning my shirt and rolling my eyes. I had been wearing an aqua-blue polo that night; I was still wearing it. There hadn’t been time to change, probably because my mind had been in a strange place full of blackness and murky images. Too much chatter, too many blurred memories congealing into an ugly mess that I didn’t want to remember.

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The Other End of the Lake

The Other End of the Lake
by Dara Marquardt

I don’t remember much about my death. I don’t even think of it very often. At first, it was all I could think of, but that only lasted a little while. Now, I know that I’m dead. There’s no sense rehashing it.

What I really recall is the white. Sometimes I think about it as I watch him sleep. I think of the blinding white light and wonder if that’s where heaven comes from. There were slices of light that night, and they remain sharp, like cut stone. The white of headlights dancing off the rim of the steering wheel. The scattered diamonds of rain on the windshield. The wipers as they scrape against glass. The chrome door handle shining as I put the key in the lock. The glow of the stereo as I turned the knob.

I remember looking at Jane. She was burning as she sat by the hospital bed. She was burning as she’d burned in a field of golden green the first time I saw her. Her mouth a clever smile, her eyes like two secrets, her skin like white honey. She was beautiful then, with her blonde hair down and tree shadows hiding the edges of her cheeks. And she was beautiful in that T-shirt she slept in, sweatpants on, our daughter on her lap.

She was beautiful when I died. I don’t think I’ll forget that.

It was hard at first, to look at things. Everything was very bright. Jane, maybe because I loved her, love her still, was the brightest. But our daughter was bright, too. I remember wanting, needing, to reach out and touch her cheek. To feel the fine strands of her brown hair. To be near her. To feel the warmth of the light burning through her.

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Ashes

Ashes
by Marcus Church

By way of celebration, they took Scott’s ashes to the bluff at Barrett’s Point and let the wind take them. As the Pacific thundered and crashed on the sandstone below, the swirling motes twisted and twined as if struggling to find the form they used to hold. For a heartbeat, Izzy imagined a face in the cloud, and the shadowed pockets of its eyes seemed to regard her.

Her scalp tingled.

He knows.

Karl draped an arm about her shoulders and said, “At last, that fucker’s out of our lives.”

Izzy shrugged his arm away and watched the last of her husband disperse over the sea. “It seems so surreal. Like a dream …”

“I know,” said Karl. Izzy felt the abrasive rub of his stubbled chin against the nape of her neck. His arms snaked about her waist, pulling her tight against him. “Thanks to hubby’s life insurance, you’re a rich widow. A hot, rich widow.” He tongued her earlobe.

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Crescent Cross

Crescent Cross
by Robert Luke Wilkins

Walter awoke to the sound of his wife Jessica throwing up in the adjacent bathroom. It happened every morning, a gift of her relentless morning sickness.

He stood, walked to the balcony door, and looked out. The view was spectacular. Their home was nestled against the side of a mountain, and the balcony faced southwest, perfect for sunsets, and the sun wouldn’t blind you awake in the morning. You could leave the curtains and doors open on hot summer nights, and Crescent Cross had plenty of those.

Walter loathed the view.

He heard something smash downstairs, followed by the keening wail of a child. That was Michael. Walter had heard about The Terrible Twos, of course, but had never considered just how terrible they’d be once Michael escaped his crib.

“I’ll deal with him,” he called to his wife. He heard her retch and throw up again. He sighed.

If only they’d known.

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