by Matthew Wilson
“Richard killed his family last night,” Henry Arton said, turning the pages of his newspaper.
“The Benson lad?” Jennie stiffened, accidentally dropping her spoon. She cursed softly and got another from the kitchen drawer. “He was always so nice.”
Henry shrugged. It was old news. “Darn fool looked at the moon. After all the newsflashes, you’d figure some people would learn.”
“But it just seems so unbelievable, that it can make you go crazy like that.”
Henry opened his mouth to moan of youth’s folly, but snapped his lips together when Diana bounded downstairs. The subject was too macabre, and he’d promised not to speak of it around their daughter. He almost screamed when he saw she’d forgotten the golden rule of these dangerous times.
“Where your glasses?” he demanded.
“I can’t see with them on, Daddy.” Diana stopped skipping as she reached the bottom step and realized that a few smiles weren’t going to work. “All the windows are covered up.”
Continue reading Diana Falls
Flight of the Lonely
by Dusty Wallace
Edgar tried to make it to the toilet without glancing at the mirror over his bathroom sink. He didn’t want to see himself anymore. His wrinkly, liver-spotted wings had been beautiful once, blanketed with golden plumage. The feathers had started falling away in his fifties, and he’d begun to look sickly. Once they were all gone, the pale, chicken-bumped skin embarrassed him. Now he was an 80-year-old man, and the wings were covered in the same fine, white hairs that filled his ears and nostrils.
Edgar groaned as a trickle of urine forced its way past his enlarged prostate. A retirement community, he thought to himself. Retirement from what? From a furniture factory, was the answer, but he didn’t see it that way. Retirement was what successful people did after a fulfilling life. He had simply grown too old to work and got dragged to this place after a heart attack 10 years before. He groaned again as he zipped up. His bladder never felt empty anymore.
“If only I could fit a bed in here,” he said to himself. “Would make life a lot simpler.” Then he glanced in the mirror anyway.
Most seniors feared giving up their freedom, but for Edgar, it was different. In the past, whenever he’d been angry or frustrated—which was often—he’d take to the skies. A few hours of seeing humanity from God’s perspective would cool his thoughts. Now, holed up in a 90-square-foot room that smelled like dirty diapers and death, he felt tortured.
Continue reading Flight of the Lonely
The Big Purple
by S. H. Mansouri
Four white walls, like porcelain drapes, met Maggie’s weary gaze in every direction. The box that housed her was semitransparent, and the only sign of life outside was the occasional shrouded shape that danced across the walls like a shadow play beneath a cotton sheet. The ceiling was open, save for row upon row of cold shimmering silver bars that shot horizontally across the sky. Translucent, brightly-colored plastic tubes were strewn throughout the inside of the box, curving along the corners like neon caterpillars.
She stretched her neck upward and breathed in a concoction of scents: acetone, formaldehyde, latex, and ethanol. The dark, empty space inside these four walls comprised the entirety of her existence. However, Maggie knew from the slightest inkling of hope that the world she truly belonged to was somehow much bigger than anything the box-shaped unit could contain.
The ground beneath her was a mixture of wooden shrapnel and cedar dust that cushioned her every step in the darkness. Groggy and languid, Maggie traversed the yard, climbed to the top of a red tube and gripped her paws around a metal nipple that hung down between the bars on the ceiling. She chugged voraciously from the water dispenser, her stomach expanding like a furry, brown balloon. Satiated, Maggie jumped down from the tube and scurried back to bed, where she burrowed comfortably next to her cellmate, Fran.
Continue reading The Big Purple
A Song for Alice
by DJ Daniels
Ben was a singing butcher. Not the loud, operatic songs of a fruit seller, just a ditty, a tiny hum, a speck of joy. He sang to distract the girls from his profession, from the blood and the bones and the hanging carcasses. One girl, in particular.
She didn’t notice him, not for a long time. She would shudder when she came to the shop counter, and everyone knew she wasn’t happy to be there.
“She’s not for you, mate,” his fellow butchers would say. Probably a vego, probably anemic, probably forced to eat some meat. They’d seen it all before. “She’ll never look at you.”
Ben would watch her long, red hair swaying as she walked away with her sausages and bacon, and he would sigh. He made special marinades to tempt her, and in his imaginings, his longing, he found could see the flow of life before her, in beautiful curls, curves of pleasure and joy. He thought that if he sang, she would see that his life could coil in with hers, that they would wind together and make something marvelous and alive.
Continue reading A Song for Alice
by Charles Ebert
By the time Edward found his old shackles and chains, the storm was almost over. He hurried to the third floor lavatory, with the hardware gathered up in his arms. Carefully, so they wouldn’t clank before he was ready, he arranged the chains on the tile floor.
Edward could hear the new occupant of the house showering in the second-floor lavatory below. The man was loudly singing an aria from Don Giovanni, and Edward had to admit that the occupant had a pleasant baritone—not professional quality, but any amateur operatic company would have prized him.
The realization gave Edward pause. There is good in everyone, he thought. Maybe I should give the occupant another chance.
No, insisted another part of his mind. Edward knew he must think of himself now. The house belonged to him. His father had designed and built it, Edward had lived in it all his life, and his mother had been an occupant for more than fifty years. Memories chained him to this place.
Continue reading Hauntings
by J. S. Arquin
“More coffee, darling?”
John bit back a snarl. More coffee on an empty stomach and he’d start chewing on the walls.
Bea hummed about the kitchen, nimbly washing and drying the dishes. Her right eye reflected the morning sunlight in a rainbow sheen. Her left eye stared blindly, a multifaceted orb, milky and opaque.
Every morning, she popped out of bed with a smile on her face, bubbly and talkative. When they first met, John thought it was cute. Now, it made him want to disembowel small children.
Continue reading Bone Deep
by Aline Carriere
I saw him from the living room window the morning Grandma took a turn for the worse. He was walking in the sun on the other side of the street toward our house, humming. The window was open to let in the warm June air. There were roses and peonies below, still in bud, wrapped in promise.
On that summer morning when I was 11, Death was coming to my house for my Grandma, and I could hear him humming. It was the only sound I heard. The birds and crickets were silent. Even the wind didn’t stir.
Ma had sent me downstairs to watch for the priest. She’d called him early in the morning, when Grandma coughed up blood and her breathing got heavy.
Continue reading The Deal
by Sierra July
Mud clogs my nostrils as I sink deeper and deeper into the bog. Sputtering, I manage to regain my footing, planting my squeaky sneakers on a slippery log hiding beneath several layers of mud. Frogs chirp in the distance like thousands of heartbeats performing a symphony. Fireflies drift by, lazy lanterns perfectly complementing the stars.
Instead of the night noises, the words that started this venture resonate within me.
“Listen here, Patricia.” My dad slurred his words through pain. “I need you to journey across the swamp to get our winter supplies. The Council only leaves the jackets, frozen meat, and medicine out for 48 hours, and I can’t get there with this busted leg.”
My dad pointed to his leg, still harnessed in a sling. The only flesh visible was his swollen red foot, which he was lucky to still have after the gator took a chunk out of his calf.
Continue reading Swamplands
So Hungry, So Deep
by Daniel Powell
The man from the county was supposed to arrive by nine o’clock.
Joe stood at the window at ten minutes past nine. He brushed the drapes aside and found the gravel drive empty. Out on the highway, a tanker rumbled by, but other than that, life was what it always was: still and silent.
“No common courtesy these days,” he grumbled, heading into the kitchen to warm up his coffee. “Guess time’s not worth as much out here in the country.”
The young man eventually showed up, some 50 minutes after their scheduled appointment.
Continue reading So Hungry, So Deep
by Jean Davis
Jillian breathed deep through her nose and focused on the young man on the hospital bed beside her. His breathing remained troubled, even after the two-hour healing session she’d just performed. Doctors and nurses hovered in the hallway, poking in their heads from time to time to check on her progress. The pleading eyes of the man’s wife on the other side of the bed, along with the photo of their two children on the bedside table, wouldn’t allow her to give up.
She took a few moments to focus on the room, giving her body time to regroup. The remaining session would drain her, but she was so close with Mike that she didn’t dare stop now. He needed her.
Someone always did. The next patients on her list would have to hold on another day.
The television was silent, but photos of missing children still appeared behind the newscaster. Jillian secretly wished someone would steal her away. To be free of obligation, guilt and constant fatigue … she sighed.
Continue reading Healer