Submit your flash fiction! These are the guidelines.

READING PERIOD:  OPEN OCTOBER 1, 2017 to NOVEMBER 30, 2017.

YES, PLEASE:

Flash fiction stories only.  Word count: 1,000 or less.

English language only.

Original work only.

Genre: science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, humour, western, mystery, literary…and any variation or combination thereof.  If in doubt, send it along – you never know.

Multiple submissions:  feel free to send up to three (3) submissions during the reading period.  Please send each submission separately.

Simultaneous submissions: all good. If your story is selected for publication elsewhere, please contact me right away to withdraw it from my consideration.

NO, THANK YOU:

Word count over the limit.

Poetry, non-fiction, essays, children’s stories, anything other than flash fiction.

Erotica, excessive gore, abuse, or ‘isms such as racism, sexism, etc..

Overly saucy language.  I don’t mind swear words, I just would prefer to keep the content on the site closer to the PG side of things.

Reprints.

Stories sent outside of the reading period.

Artwork.

Queries. They’re not necessary.  Send me your work if you think there’s a chance I might like it.  Please don’t ask me about your submission after you’ve sent it. I will get back to you by December 31, 2017.

FORMATTING:

I’m not picky about fonts or font sizes or margins or paragraph indentations or anything of the sort.  I will format your work to fit the site if it is accepted for publication.  If your story has an experimental form and I accept it, we’ll work together to ensure it is posted properly.

Cover letters are not required.

Your contact information (name, email address) MUST be included somewhere in your submission.

Please watch your spelling and grammar – if your story is littered with errors, I am likely to give it less of a chance.  Don’t worry about American/Canadian/British spelling; I’ll sort it all out.

If edits are required, I will make them and send you the proof for confirmation before publication on the website.

If your work is accepted, I will ask for a short bio.  This will be an opportunity to add a link to your author’s website or blog.

RENUMERATION:

If your story is accepted for publication, you will be paid $5.00 (Canadian funds).  Please note that if you live in certain countries outside of Canada, the exchange rate may mean you don’t quite make five bucks from your story.  I’m sorry about that, but if it’s a problem, please don’t send me your work.  Payment will be issued via PayPal.  In order to receive payment, your PayPal email address must be provided to me.

  • If your story is published in the months of January, February, March, or April, you will be issued payment on the first of January.
  • If your story is published in the months of May, June, July, or August, you will be issued payment on the first of May.
  • If your story is published in the months of  September, October, November, or December, you will be issued payment on the first of September.

PUBLICATION:

Authors retain all rights to their work.

Bear in mind that if your story is posted on Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction (or anywhere else on the Internet, for that matter), you may not be able to submit it to another publisher as it will be considered a “reprint.”

If, for some reason, you wish to withdraw your story from Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction’s website, please send me a message and I’ll remove it as quickly as I can.  Again, it will still count as a “reprint” in the view of a future publisher, even if it has only been posted for a short time.

If your story is accepted, I will let you know when I plan to post it on the website.  It will be posted on the first day of that month.

OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW:

In this second year of Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction’s existence, I will only be accepting twelve (12) stories for publication.

I will send you a confirmation of receipt of your story within 48 hours of your submission.

I must apologize, but I cannot offer more than a form rejection letter at this time.

SEND SUBMISSIONS via the Contact Form.

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Steve Pease – White Lies, Black Lies

White Lies, Black Lies

By Steve Pease

Way before it ever came to this, Margaret and I would curl on the couch. We’d touch glasses (Sancerre for her, Shiraz for me), and we’d touch each other. Then we’d talk about what touched us both in the music we listened to.

Back then, disagreement was rare. So when she enthused about a Tracy Chapman line (something about lies being best when storytelling), I went along with it.

“Great song.” I said. (Truth).

“Profound insight.” I added. (Lie).

Honestly? I don’t think Ms. Chapman thought it through. There may be a place for the little white relationship balm I spread that evening, but most lies are like the aggressive cultures I’ve studied under a thousand microscopes; they rebound and multiply indiscriminately, with no regard for anything in their path.

And they bite. And they wound. Sometimes it’s a scratch that continues to itch long after it should have healed. (People call that guilt). Other times it’s a major trauma. (Name me a war that started from truth).

I guess that most of my early lies would share some common ground with yours.

At five: “It wasn’t me, Mom.”
At ten: “No, Mr. Francis, I didn’t cheat on the math test.”
At fifteen: “Of course I love you, Leah.”
(That may be just a boy one; I never did understand women well enough to know whether they practice the same hormone-driven duplicity).
At twenty: “55 m.p.h., officer.”

Sadly, too, I know that many of you will hear these like the echo of familiar footsteps down your own hallway:

“I still love you.”
“Nothing’s wrong, I’m just tired.”
“I have to work late to finish the project.”
“There’s this conference in San Diego.”

The end result of those was coming home one night to find that both Margaret and the house were cleared out. The end result of those was coming apart a little. As I said, they rebound and they multiply.

And, in turn, having bred, they led to the last five lies I recall. All told to my research supervisor at Endove.

“Yeah, yeah, Ron, everything’s okay at home.”
“Just a couple to unwind after a hard day. I don’t have a problem with it.”
“Yes, I know the environment is controlled and that there’s no danger.”
“No! Why on earth would I work off-program, and make and take a vaccine?”
“Absolutely, I always observe the safety protocols.”

Of course, after the accident, Ron’s not around to reprimand me. Not many people are. Hell of a big bite. Hell of a big wound.

And, I suppose, hell of a big guilt. But if I can find anyone left to lie to, I probably still will.

 

Steve Pease once had a ‘proper job’, drafting press-releases and briefings for British politicians. He argues, rather convincingly, that this was an ideal apprenticeship in the realms of fantasy. These days, he enjoys an idyllic lifestyle – walking his dogs by the River Derwent in Northern England, as he dreams up ideas for his twin passions of story and song writing.

Steve’s work has appeared in U.K. sci-fi/fantasy magazine ‘The Singularity’, Volumes 1 & 2 of Canadian anthology ’47-16: Short Fiction & Poetry Inspired by David Bowie’, and – in the USA – in Fantasia Divinity’s ‘Distressing Damsels’ anthology. Examples of his musical collaborations can be seen & heard at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zOS8K6tZQk&feature=youtu.be and https://www.reverbnation.com/thejamesdeangarageband

J.L. Fullerton – The Harvest

The Harvest

By J.L. Fullerton

The motor of the old tractor hummed and purred steadily, sounding somehow melodic amongst the relative silence of the flat, open space. Bathed in early spring sunshine, beneath the expansive ocean of a bright blue, cloudless sky, the diesel-slurping machine guided the disc harrow around the field in a majestic dance. A thin stream of serpentine dust trailed behind, twisting and twirling upward, slowly fanning out like a giant dragon with massive wings outstretched, before drifting apart and dissipating slowly into nothingness.

The lumpy soil, black as coal, was quickly reduced to a fine powder as the sharp points jutting from each of the rapidly rotating circular steel plates shredded and pulverized all within their path.

Ahead, a shape jutted from the earth defiantly; it practically taunted him, stubbornly standing in stark contract to the flat land all around.

It looked like narrow sliver of jagged rock at first, but as he steered toward it for a closer look, recognition struck him like a bullet.

What the hell? That’s impossible….

His brow furrowed as he contemplated a tangible explanation for what his eyes were telling him.

He shook his head—it didn’t matter.

The problem was easily rectified.

Whistling a tune softly to himself, restoring the wide grin on his face, he jammed the shift lever forward. A soft grinding sound filled the cab as the transmission initially resisted his efforts, before finally conceding the higher gear.

The machine lurched forward, picking up speed as the exhaust pipe belched out a thick jet of inky, black smoke.

The front tire bounced over the troublesome thing, followed by the much larger rear tire.

Bounced from his seat, he giggled like a child on an amusement park ride, his face split by a wide smirk, eyes bulging with a crazed intensity.

Twisting around, he shouted in triumph as the disc blades pulverized the thing; it burst open like an cherry tomato squished between the fingers.

He recoiled slightly as a strip of bloody flesh splattered against the rear window of the cab, mere inches from his face.

He shouted gleefully as the deathly pallid skin, soggy and wrinkled, slowly slid down the glass, leaving a narrow smear of ruby-red liquid in its wake. The once vibrant smudge grew dark and discoloured almost instantly, swarmed by the microscopic particles of dirt magnetically drawn toward the wet stickiness like crows to a carrion feast.

Reaching the bottom of the window, the paper-white swatch plummeted to the ground below, where it was immediately devoured by the hungry blades of the disc.

Through the cloud of dust, he saw that only a few small tufts of yellowish hair remained visible behind him, very much resembling the delicate stalks of wheat that would soon enough burst forth from the ground.

An insanely gleeful, triumphant shout filled the cab as he shifted gears once more and stomped the accelerator to the floor, sending the tractor racing off into the dusty beyond.

 

J.L. Fullerton is a writer & blogger from Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Canada, who specializes in horror and speculative fiction. When not locked in his basement office writing, he works as a teacher, teaching everything from Kindergarten to high school English, in addition to enjoying time spent with his wife and son. J.L. Fullerton can be contacted via his Twitter handle @horrorscribe85, and maintains a blog at https://jlf85.wordpress.com/, which consists of reflective posts pertaining to a variety of different topics including current events and the nature of this crazy thing we call life!

S P Mount – Giveth and Taketh

 

Giveth and Taketh

By S P Mount

Mary cupped the silver thistle with both hands as if she captured a mouse. Breathless, she realized the professor she cleaned for had spoken the truth, and not through a hole in his demented head. Loosening her grasp, she cast her eye down the length of the stalk.

Its thorns were steely, sharp as Lilliputian swords. She scowled. Folklore dictated they stab into her palms. Draw blood. The opportunity of a century would be lost if she did not. The ‘Steely Scot’ would revert to any other purple weed dominating the postcard scenery of the glen.

She winced at the prospect. Inhaling deeply through her nostrils, she exhaled through tightened lips. Despite resolve, she tentatively wrapped her fingers around the precarious stalk but its pinheads merely scratched the surface. She wished she’d downed some Dutch courage, but, if the legend proved true, she could not afford to mess up the wording of her wish or she could end up as a real-life troll like the Lithuanian man/woman she used to share a prison cell with.

Even if she had donned a wig and sunglasses and used a stolen credit card for the rental car, she could not risk driving drunk again. Most roads around Loch Ness could be tightened with a shoelace while others twisted like tinsel around a Christmas tree. She could kill herself this time.

“Just do it, Mary!” she screeched.

Her shrillness surprised her. It bounced around the valley like a wayward ping-pong ball. Her ex always did say her voice could guide ships into the harbour. Hardened by the streets she grew up in, as well prison, she knew no fear, but there, in the serenity of the Highlands, even the chirp of a songbird unsettled her.

She gritted what teeth were left so hard the really rotten ones crumbled a little more. But that would not matter in a few minutes. She’d wish for youth, beauty and riches. Compressing her palms into the thistle’s spikes, her scream pierced the glen so the petals of bluebells closed in fear.

She lay flat on her belly and hung to the stalk, as her mind involuntarily flashed back to the incident in her teens when she nearly died.

A deep-rooted weed protruding from the overhang of an industrial waste ‘bing’ people joked made children impervious to disease for having played upon, together with a six-inch stiletto heel anchored into its chalky, sheer cliff face, helped to save her life until a faceless someone with a strong hand pulled her up. If her existence did not otherwise suck since, she’d be convinced she’d had a guardian angel.

Euphoria rushed through her bloodstream like a high-speed Internet connection. Suddenly, she felt no pain. No warm breeze on her bare limbs. No aroma of the subtle potpourri of floral and heather that vied with thistles to carpet the hillside. Her physical being had, apparently, returned to the ‘womb of the cosmos’–something she’d snorted at when the professor shared his secret about the ancient legend. It was exactly as he foretold.

“The writings cannot possibly do justice to the perception of all existence, though,” he said as Mary struggled to compose her choke-filled laughter. “The human impediment interferes, you see.

“No matter the sense of etherealness, the vision, painted in all its eloquent prose, is true beauty beyond the sentiment of even Plato himself.

“According to a script discovered under a broken floorboard at the University of Edinburgh while practising the ‘Highland Fling’ in his youth, a magical thistle was said to materialise once a year in the Highlands.

“A gift from the Banshee that once ruled the moors, it will grant whomever discovers it a single wish. It has taken my entire lifetime, but, finally, I know when and exactly where it will appear.

“But the venom, for make no mistake, that’s exactly what it might be, when injected into the palm of the hand, reveals the wonders of countless planes.”

Mary quipped because she lived under the Glasgow Airport flight path she was well used to countless planes.

“Alas, though, the fates are against me. They riddled me this.” He said and patted his lung cancer. “I wither before salvation comes. Pity, for I might choose immortality if only my body would endure as sturdily as my mind.”

Alone in the world, the nutcase might, Mary hoped, just leave her money in his will. And, when that day came, she was delighted to be summoned to a law office. But the professor only left the ancient script. An envelope signed, sealed and delivered together with a sarcastic smile.

“The SPCA gets the rest.”

There is no reward without sacrifice, the accompanying letter read. You must word your wish judiciously, Mary.

After looking up ‘judiciously’, and the Internet confirming the Steely Scot was actually a ‘thing’, Mary took it seriously. Could the old nutter have spoken the truth?

Yes.

Her wish contained every possible proviso. She memorized it verbatim. The double-edged sword those who discovered the thistle of centuries past said the magic was, would not take Mary Smith’s carefully considered words and cleverly misinterpret them to turn an opportunity of a lifetime into a curse instead.

No.

“State your desire.” A disembodied voice boomed.

“I wish. . .” Mary said and coughed nervously. “No! No wish. Not for you. The hand of fate was already extended to save your life. A life since wasted. I grant only my other hand; the opportunity to change one thing about how you came to live that life.”

“Well, if I knew that, I would never have bothered coming.” Mary sniffed.

“Granted.”

“What? Wait….”

As her physical being dissipated to where she might have been had indeed she not bothered, she heard the voice of the professor.

“Of course, Mary, the one thing to be changed, was for you to never have slipped over that cliff, you silly moo.”

“Sh…!”

And her scream turned the air blue throughout countless planes.

 

A prolific author of numerous short stories, novellas and novels, a love of travel and people-watching serve to widen the abyss of creativity and strange imagination S P Mount comes home to to put ‘pen to paper’–as well his beloved Mini-Schnauzer, MacGregor.

Stephen Sottong – Refugee

Refugee

By Stephen Sottong

There was a rat in the soup. It was going to be a good day. Liss moved slowly, stiffly, from her privileged position on the top of the shelves in the drafty shed where the orphan girls slept. From this warmer height, she observed her tiny domain.

Liss walked the few paces in the morning chill to near the front of the soup line. She was never first. If a big girl like her was always first, the matrons would call her a bully and make her go without. She pushed two of her friends ahead of her. They’d give her some of their soup. It was worth it – all of the good parts were ladled out to the first few girls.

The gaunt, sad-eyed Head Matron broke the routine of the morning. She walked in pushing a dirty, reluctant, red-headed girl ahead of her.

The big woman who ladled the soup wiped greasy hands on her stained apron and pushed red hair from the new girl’s eyes and sighed. “So fragile.”

“So tragic,” the Matron said, prying small hands from her worn dress.

“How many more can we take?” the woman with the ladle asked.

The Matron shrugged, handed the girl a tin bowl and injected her into the line ahead of Liss.

Liss saw that the red hair was dirty but curled. The dress the girl wore was useless in the cold. Her muddy shoes were patent leather. The red-haired girl sobbed and trembled.

Shaking her head, Liss poked the red-haired girl in the small of the back when she did not move as the line progressed. She would have to learn the ropes.

On her turn at the vat of soup, the red-haired girl held out her bowl and started to scream when she saw the rat. Liss grabbed a handful of the red curls with her left hand and whispered, “Spill a drop of that and I’ll yank your hair out by the roots.”

The big woman mechanically ladled soup into the red-haired girl’s bowl. Liss held out her bowl with her right hand and guided the red-haired girl with the left. She moved the girl to a corner of the filthy shed. The red-haired girl looked at the soup with the rat leg floating in it and started to retch. Liss grabbed the bowl, and downed the soup, crunching on the bones, then sat to eat her own. The red-haired girl stared at Liss, sobbing. Liss tossed the empty tin bowl at her head. The red-haired girl retreated to a corner, crouching in fetal position, crying. Looking at the girl, Liss fleetingly thought of getting her something to eat, but dismissed it – she wouldn’t last long. Most didn’t.

Liss sat back, licked the last of the broth from her bowl and let the soup take the chill from her bones. There had been a rat in the soup. It was going to be a good day.

 

Stephen Sottong has been writing full-time for the last 14 years from behind the Redwood curtain in beautiful northern California. He was a 2013 winner of the Writers of the Future contest. More information about him and a list of publications can be found at https://www.stephensottong.com.

Rhys Hughes – When a Wink is the Same as a Blink

When a Wink is the Same as a Blink

By Rhys Hughes

I admit it. I gave a pair of binoculars as a birthday gift to a cyclops. It was a bad idea, a joke in poor taste, but I just couldn’t help myself. Giving an optical device to a cyclops is suitable if that device is a monocle or even a telescope or kaleidoscope. But binoculars are cruel. I suppose I still can’t forgive and forget the eating of my crew.

It was a long time ago and bygones should be bygones. You can argue that and I will nod at your wise words. But deep inside I feel that men and monsters can never be real friends. They eat us and we slay them and that leaves deep psychological scars. It seems to me that there is always a risk that old conflicts will flare up once again.

It wasn’t the first time half my crew had been devoured. Long before I even knew what a cyclops was, I lost many good sailors to a tyrannosaur. That was in the days when ships were a lot more primitive and crude than they are now. They didn’t have sails or oars, but just went where currents took them. All voyages were random ones.

The tyrannosaur incident gave me an idea for a subtle form of revenge and the next time I encountered the beast I gave it a pair of binoculars as a present. I experienced a deep satisfaction as I watched the vicious brute attempt to peer through both lenses at the same time, even though its eyes were on either side of its head. Very funny!

“That’s to pay you back for my digested crewmen,” I said to myself, as I watched the villain become dizzy and fall over. I departed and knew that an inappropriate gift can be a more decisive retribution than a sword thrust. Later an asteroid splashed into the sea with such force that a giant tidal wave washed all the tyrannosaurs away.

But my troubles were far from over. I went on many voyages and my sailors were always eaten by something or other. When we were captured by the cyclops I saw at once that if I ever escaped his clutches, one day I would return and give him a pair of binoculars. I was already scheming to do this with a polite bow and a shrewd smile.

That future time came and I was passing his cave and dropped in for a visit. He brewed coffee for me and we chatted about former glories. Then he looked sheepish and said, “No hard feelings?” and I replied, “None at all, dear chap,” and I presented him with the binoculars wrapped in shiny paper. He blinked at the parcel and opened it.

I thought he was winking at me and I winked back, but he really was only blinking, because a blink is the same a wink to a cyclops. Then big tears dripped down his face and used his nose as a ski jump to leap clear of his chin. It was as if a tap had been turned on inside his head, the same head that had munched my men years before.

These were the loneliest tears imaginable because they came down in single file without the moral support of other tears on the other side of his face. In fact they were so lonely that each teardrop wept smaller tears of its own, and so on to infinity, which explains why one should never go to watch a sad movie in a cinema with a cyclops.

Rhys Hughes has been writing and publishing fiction for the past 25 years. His first book was published in 1995 and since then he has had almost forty books and more than five hundred short stories published in ten different languages around the world. He has a particular fondness for flash fiction and his collection FLASH IN THE PANTHEON gathers together some of his best work in this form. He is currently working on a long novel about a ghostly highwayman. His blog can be found at https://rhysaurus.blogspot.co.uk/.

Gregg Chamberlain – Courtesy

Courtesy

By Gregg Chamberlain

Me and the guys were out on the back nine. I was ready to chip my way out of a sand trap when a ball landed just off to the side. I looked behind me into the burning red eyes of War. Behind him, each seated in his own golf cart, were the other Riders of the Apocalypse.

War pointed his golf club ― a nine iron ― at the ball on the fairway. “Mind if we play through?”

I shrugged. “Go ahead.”

War slammed his ball down the fairway and they all puttered off.

Hey, sometimes good manners count in golf.

 

Gregg Chamberlain, a community newspaper reporter four decades in the trade, lives in rural Eastern Ontario with his missus, Anne, and a clowder of four cats who allow their humans the run of the house. Past fiction credits for sf, fantasy, weird fiction, and zombie filk include Daily Science Fiction, Apex, Weirdbook, NonBinary Review, Prose ‘n’ Cons Mystery, and various anthologies.

Joanna Michal Hoyt – Passage

Passage

by Joanna Michal Hoyt

Steady, now. Walk this way. Straight toward me.

No, of course you can’t see me in this dark, but there’s nothing the matter with your hearing. Come on now….

Don’t lurch sideways like that! Your bedside light’s not there. Your flashlight’s not there. There’s nothing to the side of you but empty space. The bridge is under your feet, but it’s narrow, only a step across. Believe me, you don’t want to fall. There’s nothing and no one to catch you.

That’s right, no one. I’m only a voice. You’ll be rid of me soon enough.

Dreaming? You could call it that. Yes, you’ll wake up in time. But what will you wake to? That depends on what you do now.

Drop that. It won’t help you here. You all come here clutching something–some weapon, some talisman, some precious thing to pay your passage. It doesn’t serve. Keep your hands open to feel the air, to test your balance.

Talking won’t help. There’s no one but me to hear you now. Be quiet. Keep looking into the dark. Soon you’ll be able to see the shapes of things.

Yes, the bridge is getting narrower, but you can still walk it. No, you can’t see the far end. Go on. Don’t stare over the sides. You won’t see bottom. There is none.

Steady now. Watch your step. Never mind the lights out there. You can’t go to them, and they can’t come to you. All they can do is blind your eyes so that you miss your footing.

Steady! Look at your feet! You can’t go to her. The bridge doesn’t run that way. She can’t help you. She’s not there. It’s only your wanting that called her image out of the air. It’s not even a true image. Her shoulders were never really that broad. She couldn’t keep you from the worst things, even back where you came from. Here you’re on your own.
You see? She’s fading now, she’s changing….

Steady. Don’t flinch so or you’ll fall. Keep your eyes open. She can’t hurt you here. Her face looks like an evil reflection of yours, I know; looks more that way than it ever did in life. It’s your fear that makes it so, and your fear that makes her seem so tall, so menacing. And the things she’s saying about you–they’re almost true, but they’re a little worse than truth.

UNCOVER YOUR EARS!

That’s better. You’ll need to be able to hear me. And see, as soon as you stop cringing, her voice fades away….

Watch your step. The bridge is still narrowing–your feet are wider than it is. Sore? I don’t wonder. Keep going.

Steady. You can’t reach her. You can’t help her. She’s not here. Even if she were she’d have to choose her own way. She always did. You were right to tell her that, even if she did cry and ask you why you couldn’t just be comforting. There were things you could do for her back there, and you did them, and they weren’t enough. There’s nothing you can do for her now. See, she’s gone. All right, cry if you must, but pay attention to where you’re going. If you can make it to the end you might meet real people to help again.

Keep going. Don’t stare at her. You can’t stand still on this thin edge without falling. Yes, I see that disappointed look she has. I know why she looked that way at you before. You can’t make amends now. You might have, back then, but you were too busy envying her strength and wanting her to like you, you didn’t notice how lonely she was until too late. You didn’t do her much harm. She came here with empty hands. She passed. She’s not here now.

Steady! If you’d fallen just then–

The lights are gone. That’s better. No, I don’t suppose you do like the plain dark, but at least it won’t distract you. Keep going.

That’s right, the bridge stops here. No, you didn’t miss a turning. There aren’t any.

No, of course you can’t walk all the way across. You can’t stand still here much longer, either. The wind’s already starting to tug at you, and it’ll get stronger as you wait. Strong enough to knock you off the bridge–it wouldn’t take that much, you know. Strong enough, also, to carry you where you need to go.

No, not where you want to go. Why would you expect that?

Yes, you can turn back around, or try to; walk all the way back, if your feet will hold you; wake up as you fell asleep, only a little wearier, a little less real. I can’t stop you. But if you want to finish the journey you’ll have to let the wind take you.

Where? How should I know? You don’t have time to fret over that. You can’t teeter here on the edge much longer. You’ll have to turn back now if at all, or raise your arms now and let the wind take you, or stand there like an idiot until you fall.

That’s the way. I told you it would hold you up.

Yes, they’re all there; the child you sang to, the guest you welcomed, the old man who told you stories, the girl who asked you hard questions, the white quartz in the black brook, the walnut tree shedding its leaves, all the things that gave you strength to keep going back there in the dark. You can’t hold them, no, but you can see them now, for just a moment, before….

It’s good to see you laughing. Go well. You’re going beyond my ken. Wherever you wake up it will be morning.

 

Joanna Michal Hoyt lives with her family on a Catholic Worker farm in upstate NY where she spends her days tending gardens, goats and guests and her evenings reading and writing odd fiction. Her stories have appeared in publications including Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and the Mysterion anthology of Christian speculative fiction. 

MFC Feeley – Lazy Brandr

Lazy Brandr

by MFC Feeley

“And the witch rowed up in a stone boat—” Lazy Brandr told the children.

“Glug, glug—I’m drowning in my stone boat! Help! Why didn’t I listen to my elders? Why didn’t I use wood or oilskin? Help me, help—”. The woman in burgundy velvets writhed on the deck. The children swarmed around her. “Feed me, feed me!” she barked. The children tossed bits of rúgbrauð into her snapping mouth. When the bread was gone, she laughed heartily and stood smoothing her skirt.

“You looked like a bedeviled seal,” complained Lazy Brandr, who had counted on the children’s rúgbrauð for his breakfast.

“Better than a witch,” she answered, slicing the air with her hands in imitation of the sharp green mountains of the approaching coast.

Lazy Brandr stood next to her. “Are you certain of that?” The girl shrugged and danced a few feet closer to the rigging. Lazy Brandr followed. He pretended to test the anchor.

“Be-fairyed maybe. Take care and a seal will chew through that rope,” she said.

“You mean ‘or’ a seal—” and with a splash she was overboard. Lazy Brandr was lazy, but he was brave. He dove after her.

The crew cursed at having to haul Lazy Brandr from the water. Everyone laughed at his story, for no one, not even the children, recalled the beautiful woman in burgundy velvet.

“And she stole your rúgbrauð? Stay here, Lazy Brandr,” said the captain, “and mind the boat while I attend my business in Reykjavik. I’ll give you a loaf for your trouble.”

No sooner had the crew and passengers surged ashore than the boat began to drift. Lazy Brandt pulled at the anchor.

The rope was chewed through.

It was a beautiful day and Lazy Brandt was not afraid. He made slicing motions with his hand and cut an image of the receding coast until he heard barking behind him. A seal, young and soft, had landed on the deck. Lazy Brandr was lazy, but he was kind. He approached the creature with the simple caution he afforded any frightened thing. The animal arched her back and opened her mouth.

Lazy Brandr tore a piece of his bread and tossed it in.

After that, Brandr was never lazy. He broke a sweat each morning and strained his muscles every night ferrying the good people of Reykjavik where they needed to go until at last he bought the business from his boss. Yet those who wished to travel in the afternoon spent hours watching the increasing population of seal pups play in the waves, for every midday Brandr bought a fresh rúgbrauð from the baker and drifted just beyond the horizon.

Love takes many forms. Lucky Brandr’s required privacy.

 

MFC Feeley lives in Tuxedo, NY and attended UC Berkeley and NYU. She has published in The Tishman Review, Mainstreet Rag, WicWas, The Bees Are Dead, Ghost Parachute, Plate In The Mirror and others. She was a 2016 fellow at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and received a scholarship to the 2015 Wesleyan Writers Conference. She has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2016 and was a 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist. She has been a volunteer judge for Mash Stories and Scholastic. More at MFC Feeley/Facebook.

Adrian Ludens – Aches and Pangs

Aches and Pangs

by Adrian Ludens

The man living inside Pete’s mouth had a terrible toothache. It wasn’t something Pete could feel, but he knew all the same. Call it preternatural knowledge. Or, just call it a hunch.

Pete didn’t think it fair that the man should suffer, so he’d made an appointment with Dr. Wendy Morris, DDS. Perhaps she could help.

He sat in her waiting room, turning the pages of a battered magazine, but paying no attention to the contents. Pete felt self-conscious. He hadn’t always had a tiny squatter inhabiting his mouth.

He’d first noticed the man just days after he and Melody had broken up, or after Melody had broken up with him, if truth be told. The ache in his heart seemed unbearable until the interloper first made his presence known. Then the hurt seemed to recede; Pete had a more pressing situation to occupy his mind.

Somehow, the man disappeared or found shelter whenever Pete ate or brushed his teeth. But if he had to give a presentation at work, his lodger had a terrible habit of sitting way back in Pete’s mouth, his feet dangling close to his tonsils. He’d drum his legs and it gave Pete the worst feeling, like he might gag or throw up in front of his colleagues.

Whenever Pete encountered a woman who spoke to him, sometimes flirting, oftentimes just being polite, the man always chose that moment to sprawl out on the tip of his tongue. Pete didn’t know how he could explain the tiny man’s presence so he always just smiled at the women and walked away.

There were others. This was something else Pete knew. The man inside his mouth had another, even smaller man living inside his mouth. That man, Pete knew, harbored an even tinier man encamped within his mouth. Russian nesting dolls, Pete thought. And each had their own aches and pangs. Pete felt them all.

“Pete?”

The hygienist, a young woman with her blond hair pulled into a severe bun, stood in the doorway leading to the treatment rooms. Pete set the magazine aside and rose, smoothing his dress shirt before he followed the hygienist.

“So you have a tooth bothering you today?”

“Yes and no.” Pete frowned. Now that the moment had arrived, he wanted to turn back.

The hygienist motioned for him to sit down, a quizzical look on her face. Pete slid onto the examination chair.

“Let’s take a look.”

Pete felt for the little man’s presence but couldn’t sense him. Then he remembered the man’s proclivity for disappearance during mundane matters like eating and brushing. On the heels of this came the realization that the man living in his mouth usually made his presence known in more challenging social situations. Perhaps this visit wouldn’t work out after all; if the tiny man wasn’t visible, how could anyone fix his toothache?

Pete eased open his mouth anyway.

The hygienist let out a yelp and stood up so quick her stool skittered backward and toppled. “What… what….” was all she could manage.

“Maybe you’d better get Dr. Morris,” Pete said, his teeth clenched shut.

The young woman nodded. Her features had drained to the white-verging-on-gray color of skim milk. She hurried from the room. Moments later Dr. Wendy Morris entered the treatment room.

“Open, please,” the dentist said after she’d righted the overturned stool, sat down on it, and rolled to Pete’s side.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth. Pete watched her eyes widen. Her mouth fell open in surprise. Pete saw twin glints of light reflecting from between her teeth; someone peering out from within.

Pete relaxed. He had found someone wholly equipped to provide care—both his and the tiny man’s. Dr. Morris, Pete felt sure, understood.

He settled back and closed his eyes. Once the tiny man’s toothache was cured, Pete thought he might work up the courage to ask Dr. Morris out for coffee. Maybe they could work together on trying to heal his broken heart. It could be a collaborative effort between all of them.

 

Adrian Ludens is the author of two collections: Bedtime Stories for Carrion Beetles and When Bedbugs Bite. Recent and upcoming publication appearances include: Cranial Leakage 2 (Grinning Skull Press), D.O.A. III (Blood Bound Books), Dark Horizons (Elder Signs Press), and Let Them In 2 (Time Alone Press).  Adrian is a fan of hockey, many genres of music, and exploring abandoned buildings. He is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association. For a cover gallery, links to free stories, news and more, visit www.adrianludens.com.