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.

Nancy Brewka-Clark – The Invitation

The Invitation

by Nancy Brewka-Clark

Francesca swung herself out over the black mirror of the Thames on the slenderest of cables.

Below, London glittered in a coma of sleepless exhaustion at 3 a.m.

She was the poet Byron’s poor jar of atoms, only too willing to be spilled out and smashed if it freed her. Someday she would climb the tallest building built by man, Burj Khalifa. Dubai. One-hundred-and-sixty stories. Eight-hundred-and twenty-eight meters. Two-thousand-seven–hundred-and-sixteen feet, give or take an inch or two.

It would have to be enough.

*

Francesca returned to her flat after yet another tedious day at work. A heavy ochre envelope lay amongst her usual assortment of take-out brochures and bills. “Doctor John Dee’s Magical Arts, Gloriana Theatre, No. 7, Old Billingsgate Walk.”

She recalled a tale: Elizabeth I the Virgin Queen had rejoiced after seeing the future in her astrologer’s black onyx mirror, the invading Armada wrecked by Dr. Dee’s conjured winds.

Francesca slipped her finger beneath the flap and carefully extracted the card tucked inside.

“The Presence of Miss Francesca Gorham, Party of One, is Required This Very Evening at 9 O’clock.”

Mysterious? Definitely.

Arrogant? Absolute power always was.

Would she go? Absolutely.

*

The cab left her blinking away river mist. A curiously crooked little building of white plaster and black timber sat squashed between two modern monoliths of smoked glass and steel.

Atmospheric.

She yanked open the studded oak door to enter a kaleidoscope of color.

*

The magician peeked into the breast pocket of his tuxedo. A stream of colored balls came flying out to bounce like beads at his feet.

Francesca peered at her watch. Really, was this going to be a case of the emperor’s new clothes? It didn’t bear thinking.

“For my next act, I need a beautiful young lady to assist me.” He was looking directly at her.

Cheeks flaming, she mounted the side stairs to the stage.

“Shut your eyes.”

Francesca heard the rumble of wheels on wood.

*

Gold branches and a mother-of-pearl moon adorned the black lacquered cabinet. He swung open the door. The interior was lined with black silk. “Step in, please.”

A partition shot down silently. Her hands traveled over the thick padding with contempt. He had a colossal nerve billing himself as Dr. Dee. Or perhaps he’d assumed that name because he could only perform the oldest tricks in the book.

“My dear Francesca, what is your heart’s deepest desire?”

“Let me go, you charlatan.”

*

The air in the painted box grew sweeter, and cooler. Her body felt light, her head curiously free of thought. The blackness grew even deeper, the air rushing around her until she felt herself lifting on the unseen current. The power was in her to rise with it fearlessly, and so rise she did, upward and upward—

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you—” Flinging open the door, the magician laughed as the little black bat flapped out— “the true Francesca.”

And the cabinet stood empty.

Nancy Brewka-Clark believes there’s pure magic in sharing words, whether in poetry, fiction or drama. In 2017 her work will appear in an English theatre textbook on writing flash plays, two poetry collections, and a very long romantic fairytale. Please visit her website nancybrewkaclark.com for more coming attractions.

Ready for 2017!

It’s official!  The lineup of stories for the 2017 edition of Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction has been finalized and all the authors have been notified.  I was thrilled to see the calibre of talent from everyone who submitted and want to thank you all for sending in your work.

The first story of the year will be published on January 1, and one story will be posted on the first of each month thereafter.  Be sure to follow Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction to receive the stories in your inbox every month!

Submit your flash fiction! Here are the guidelines.

READING PERIOD:  NOW CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS.

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 within one month.

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 (mailing address, email address, name) 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 cheque.  This is why I need a current mailing address.  Your bank must be able to cash a cheque that is issued in Canadian funds.

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

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 first 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.