Graham Robert Scott – The Bluffs of Taulaga Malo

After he strikes out with a blonde expat, I buy him a drink to commiserate. We’re at this island coast resort in Taulaga Malo. Kind of place where young and ambitious live the good life on a dime, lasting until the money or employer patience runs dry.

Bass pounds, decibels high enough so one dancer can lean close to another and shout in their ear about how maybe they ought to go somewhere quieter. A line that maybe I’ll use, I’m winging it, but right now it sucks because if you have my background, you love the sound of the surf. South Pacific waves are rolling only about a football field away, on the other side of a wall adorned with hideous tiki masks, but they might as well be on Venus.

After making sure I’m not gay (I’m ace, but he didn’t ask that), the guy who struck out relaxes and we step out into this courtyard canopied with mosquito netting, where the bass still pounds and the surf is still invisible, but maybe we can hear each other marginally better.

I say I’m in security; he gives me a line of bull about being in computers, consulting specifically, and I encourage him through nods and polite noises to elaborate. He says he never needed much training for his job, mostly manages other guys and those guys do the actual work. Money’s good. He gets out here a couple times a year to spend some of it. Have a few meaningless encounters, he adds, watching a local woman’s ass sway by.

Out of reciprocal courtesy, mostly a reflex, he asks about my business.

Our security company’s pretty new, I say. Specialize in rapid global deployment. If a client puts us on retainer, and one of their suits gets grabbed for a ransom (this is more common than suits imagine), we’re the guys who bring him home. If there’s some industrial sabotage at a maquiladora, we put a stop to it.

That sort of thing; you know how it is, I say. Though he doesn’t.

Lot of clients? he asks.

Just started pitching.

Here?

Ah, no. Here, we’re doing a kind of beta run.

He knows the term from his business, but I can see he’s having trouble connecting it to mine. I lean in close, voice lower, conspiratorial, and he joins me halfway, a two-man huddle.

My boss’s Mom is getting on in age, I say.

He nods.

Sweet woman, I say. Kind of a mom to all of us, but has dementia, mostly short-term issues. Her son has her keeping this digital memory box. Photos and records and genealogies and stuff, so she can hold on better to the old memories that are still lingering.

He nods again, already out of polite gestures. Attempts a sympathetic look but getting bored fast.

I pretend not to notice and continue: Anyway, a month ago she got this call. Guy claiming to be from Microsoft.

Now his face goes still.

I keep talking: Dude said they traced hackers to her computer and needed authorization to do some work. You know how it is.

(This time he does.)

And, no surprise, really, I continue: Mr. Microsoft locked down all her memory box stuff, told her to pay up or she’d never see it again, which is bad enough, but the guy kept coming back to her, ran the same scam a few times before one time she remembered enough to tell her son. Who, as I said, is my boss.

The other guy, he’s still breathing, but they’re real shallow breaths.

And so that (I say, draining my plastic cup of what has all along been bottled soda water), is how we picked our beta run. Turns out these guys aren’t hard to find. We’ve been spying on them with their own computer cameras and mics for two weeks.

My drink buddy doesn’t realize he’s squeezing a cup that’s just melted ice water and some garnish.

I add, shaking my head, all amused: And the showrunners for these operations, man, they go out and spend their winnings in really habitual ways. Really wear a pattern into the rug, know what I’m saying? No operations security at all. No bodyguards either. You can walk right up to them.

The guy is really sweating now. Glancing around for, well, who knows? The police here are almost useless. The exits, far from this central courtyard.

I didn’t make those calls, he says.

We know, I reply. You don’t make the calls. You’re the showrunner.

What do you want? he says.

What do you think I want?

Christ, you freak. I can get you the lady’s money. It’s cool. Stop with the Liam Neeson act.

Let’s do this outside, I say.

We are outside.

Outside outside.

He hesitates.

Or I can pound you to pulp in front of all the hotties.

He comes along, kind of sulky. Less money also means less time with women here in low-rent paradise.

I lead him to a spot I already scoped out, a high bluff. Here, I can see the surf and my pulse slows, evens out. My doctor would approve.

The guy takes out his phone, probably to arrange some kind of fund transfer. I knock the phone out of his hand. It spins into the sea.

He stares, jaw dropped.

And now he sees the knife.

I say: Remember when you said you were in “computer consulting,” but you really meant scamming?

Yes, he squeaks.

And then I replied that I was in “security”?

He doesn’t nod this time. Just stares at my hand and quivers.

I say, Well, we were both kind of telling the truth, but we were also both kind of lying.

*

Graham Robert Scott grew up in California, resides in Texas, owns neither surfboard nor cowboy hat. His stories have appeared in Necessary Fiction, Nature Futures, Orca, Pulp Literature, and others. He can be found on Twitter at @graythebruce, or at https://hemicyon.wordpress.com

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Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction is now open to submissions!

SUBMISSIONS:  OPEN FROM OCTOBER 1, 2022 TO OCTOBER 18, 2022 

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: I’m so sorry, but no thank you. Please send ONE (1) submission during the reading period. Additional submissions will not be read. 

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 1, 2022.

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.

Submissions may be an attachment (.rtf, .docx., .doc) or pasted into the body of your email – it’s up to you.

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.

REMUNERATION:

If your story is accepted for publication, you will be paid $15.00 (Canadian funds). Please note that if you live in countries outside of Canada, the exchange rate may mean you don’t quite make fifteen 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 selected during the current reading period for publication in 2023, payment will be issued on or before December 31, 2022.

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 which month I plan to post it on the website.

OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW:

I will send you a confirmation of receipt of your story within 4 days of your submission.

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

SEND SUBMISSIONS to paperbutterflyflash1@outlook.com. (That’s a numeral after the word paperbutterflyflash, not a letter.) I will not consider submissions sent outside of the reading period, so double check that it is open before sending me your work.

I’m looking forward to seeing your work!

Sheryl

L.P. Melling – Item Unavailable at That Time

For resale: Grandfather Time Machine – bidding ends yesterday at 01:10 AM.

Description: Like old. A one-off make and model. Used twice and only selling because I’ve got an upgrade with a time-slip classic car. This is a must-see item. Comes with crystals, leads, electrodes, and instruction manual. Century dial a little sticky, hence the reduced price. Please contact if you have any questions (response times may vary).

Free delivery to anyone within a 15-year time radius. Otherwise $12.1 for P&P.

Please note: refunds only given if item received 30 days before purchase.

Click HERE to make an ending bid of $999. Or click HERE to Buy Later.

Thank you.

…Predating Shopping Cart…

~Refreshing~

Sorry, this item is still in stock right now.

Postorder this item now – estimated despatch: 10.31 AM, May 4th, 2000

*

L. P. Melling currently writes from the East of England, UK, after academia and a legal career took him around the country. His fiction appears in such places as Dark Matter Magazine, Solarpunk Magazine, and the Flame Tree Newsletter, and he features in the Best of British Science Fiction and Best Indie Speculative Fiction. When not writing, he works for a legal charity. You can find out more about him on his site: www.lpmelling.wordpress.com

Gregg Chamberlain – Teeny Tiny Terror Tales


Hope


C’thulhu sleeps.


* * *

Worry


C’thulhu wakes.


* * *


Anxiety



C’thulhu rises.


* * *


Dread


C’thulhu frowns.


* * *

Fear


C’thulhu smiles.


* * *

Alarm


C’thulhu laughs.


* * *


Panic



C’thulhu calls


* * *


Hysteria



C’thulhu karaokes


* * *


Horror


C’thulhu twerks

***

Gregg Chamberlain lives in rural Ontario, Canada, where the Elder Gods
dare not tread. He and his missus, Anne, share their home with two
cats, who may or may not be from Ulthar, but do treat their humans
with benign indifference. Gregg’s social media presence remains
limited to Facebook and Twitter at
https://www.facebook.com/gregg.chamberlain and @greggchamberlai, plus
a Myspace page that he never visits anymore because he forgot the
password.


Diane Callahan – Paradise Slipping Off Her Tongue

A few years before the divorce, they’re in a busy restaurant outside Acadia National Park, and he’s reading the menu while she’s thinking about pushing a rock up a hill. Her head climbs with Sisyphus, whom she pictures as a French philosopher with a cigarette pinched between his lips, even though Camus is not a Greek hero and is perhaps not heroic at all. She loves him all the same.

Because their diet has not evolved beyond the stubbornness of childhood, they order mac and cheese and a plain burger. The blackberry bourbon lemonade sings to her, drink me, drink me, drink me, as if it could make her ten feet tall. She’s twenty-five but has never had a full glass of anything alcoholic. She asks the waitress for a blueberry soda, because when in Maine, and when married to a teetotaler . . .

They talk about plans, because that is what they do—a time-lapse of the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, a walk across the land bridge that only appears at low tide, popovers and strawberry jam in their sweat-soaked shirts, and no thoughts of Sisyphus. But those things haven’t happened yet. The day is still darkening beyond the restaurant windows.

The park is called “Acadia,” but she finds paradise slipping off her tongue—“Arcadia,” the fabled utopia, a Thomas Cole pastoral populated by the tiniest of beings in fingernail robes, markings in the dirt as small as a sneeze. How absurd it was to be one of those specks of paint but to focus instead on the choice between flavored liquids and to try so hard not to change anything about yourself, when that, too, could be scraped off by a giant thumb.

They’re sitting across from each other. From their first date, they sat with elbows touching, moving napkins and menus to the same side, arm over arm as their forks poached bites from their shared plates. Here, though, the tables are too square, and a pole blocks the middle, so they don’t touch beneath the table at all, although she holds his warm hand in her cold one, feeling the dimples in his ring beneath her thumbnail, as if she could peel the silver away.  

Then comes the blueberry soda: fizzy, sweet, different. New. A question bubbles up from the bottle. She’s the one to ask it—the meaning of life. They’ve talked about it before, of course.

It’s a first-date question, but they’re two thousand one hundred and ninety-five dates in, so maybe it’s time they rewound back to the beginning.

He says what he’s always said: “It means nothing, but you make your own meaning.”

The question must’ve been wrong. She frowns at it, willing it to sharpen at the edges against a mental whetstone, wanting to hear thoughts that could draw blood.

“I just like thinking about these things,” she says, shrinking. “I want to doubt myself. I want to doubt everything.”

“Does that you mean you want to doubt us, too?” His expression is that of a wounded baby bunny, and she can’t help but rush to protect him.

“No,” she lies. “I’d never doubt you, silly.” Well, maybe that is true after all. It’s the other half of the equation that gives her an existential itch: the “me” independent of “you” in that “us.” She wants to separate solute and solvent so that they’re no longer homogenous and marvel at herself under a microscope, knowing full well that “me” is not an equation nor a solution but rather a Cheshire cat that shifts every time she tries to pin it down with her gaze.

He kisses her hand, and she blurts out, “What do you think of when you stare off into space?”

Her husband blinks at her. “Nothing.”

“Nothing at all?”

“I guess I just notice what’s in front of me. Like right now, I’m thinking about how beautiful you are.”

His answer is not a wrong answer because there’s no such thing. Though she smiles demurely, a barb of disappointment finds her anyway.

He looks down at his phone to check the weather. “What’s got you thinking about all this?”

Her heart perks up at the question. She fumbles an explanation of her readings about the idea of suicide in the face of a meaningless, contradictory existence. Too many inelegant “somethings” and “likes” get thrown in with Camus’s precise phrasings. As she falters along, her declarations suddenly feel obscene under the romantic restaurant lighting, beneath the stare of the bright-colored abstract paintings on the walls. So she trails off in the middle, and instead of continuing her sentence, her husband says:

“Should we get dessert?”

For the rest of the meal, they smile at each other and make pleasant observations about the size of their entrees, the crunchiness of the garlic bread. They discuss their plans, ready their leg muscles for quiet hours of hiking. She lets the myth of Sisyphus melt away as her husband takes pictures of the restaurant, their food, her—capturing only what can be seen.

She loves him all the same. He doesn’t need to doubt, has no doubts, no doubts have found him. The glass bottle of blueberry soda sweats in her hand, and the fizzy sweetness lingers on her tongue. It’s not so different, really, from what she knows: the sting of carbonation, the taste of blueberries, the familiar packaged as novelty.

Diane Callahan strives to capture her sliver of the universe through writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As a developmental editor and ghostplotter, she spends her days shaping stories. Her YouTube channel Quotidian Writer provides practical tips for aspiring authors. You can read her work in ConsequenceTales to TerrifyShort ÉditionTranslunar Travelers LoungeRiddled with ArrowsRust+Moth, and The Sunlight Press, among others. Follow her writing, reading, baking, and traveling exploits on Twitter: @quotidianwriter.

Update to the previous update!

Happy New Year! Once again, I have to sincerely thank all of the writers who submitted their work in November for their extreme patience as they await my responses … I have started sending out notifications this evening and I plan to wrap everything up by Wednesday, so if you haven’t heard from me yet, please hang on just a couple of more days. I am so sorry for the delay; it was definitely not anticipated, nor intended.

Thank you again!

Update on story submissions!

If you submitted a story (or two) to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction in November, thank you for patiently waiting for me to respond to you regarding its status. I received so many incredible stories! I had intended to send replies to each of you on December 31, but I find myself unexpectedly and seriously short on time, so that timeline will be delayed by a couple of days. I will get back to you during the first week of January – I promise! Thank you for your understanding and Happy New Year!

More places to submit your flash fiction.

Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction is one very small publisher of flash fiction – there are many other publishers looking for your stories! I am sharing a few that have come to my attention, and I’ll do this periodically on the site from now on. If you wish to recommend others, please email me for consideration (see the Contact page).

Writers, please remember to do your research before you submit your work to any publication: read and understand all of the details of their guidelines and contract (if issued). I am posting this list for informational purposes only. I don’t know anything about the publications listed and I am not supporting them in any way.

Alphabet Box – United States

The Arcanist – United States

The Birdseed – United States

Freefall Magazine – Canada

Closed to submissions for 2021!

Whew! That went by quickly! Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction is now closed to submissions for the year. Thank you to all of the authors for this opportunity to read their work – I am looking forward to seeing what everyone has sent along!

If you haven’t yet received a reply from me stating that I have received your story, you will be getting that at some point today, so please keep an eye on your inbox.

Watch for another email from me on or around December 31, when I will be notifying everyone as to the status of their story.

Thank you again!

(Please note the timeline for review – I will try to get through the reading by mid-month but as per the submission guidelines, December 31 is the latest date that you will be notified about the status of your story.)