Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction is now open to submissions!

SUBMISSIONS:  OPEN TO SUBMISSIONS BETWEEN OCTOBER 20, 2020 AND NOVEMBER 5, 2020 ~  

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 as many submissions as you wish to during the reading period.  Please send each submission in separate emails.

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 15, 2020.  

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.

RENUMERATION:

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 for publication during the October/November reading period, payment will be issued on or before January 15, 2021.

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:

I will send you a confirmation of receipt of your story within 72 hours of your submission.

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

SEND SUBMISSIONS to shrob17(at)hotmail(dot)ca. 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

Gregg Chamberlain – Little Known Facts About Young Erwin Schrödinger

Little Known Facts About Young Erwin Schrödinger

by

Gregg Chamberlain

“Dear,” said Frau Schrödinger to her husband, “I really wish you would stop letting our young Erwin read those weird books in your library.”

“Mmm? Oh, ja.” Herr Schrödinger, his face buried within his newspaper, replied without looking up.

“I am very worried about their influence on him. He’s at a very impressionable age.”

A non-committal grunt was the sole response.

“All those stories of ghouls, vampyres, and zombies, they can’t be good for him.”

Another grunt.

“Now he spends all day staring at the cat and muttering ‘dead, not dead, dead, not dead, dead, not dead’ over and over.”

 

Gregg Chamberlain, and his dear Anne, live in rural Ontario, with their two cats, who are very much alive and quite enjoy sharing their home with their human companions.

Cassandra Schoeber – Judgement Peak

Judgement Peak 

By 

Cassandra Schoeber

Through the thick canvas of white cloud, my fingers grip the smooth rocky ledge forming the peak of Mount Harvey. I glance down at Roland, still a dozen feet below me, gasping for air as he hikes up the thirty degree incline.

“Almost there!” I shout, pulling myself up through the dense cloud layer. “I’ll make sure everyone knows who won!”

“Whatever, Mike!” Roland’s voice sounds muted in between his gasps. I chuckle, imagining telling the other guards at North Fraser Pre-Trial how Roland’s spare tire lost him the bet of a hundred bucks.

A stone platform appears above the clouds. A white sea stretches from horizon to horizon. The bright sun shimmers through the blue sky. My bare scalp feels the deep chill carried on the breeze of this Saturday in late September. Snow will soon cover this peak, pausing my hiking until next spring.

The flat shelf spans twenty feet. Someone built a brilliantly balanced inukshuk in the centre, two vertical pylons of blackened grey rock supporting six horizontal slabs and a stone sphere on the top. It resembles a man, welcoming new travelers. Impressive, whoever carried those rocks up the fourteen hundred meter elevation gain. I rest my red hiking pack nearby and sit on the edge, my feet hanging over, hovering just above the clouds.

No one in sight. I sigh and smile.

“How you doing, Roland?” My voice sounds like its sucked into a vacuum. So quiet up here, my pulse claps within like thunder.

Rocks scrape, trickling down and out of hearing zone. But no reply. I lean forward, seeing only clouds. A breeze strikes my head with an icy chill.

“Roland?” I swallow, my chest tightens. “Answer me.”

Twisting, I prepare to descend. I halt. What if he’s right below me, breathing too hard to answer, and then I step down and knock him off?

“Roland. Tell me you’re there.”

Wind gusts upwards, reeking of gasoline. I choke. My eyes water as a memory blazes.

One year ago today. Our transport van overturned. Gas leaking across the road.

My fingers grip the ledge, knuckles white. “Roland! Goddamn it, answer me!”

Rocks cascade down, clinking below me, like metal against metal.

“Shit.” I sprint back and grab my bag, glad my wife nagged me to refill my first aid kit. Roland may have fallen, lying there broken and bleeding.

My gaze catches on a metal circle attached to the Daisy chain at the back of the pack. A pair of blackened handcuffs hang down.

Blistering heat flows through the pack’s straps and floods my hands. I tense, drop the bag.

“Roland.” My teeth clench. “That’s not funny.”

Pain builds in the back of my throat. I yank my jacket zipper down to my chest. Roland probably put the handcuffs there for a good laugh, knowing I still had dreams about the crash.

About the fire. About the man cuffed and locked inside.

It was just an accident, Roland kept saying. But I knew otherwise. We had enough time to open the door. Instead, we stood there. Listening to him scream for help as he burned alive.

The straps now cool, I swing my bag on my back, the handcuffs clinking, and begin my descent. My feet reach beneath the layer of cloud, searching for a foothold.

Nothing but air.

My heart races. My arms weaken as they hold my upper body to the ledge. Feet dangling with only cloud below me, I haul myself back up. Throat thick, I can’t speak. I just sit, legs over the ledge, stunned. The swirling clouds undulate, as if the peak of Mount Harvey is adrift on the open sea.

This can’t be happening.

Another breeze hits like ice water splashing against my face. I gasp for breath, the smell of gasoline laced with burning metal. My eyes water. My neck prickles.

Behind me, there is a flash of heat as if flames have erupted on the rocky peak. I hear crackling, fire ripping through steel.

Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around.

I close my eyes. I’m trained to guard and transport the worst offenders. I’ve stood my ground against men who’ve lost their shit after getting sentenced. But now, my pulse booms in my ears, my heart nearly exploding.

Flashing across my eyelids, I see the green eyes of the dirty con locked in the van. He looks at me through the back window. He blinks just before a raging fire engulfs everything but his screams into flames.

My eyes snap open. The clouds rise up like billowing smoke, enveloping me, surrounding me, until I see nothing but white.

Behind, the heat presses, forcing me closer to the edge.

Clink. Chain sounds scrape against the rock but I refuse to turn around. I shake my head.

This isn’t happening.

Clink. The chains near.

Like puffs of smoke, the clouds surround my face, seeping into my mouth. I inhale the taste of charred ash and iron. My chest tightens sharply, my lungs seize. I gasp for breath. Head heavy, I rock side to side, black spots in my vision. On the back of my neck, a heated breath exhales. Rocks crash behind. Something rolls to the side of my thigh. The stone sphere from atop the inukshuk. It slows, pauses, then tips over the edge.

I turn and gaze into the swirling white clouds. Green eyes stare back.

Backwards, I fall. But a hand grabs my wrist.

“What the hell?” Roland yanks me forward onto the platform. My heart blasts against my ribs, my feet heavy against the stone.

He leans in, brows raised. “You okay, Mike?”

I nod, gulping.

“Good.” He slaps my back and thunders with laughter. “I may have lost a hundred bucks but I’ll still be telling everyone that I had to save your sorry ass.”

I nod again, lick my lips. My skin prickles. All around is white. But from within the clouds, something waits. I feel it. Watching me.

 

 

Cassandra Schoeber is a dark fantasy writer but sometimes weirdness and horror creep into her stories, wreak havoc, and eat innocent bystanders.  

She has published one novella, Ravenous, as well as several short stories, including: “Within This Body of Stone I Scream” (The Arcanist); “Hidden in the Shadow of a God” (Fantasia Divinity Magazine); and “Let It Snow” (Silver Apples Magazine).

 

 

Steve Pease – Dinner Party

Dinner Party

by

Steve Pease

Your surroundings are lavish; marble pillars and balustrades, antique parquet flooring, luxurious velvet drapes that are the crushed blue-black of sin. Crystal that dazzles the eye. A ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

There is too much to take in with just one sweep around the room.

Your host for the night is tall and thin. And, although he is so very, very pale against the midnight of his hair and clothing, yes, he is undoubtedly handsome.

All the women are beautiful and have hourglass figures; as if they’d been sketched by artists from the golden age of pulp-magazines … or by the imaginations of teenage boys on hormone overload.

Generally, you would admit, you are jaded. Life is wealth and position, gained with no merit. And you are always tired, or, maybe, just plain bored. After all, you gave up your three previous partners because they were hugely successful … and hugely monotonous.

But this is different; this promises to be fun.

Early on, you make two mistakes about the evening’s entertainment. Firstly, you discount the female trio, singing in the corner, as paid performers. Then – as men old enough to know better dash good sense against the rocks of their allure – you re-appraise the quality of the dresses they wear, and the jewelry they display. And you conclude that the women are invitees; and that the thrall they cast with their song is not forged for fiscal reward, but for their own empowerment, enjoyment, and desire.

Secondly, you realize that the harlequin you’d assumed to be cabaret is not performing his antics for some master. In fact, he is a house guest. Yes, he cavorts, and he tumbles. Yes, he magics, and pranks, and dances. But, it turns out, it is all for the heart of his Colombina. A heart which he carries everywhere, and which he will proudly show to anyone who asks.

The room, you now establish, is far bigger than it first seemed. Toward the far end, you focus on what you believed was an aquarium, and determine that it is more of a glass-contained ocean. And the fish within it is whiskered. And human-like. And carries a trident. And its malevolent gaze follows you hungrily.

You sense an oasis, and there, alone and undisturbed in the corner, is a bearded old man. He holds an hour glass, his head rests upon the handle of a scythe, and he sleeps. Very much like he has seen all of this – and more – many times before.

Disorientated, you draw your focus back to the dining table.

Timid? A coward? You find it too hard to engage with the seeming burns victim, who is swathed in bandages and sporting sunglasses. So, you just act like you can’t see him.

Initially, you cannot make sense of the seating plan diagonally across from you. One moment you’re exchanging words with an urbane, well-attired gentleman, who is both eloquent and informed about all issues scientific. Then he leaves the room, to be replaced by some rough-looking fellow; brutish and almost incoherent, who does nothing but stare at you with a lascivious look in his eyes. Only after several substitutions, do you realize they’re the same person. And all you can think is, what the hell is he snorting out there?

Earlier, the – admittedly hirsute – gent to your left had engaged you in articulate exchange. He was assured and confident (apart from a seeming aversion to the candlesticks; which he shied away from, as if their metal touch might brand him). He told you he was a student of zoology, and that he had travelled extensively across Europe and North America. Now, as the night has lengthened – if your imagination is not playing tricks – so too have his hair and fingernails. Upon his cravat, he sports spots that you took first for bolognaise. In truth, the source was a Milanese sauce – a temptress to tempt the beast in men, and headstrong enough to walk home alone. For a little way, at least.

You sip another champagne. And it is now (I think it is now, isn’t it?) that you have your gestalt; your lucidity; your Damascene moment. Amidst the madness and monstrosity; the feast of potential; the smorgasbord of saturnalia, sadism, and seduction; you ask yourself – what price ordinariness? And you name yourself near-fool, when you recall how you almost sent a rather impolite RSVP: “Thank you, but I find costume parties boring.”

As the evening draws to a close, your aristocratic host asks you to dance. And, like all the other women here, when you gaze into those eyes, you find it impossible to say nay.

 

 

Steve Pease lives in Northern England, with a long-suffering, but awesome wife, two beautiful Labradors, some graying hair, and a Tanglewood guitar that wishes he could play it better.

He once had a ‘real’ job drafting stuff for British politicians, and argues – rather convincingly – that this was the perfect apprenticeship for crafting fiction. 

George Salis – Figment

Figment

by

George Salis

In the Beginning, she was a vespine Eve squeezing into the inverted flower of a fig on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, guided by a snake made of smoke. Ssslide through the ssslime, oh if only you could ssslither like me. The cramped cave of the fig’s ostiole amputated her wings and antennae. Leaking hemolymph, she crawled more frantically. Even outssside, I can sssmell your ssson, sssightlesss and flightlesss and sssniveling for tendernesss. As she continued toward the center of the fig, her head and body were flagellated by multiple achenes, hard-shelled fruits the size of mace heads. Perhapsss he isss there, perhapsss he isss not, how can you ssssincerely trussst me? She was looking for the moist bassinet in which, according to the snake, her son was held. There were many maroon and amber blurs and when she thought she saw something promising it was just the striking of an achene, but she absorbed the pain-rattles for her son, even though she began to wonder if the snake was being deceptive. Ssswerve left, now sssubmerge. She obeyed its commands, and then she saw the bio-cradle in which her son was sleeping. Yesss. When she crawled up to its petal rim and peered inside, she knew she was too late, for the fig had already begun ingesting her son, turning him into protein, and what lay before her was only a translucent carapace. She wept as strings of smoke overhead knitted themselves across the damp chamber. The snake hissed with laughter, Sss-sss-sss-sss-sss-sss. Sss-sss-sss-sss-sss-sss. Sss-sss-sss-sss-sss-sss. The whole fig began to quake and she scuttled atop her son to protect his remains. The abundance of the snake’s breath obstructed her tracheae and when she heard a fibrous rip she turned around and saw two white stalactites puncture the fig’s skin, fangs of the vaporous charlatan.

 

George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below (River Boat Books). His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Literary Magazine, The Sunlight Press, Unreal Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Isacoustic, Atticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on FacebookGoodreads, and at www.GeorgeSalis.com. He is the editor of The Collidescope.

Nancy Brewka-Clark – Familiar

Familiar

by

Nancy Brewka-Clark

“Mistress Lorna Fey?” At the crone’s nod, Kate whispered, “I need a hex.”

“Ah. Come in, and take a seat.”

A swirl around her ankles almost tripped Kate up. “What a lovely kitty.”

“He’s a Scottish Fold. Tips of his ears bend right over like a lightning-riven birch. He likes you, don’t you, Greymalkin? Mustn’t let him be overly familiar.”

“Just like Roger Laniger,” Kate sighed.

“Ro-o-o-o-ger,” the cat yowled, quite clearly, and then spat.

“Greymalkin has no use for weasels,” Lorna said. “Nor do I.”

Kate frowned. “But I didn’t say anything about weasels.”

Lorna cackled. “Laniger is the Latin word for weasel. May I ask what yours has done?”

“Ever since he moved into my building he’s been stalking me.” Kate shivered. “Yesterday he told me he slept with my picture beneath his pillow.”

“Weasels make terrible lovers. All slither.” Lorna was scribbling on a yellow legal pad. “Six curses on his head I shall bestow, and put a sterile curse on all that hangs below.” She tore off the sheet and handed it to Kate. “Remember, spells are made of wishes transformed into words. There is no room for error.”

“Thank you, Mistress Fey.” Opening her purse, Kate thrust in the paper. “What do I owe you?”

“Just one little thing,” Lorna said as she ushered Kate to the door. “I suppose you think I took no notice of your dire shock upon seeing the crone I’ve become.”

“You do look a bit different from your ads,” Kate said. “I apologize.”

“All flesh perishes. But, the spirit? Never. My thousand years in this realm is rapidly drawing to an end. I’ll soon be on a distant plane, and you will take my place. ”

Kate stared at her.

“One seeks, the other finds. One gives, the other takes. One must go, the other must stay. Not that it’s a hardship to wield power. Just the opposite.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will.” With a sly grin, Lorna shut the door.

***

Licking his lips, Roger Laniger undid the security chain. “Yo, hot mama, come on in.”

Rapidly Kate spat out each line of the curse until she got to the grand climax. “With currant eyes and pelt as rough as teasel, he’ll run—”

“S-s-s-s-s,” something hissed at her feet.

“—right up my leg! No!”

The weasel scrambled across her right breast to sling itself around her neck. Digging in its claws, it hissed, “Turn me back into a man, you witch, or I’ll bite your ear off.”

“You bite my ear off and I’ll throw you to the dogs.” Kate didn’t actually know any dogs, not savage ones, anyway. The dogs she did know were meek little things on dainty leashes with sparkling collars or bright bandannas. “And I’m not a witch.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” the weasel snarled.

Kate rushed for the staircase with Roger Laniger, now a ferret playing the role of albatross, slung about her neck. Out to the car she dashed, and peeled out of the parking lot to drive off in high gear. And all the while her unwelcome passenger was growling such dire imprecations Kate snapped, “Woof, woof, weasel,” which silenced him for the rest of the ride.

“Lorna?” Kate turned the old brass doorknob. Much to her horror, the purple door swung open onto a realm of cavernous darkness. “Are you in there?”

“About time,” a voice called from the back of the bungalow as a row of candles lit themselves on the mantel. Kate almost wept with relief as Lorna came into the room towing a huge black suitcase. “My plane leaves at eight.” Lorna peered at her. “Brought your own familiar, did you? Greymalkin will have something to say about that.”

“No, no. This is the pest I was telling you about.”

Lorna rubbed her chin, where some white hairs had just sprouted out of a black mole in apparent evidence of her rapidly accelerating decrepitude. “Got careless with the precise words, did you?”

Kate blushed. “I was in the middle of my final curse when he turned into a weasel and scurried up my leg.”

Lorna limped over to scowl at the trembling weasel. “Go home, Roger Laniger, under your own steam. What happened here was all a dream.” She snapped her fingers. “Now flee!”

Lorna and Kate burst into laughter at the sight of Roger, restored to human form, running down the street like a marathoner. When Kate finally turned away from the window, Lorna was cradling a thick volume bound in black leather in her arms.

“Time for a little witchspeak before I vanish into the ether. Verily,” Lorna cackled, “thou shalt never be short of customers. This I swear by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin.”

“So that’s what they’re doing there,” Kate said.

“To everything there is a purpose,” Lorna wheezed.

“Without you, how will I know what it is?”

“You’ll have plenty of time to read the manual,” Lorna said.

“Verily,” Kate giggled.

And from beneath the sofa, Greymalkin yowled in anticipatory glee.

 

 

A longtime author of flash drama, nonfiction, poetry and fiction, Nancy Brewka-Clark is delighted that “Familiar” is the third story of hers to appear in  Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction. Her debut poetry collection Beautiful Corpus will be published by Kelsay Books in June 2020.

From one of Paper Butterfly’s authors: Jill Hand

If you’ve had a chance to read Jill Hand’s fun and clever flash story “A Visit from Spring-heeled Jack” (find it on Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction here), you’ll more than likely have a hankering to check out more of her work….

Jill Hand’s novel, White Oaks, won first place in the 2019 PenCraft fiction awards in the thriller category. Reviewers have called it a wild ride as well as funny, fast-paced gonzo noir. Here’s a link to where to buy a copy on Amazon.

Jill is currently writing a sequel entitled Black Willows. It will be released in the spring of 2020.

Jill Hand – A Visit from Spring-heeled Jack

A Visit from Spring-heeled Jack

by

Jill Hand

It was me what answered the door the night the devil came. I’m Violet Twombey, ‘tween maid, sixteen years old come Saint Swithin’s Day. The butler, Mister Burdle, was usually the one who answers the front door, but he was visiting his brother in hospital, him what got knocked down in the street by an omnibus.

With Mister Burdle away, the hall boy, Jerry, should have went and seen who was a-banging away on the big brass door knocker like a smith at a forge but Jerry was asleep in the coal cellar, wrapped up in a bit of old carpet he keeps down there. Jerry is fond of beer and Mister Burdle not being there to stop him, he made liberal use of the keg. At first he grew merry and sang a number of songs, including one about a woman from the Sandwich Islands who wore nothing but a grass skirt that Cook said was not fit for Christian ears. Then he got quiet and said he was going to go down to the cellar and fill the coal scuttles.

When the knock came at the door, the housemaids, Alice and Susan, was playing beggar-my-neighbour in the servants’ hall. Susan pinched my arm and told me to go see who it was.

As I was rubbing my arm Alice gave me a sweet smile and said, “Won’t you please go, Violet?” Alice is not only nicer than Susan, she is prettier. She will have a husband and a home of her own one day while Susan will not, the mean old thing.

So it was me what went, me what worked in the house eight months, giving no trouble to a mortal soul, fetching and carrying and scrubbing and sweeping, polishing everything that needed polishing, including the brass door knocker that somebody was a-banging away on like to raise the dead. I opened the door and there stood the Devil.

He had a red face and horns like a goat’s and a pointed beard like a Spaniard’s. He wore tall black boots and a black cape. He leered at me most alarmingly with eyes as red as fire and did a capering dance.

“O help! It is the Devil!” I screamed.

Cook came running with Susan and Alice at her heels. The Devil breathed a jet of blue flame and stepped inside, causing them to run back downstairs to the kitchen, screeching like scalded cats.

The mistress came out onto the landing to see what the commotion was about. That’s when the Devil started flinging coloured balls of fire, causing the mistress to shriek and faint dead away.

And wouldn’t you know it, the Devil being so fiendishly cunning, that there was no men in the house to protect us? The master was at his club, as he is most every night. It being a Friday, Mister Ellis, the footman, was in Seven Dials, reading to the people in gin palaces from uplifting books and telling them not to be idle but instead to find honest employment.

At least that’s the story he told Mister Burdle when he asked to be given Friday evenings off. I suspect Mister Ellis was frequenting gin palaces for another reason, that reason being gin.

The Devil gave one last ear-splitting shriek before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Then when the mistress woke up from her swoon she discovered her jools was missing! Diamond bracelets, emerald ear-bobs, the ruby brooch what the master brought back from India, all vanished. Cook said either the Devil must of took them, or else he had one of his imps do it.

“It must have been an imp, wouldn’t you say, Bert?” That was Alf, my young man. Him and me was strolling in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens the next night, along with Alf’s brother Bert and Bert’s sweetheart Nancy.

“Either an imp or a monkey that escaped from a zoo,” Bert replied, reaching into his pocket for coins to buy ice-creams. Bert’s pockets were heavy with coins for a change, as were Alf’s.

Alf and Bert work in a shop what sells theatrical costumes and magic tricks. Bert is small like an imp, and nimble-fingered like a monkey. He’s bold like a monkey, too, He’s just the fellow to scamper up the back stairs, nip into a lady’s boudoir and nick her jewels when she’s a-lying on the landing in a faint. I pointed to a spot below Alf’s ear, where he’d missed a bit of red greasepaint. “Ta, love,” he said, and wiped it away.

 

Jill Hand is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including, Mrs. Rochester’s Attic, Caravans Awry, and Postcards from the Void, among others.
Her Southern Gothic Thriller, White Oaks, was released May 30, 2019 by Black Rose Writing.

From one of Paper Butterfly’s authors: Scott Hughes.

I’m delighted to give a huge shout out to author Scott Hughes and his most recent work!  His story “The Goblin’s Lament” was featured in Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction in April 2018 (check it out here!).

The Last Book You’ll Ever Read
A mysterious book on your doorstep, a man trying to outrun an otherworldly horror, an elderly woman who creates strange concrete creatures, a computer that isn’t what it seems, an enigmatic nothingness closing in on someone’s house… The Last Book You’ll Ever Read is a collection of five macabre tales that you won’t soon forget. Available now from Weasel Press: https://www.amazon.com/dp/194871227X
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The Universe You Swallowed Whole
The poems in The Universe You Swallowed Whole fly from the microcosm of ripples in a lake to the macrocosm of light bending in a black hole, from math to jazz, from informal to formal, from the here-and-now to the hereafter. This short book contains an infinite universe—one that you will long to return to again and again. Available for pre-order now from Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/the-universe-you-swallowed-whole-by-scott-hughes/
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ScottHughes1

Renee Carter Hall – Penultimate

Penultimate

By

Renee Carter Hall

The room had crashed again. Instead of the rose-patterned wallpaper and the burlap-textured accent wall, the living room glowed fluorescent blue slashed with jagged red lines. She sighed and started the reset, waiting through the parade of logos and offers for upgrades, until the news feed finally came up, tastefully bordered in a gilt frame.

The headlines swept past, each lingering only as long as the room’s interface gauged her level of interest. Updates on the wars, a celebrity’s wedding, the latest public pleas for medical assistance, the new hors d’oeuvre everyone was making, the week’s political scandals ranked in a top-five format. She frowned at one item, and at her concentration it expanded into immersion, trading the walls around her for video and audio.

The last tiger had died, it said, in captivity at one of the western sanctuaries. It was a female, twenty-two years old, named Grace. The video of her caretaker finding the body was both distressing and compelling in its grief, and it played through twice until she closed her eyes. When she opened them, a wave of comments washed by, video and text, crying avatar faces and platitudes, each blending into the next. RIP Grace. Beautiful creature. So sad!!! Then a smattering of cat pictures shared for no apparent reason.

She wondered how many of the people mourning had ever seen a tiger other than in an immersion. The last zoos had become sanctuaries, closed to the public, when she was still a teenager. She had a vague childhood memory of a striped back pressed up against the glass, the tiger asleep on a summer afternoon, mixed in with the scent of popcorn and hot dogs.

The feed moved on, but sluggishly. She still scanned the headlines, but the interface could tell her attention was elsewhere. Finally a soft chime noted that it was her preferred bedtime, so she turned the feed back to the wallpaper and went to bed.

All night, her mind cycled back through photos, videos, a gallery of tigers, an endless parade, as if her own mental feed had gotten stuck on a single subject. Had it known, she wondered, that it was the last? How did anyone know, for certain, that it was the last? Had people so filled in every space, that there was no camouflage left?

She thought of old maps. Here there be dragons, or monsters. Or tigers. That time when there were still gaps big enough to hold entire creatures. That time where a person could not know something and have to live with not knowing it, unable to answer every question in an instant.

She dreamt of forests, of jungles, unmapped spaces where leaf and stone had never felt the sound of a human voice. She followed trails through a dense tangle of lush growth, and when the trail ended, she pulled vines and pushed brush aside with bare hands that ended in curving claws. She dropped to all fours and felt her spine flex. Colour became scent, and sound sharpened.

The next morning, she woke surprised to see her own hands. Her body felt clumsy and foreign. The news feed had long since moved on, and there was nothing else to say about the last tiger. The human community had noted the loss appropriately and grieved it appropriately, but now there was something new that required its due performance of sadness or anger or amusement. To linger too long was to risk being left behind.

She could not think of words to match what she still felt. Something had changed in the shape of the world, but she couldn’t define it, not even to mark it as a loss or a gain. It was something about being the last, though, and something about being alone, of having no one else’s opinions inside your head. It was something about having a pattern all your own, right down to the skin.

She knew, then, that the feed was wrong. If this wild solitude could linger in her, then wildness could always find a place to hide. The last tiger was not lying dead in a security video, caged in pixels of a news feed. It was out there, somewhere in the patches of forest that remained, always at the edges of vision, always a glimpse of pelt, a flash of eye. There would be rumours, but no one would ever find it. It would move through the city streets when everyone was asleep. It would slip through the feed, lurking in the spaces between words. It would live in the eternity between instants, and it would never have a name.

 

Renee Carter Hall’s short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Strange Horizons, Podcastle, and Daily Science Fiction. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, their cat, and more books than she will ever have time to read, and readers can find her online at www.reneecarterhall.com and on Twitter as @RCarterHall.