Katrinka Mannelly – Unmentionable.


by Katrinka mannelly

Dear Clarisse,

Although we customarily strive for discretion in all things, we find ourselves in a situation that simply must be addressed forthwith—the deplorable state of your underpants.

You may think the status of your intimate apparel is a private issue affecting you alone, but you could not be more mistaken. I’m sure we do not need to remind you that we live in an increasingly interconnected world in which all of our choices and actions have meaning and consequence to those around us. And frankly the current state of your underwear is of grave concern to us.

As Underpants Gnomes we take extreme pride in the garments we steal. It is normally our greatest delight to place your undies on our heads and dance around. It is quite truthfully what we live for. We love all styles equally—briefs, boxers, shapers, thongs, tighty whities, even granny panties. Underpants are serious business, a material reflection of their owner. It is time you face the sad truth that the picture your panties are painting of you is not a pretty one. Faded, stretched out, torn, and yes, even stained—these are warning signs.

Clarisse, we implore you, for your sake and ours, get some decent drawers in your drawers.

We know you have been going through a rough patch, stress at work, a few extra pounds around the middle, and a romantic “dry spell,” as they say, but these are not reasons to let your standards slide. They are, in point of fact, quite the opposite. “As above, so below, as below, so above,” as the saying goes. When the proper underlying foundation is in place it boosts one’s confidence and shrouds one’s extra insulation. Please take it on my authority, when you do have a guest in the boudoir, you will want undergarments you are proud to reveal rather than those you must conceal.

The issue is urgent. Two of our merry band have already left us in despair. They have been spotted lurking about your flowerbeds trying to fit in with the lawn gnomes. Instant purchases with expedient deliveries are available online. If expense is an issue, we encourage you to consider any of the handsome “value packs” offered in a wide variety of fabrics and designs.

Dearest Clarisse, your underpants, the very underpinning of our way of life, are unraveling. We beseech you to take action. Panties simply are the key to everything. Get your undies in order and all else will follow.

Ever your true and humble servant,

Hedrick “Bloomer Bonnet” Gnomious et al.


Katrinka Mannelly writes and lives in Fircrest, Washington with her husband Brian, daughter Tigist, dog Queenie and cat Riptide. She is a storyteller and always has been. Her book of short stories, “Section 130” is available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com. 

New story up at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction!

Larry Hodges – The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame

The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame

By Larry Hodges

Baseball. It’s my life.

Grandparent Two once said that baseball started out in some world with bipeds, where the best players played in front of huge, screaming crowds. Why would anyone want to watch the best players? It’s like rubbing in your face that you’re inferior. I think Grandparent made that up.

Today we’re up against the Sirius Suckers, and it’s my turn at bat. I clutch the bat in four tentacles and take a few practice swings. I’ve trained my whole life for this. Parent One said if you want to be good at something, you must be single-minded about it, so while the other kids were tossing balls around and growing neuron connections, I spent years trying not to move or do anything that might develop tentacle-eye coordination. Our fans love that I have the skill of a blind snapanzee, and I need to stay that way. I get paid for being a klutz. I play center field for the Polaris Pushovers, and once almost caught a ball.

Now I glare at the purple-eyed pitcher, and she glares back. I take a deep breath and stare at the ball balanced on the tee in front of me. It’s bottom of the ninth, two outs, and as usual, nobody’s scored, though we came close in the fourth when the Suckers committed five errors on one play but our guy tripped six times and was out at the plate by half a snoogal, bless his two hearts.

Our fans cheer, not wanting me to do anything skillful that might show them up. I’m good at that, though I tapped a foul in the third. I’m going to put all my weight into my swing, like in the sixth when I accidentally let go of the bat and sent it over the left field fence. Now I’m using an unfamiliar bat, which should help me mess up.

I swing high and whiff and fall flat on my eyequills. The opposing fans scream about my body odor, but not showering is one of my trademarks. Strike one.

I step out of the batter’s box and call a snack time-out, and out comes the trainer. He stuffs a spoonful of live grubbies into my beak. I’ve never fed myself–learning to navigate a spoon means developing coordination, which could translate into baseball and ruin my career. I swallow the grubbies and step back into the batter’s box. The newfound energy should make my swing a bit more wild, since that last swing was actually kinda close.

I stare at the ball, still perched on the tee like a black hole wrapped in skafelly skin that’s determined not to budge, and it’s probably right, but we gotta play the game. I swing even harder. This time I swing too low and smack the tee, and the ball wobbles. Ow!!! That stings. But I’m a pro so I’m used to that. The opposing fans jeer how stupid I am, and I have the IQ tests to prove it. Strike two.

We’re down to our final strike and we’ve done nothing well, thank goodness. Our fans are on their tentacle tips and the opposing fans chitter they want a hitter not an underwear snipper. I stare at the ball and try to smack it, but swing two feet over it. But I stumble, and just before I fall on my skoofal the bat somehow hits the ball. It’s a screaming grounder that’s slowly making its way to the shocked pitcher, who hasn’t touched a ball all season.

I vaguely remember what to do in this situation and pull all twelve tentacles into a tight ball and roll toward first base. The pitcher trips over the ball—she’s a pro. I roll into first, and I’m on to second in a glaringly stupid baserolling mistake—there’s no chance I make it to second on time, and I’ve never made it to second base before. The pitcher, after fumbling the ball three times, finally kicks the ball really hard with a tentacle and the ball’s rolling faster than me and beats me by five snoogals, but the Sirius Sucker at second watches the ball roll between his suckers, and his fans nod and cheer him and the pitcher, knowing they could have made those plays.

I continue to third, slipping only twice, as the three outfielders collided and fall down with concussions, a real problem for us professional athletes. One groggily swats the ball toward home as I round third. Some are booing displeasure at my heroics, but it was an accident, honest, and the play isn’t over. I could still mess up.

The catcher trips over home plate but the ball rolls into his beak and he clomps down on it like he’s hungry, but at least he doesn’t swallow it, since he’s a pro. They got me beat, but I roll on cuz like I said, I’m a pro too. The catcher flings himself down and his head smacks into mine, and somehow he holds onto the ball but loses three incisors. I’m out.

“Safe!” screams the mistaken umpire, who like all umpires can’t see straight. She’s a pro too, can’t blame her mess-up since it’s the first time she ever called a play at the plate. And we win!!!

Our fans race onto the field, flashing red and feeling inferior, and tear off three of my tentacles before I make it to the safety of the clubhouse. It won’t hurt my game. But I’ll be released for sure. My agent is going bonkers—on the one tentacle, I’m a free agent and I’m so bad, I might get big bucks, but on the other, I just made a whole crowd of fans feel bad about themselves, a really rotten and unprofessional thing to do. It’ll knock my market value down. But the talent scouts, they’ve seen me play, and if they can convince ownership that I’m still a klutz, then big money, here I come!!!

Larry Hodges, from Germantown, MD, is an active member of Science Fiction Writers of America with over 110 short story sales and four novels, including “Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions,” which covers the election for President of Earth in the year 2100, and “When Parallel Lines Meet,” which he co-wrote with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. He’s a member of Codexwriters, and a graduate of the Odyssey and the Taos Toolbox Writers Workshops. In the world of non-fiction, he has 17 books and over 2000 published articles in over 170 different publications. He’s also a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and claims to be the best table tennis player in Science Fiction Writers of America, and the best science fiction writer in USA Table Tennis! Visit him at larryhodges.com.

The results are in! Watch this space for some incredible stories in 2021.

A huge thank you to all the amazing authors who submitted their work during Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction‘s open call at the end of October and into November. I read well over 250 excellent stories exploring a fascinating variety of themes and genres, and it certainly wasn’t easy to make the final decisions! All of the authors were notified of the results by December 15th, and I look forward to publishing the selected stories in 2021.

A few of you have been asking when I will reopen the submissions window in the new year. I will likely follow the same timeline as I did this year, so watch Paper Butterfly‘s Facebook page and this website for updates (and, of course, to enjoy some really good reads!).

Avra Margariti – The Cats in the Walls

The Cats in the walls

by avra margariti

The dulcet sound of Anna’s chubby fingers on the piano keys drifts inside the mansion’s skeleton. It surrounds me like the gauzy shroud I wore when my body was tucked within a wall cavity after my death. My girl is gifted: piano, violin, cello. Changed three tutors in a year because nobody could keep up with her.

 “The Great Darkness is coming,” a voice squeaks.

With a swift sweep of my paw, I scoop up the mouse who dared to interrupt the best part of my day. As it dangles by its wormy tail, it trembles right down to its bent whiskers.

“Who sent you?” I snarl, baring my teeth. I can’t consume the mouse in terms of taste, nourishment, and digestion. Regardless, one snap of my jaws would be enough to kill it, its small corpse residing in my xylophone ribcage until it, too, dried up. I consider it. The crunch of bone, of gristle, the memory of spicy meat.

“Misty did,” the mouse pipes. “She said—she said it was urgent.”

“Yes,” I say. “The Great Darkness usually is.”

The smell of the mouse’s fear is overpowering. I don’t enjoy torturing the poor creature. Yet I crave that heady scent—the scent of life, so closely linked to the threat of death.

“You can go now. Pick a crumb from the kitchen for your troubles.” I release the mouse. It scurries away, through the gaps in the brick and mortar, to alert the rest of the neighborhood cats. Everyone will have heard about this alleged Great Darkness by nightfall, and the walls will thrum with their panic.

Us mummified pets don’t like leaving our households behind for too long. We prefer to communicate with each other through the mice. However, I’ll make an exception for Misty, my closest confidante.

I crawl inside her shrine in the walls of the neighboring manor. She lounges on a pile of her favorite toys and pillows, now moldy and damp. Her leathery tail rubs against mine in greeting. When Misty was alive, her charcoal fur was always brushed to a velvety sheen, and a bell hung from a pink ribbon around her neck. Now we’re only bones clad in thin yellow-gray skin.

“What was that about a Great Darkness?” I ask.

Misty lifts her head from her satin pillow. “I heard there was a séance happening in the Edwardson manor last night. Peeking through the cracks in the woodwork seemed like harmless fun.”

“A séance?” I scoff. “Please.”

Misty should know better than most that there’s no escaping death.

“It wasn’t a mere séance. You know how the Edwardsons’ dog died last year in that carriage accident? The Lady of the house was mad with grief. Headed to Bedlam for sure, we thought.”

If my eyes hadn’t melted away, they would widen in realization. “She tried to resurrect Spots?”

“She did. But this thing… It’s definitely not Spots. I think Lady Edwardson invited back something else. Something bad.” A shudder runs down Misty’s vertebrae. “There was something in the wall with me, a presence. I swear I’ve never felt this cold before, not in life and not in death.”

Misty is a glutton for histrionics, who once got spooked by a mourning dove. However, I keep this detail to myself.

I slink back until I reach Anna’s music room. Despite my disbelief, I feel unsettled; off-balance. Anna’s playing was always enough to lull me into a soft purr. If I position my empty eye socket over a tear in the floral wallpaper, I can see her at the piano bench, her whole body alive with her music.

The footfalls are almost soundless at first, indiscernible over the flowing music. Darkness clouds my vision, thicker than fog, more chilling than the recollection of my death. The pitch-black shadow twists and eddies until it resembles a giant dog. And the voice, like the smoothest, deepest musical note. “I’m coming for all of you tonight, and I’m taking everything you hold dear.”

My bones rattle like distorted wind chimes. My dried hide barely holds my body from flying apart. Before I can lunge forward and shield Anna, the shadow dissolves.

Night falls, and the clock’s hands shudder forward. Anna is sound asleep in the nursery upstairs. I think of her precious fingers stroking my fur or sneaking me buttery treats during afternoon tea.

I crawl out of my wall cavity and stand in the middle of the music room. The grand piano is a hulking silhouette in the dark. If my heart hadn’t shriveled up, it would be beating like a metronome in my concave chest.

 My family put my dried body in the walls to ward off evil. Yet I don’t know if I can fight the demon and drag it back into whatever Hell it came from. Will I disappear for good if I fail? Once, I used to believe in our nine lives. Humans, too, all seem to trust in the existence of Heaven to keep the fear of the void at bay. But even an afterlife trapped inside walls is better than nothing: no more music, no girls like my Anna, no companions like Misty.

“There’s still time to hide,” Misty’s messenger tells me as he and the rest of the house mice scamper away.

Pushing my shoulders back, I gnash my teeth. The cuckoo clock chimes twelve.

The frigid shadow swirls and darkens.

Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, The Forge LiteraryThe Arcanist, and other venues. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.


I am about halfway through the submissions sent during the October/November call, and I am on track to have all the stories finalized and the notifications sent out to the writers by December 15 (or earlier). Some absolutely amazing work this round – these won’t be easy decisions to make!

This year’s call for submissions is over!

I have some reading to do, I tell ya! Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction received well over two hundred stories during the 2020 call for submissions and I will be a very busy lady for the next month. A huge thank you to all the authors who submitted their work! I am excited to see the diversity of work by writers from all over the world.

My aim is to respond to each author regarding their stories by December 15. Please don’t ask about them before then (unless they are being published elsewhere and you need to withdraw them from my consideration).

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to browse the fantastic stories already up on the site. I’ll be publishing a new story from Avra Margariti on December 1, so bookmark or follow Paper Butterfly here on WordPress or on social media to be one of the first to read it! Thanks again, everyone!


John Adams – Butter-drenched Fingers, Clasped Tightly in Prayer

Butter-drenched Fingers, Clasped Tightly in Prayer

By John Adams

Dear God, I am very much sorry about three things.

First, I am very much sorry for not praying recently. That is Petunia’s fault. She sleeps in the next cot and teases me for praying. I am glad you did not put me on Earth to judge others. I would very much judge Petunia.

Second, I am very much sorry about the thing I did that made one person die and another person go to jail and another person say a naughty word meaning “bottom.” That is also Petunia’s fault.

Third, I am very much sorry I stuck my fingers in the butter at Fancy Lunch. That is my fault.

Let me tell you more about the second thing, which is Petunia’s fault.

We had just served Fancy Lunch to Matron Malloy’s lady friends from the Gentlewomen of Johnson County. (They are much friendlier than her grumpy man friends from Kansas City.)

We were in the parlor of our orphanage—Malloy’s Girls Home—in the godly community of Mission, Kansas.

“Bewildered Belinda, the yellow-belly!” Petunia sang. The other girls cackled.

“I am no yellow-belly!” I hollered. “I am brave, like the Christians who enforce Prohibition across our nation. And stop calling me ‘Bewildered Belinda’!”

“I shall call you whatever I please, Bewildered Belinda.” Petunia pushed tiny, hobbled Emma aside and loomed over me. “Now, go wash your hands. They’re still buttery.”

Matron Malloy stepped into the parlor, thwapping her cane against the wooden floor. “Girls! Time for your performance!” We scurried outside. (I went last so I could lick my delicious fingers in private.)

Now, let me tell you about our performance.

Last month, Matron Malloy took us via locomotive into Kansas City to see Daisy Daydream’s Farm—my first-ever moving picture. I laughed when Daisy stomped on the bottom of the rake. The handle shot up and knocked her noggin! (You should see it, God!)

The only part I did not like was whenever Daisy talked, because the screen showed words I could not read. Petunia called them “title cards.” She teased me that Daisy was telling the whole theater what a yellow-belly I am. (Petunia fibs!)

Matron Malloy goes to Kansas City often, but never before with us. This was a special night. When we returned, she announced we were to perform a play based on the very picture show we just watched—for none other than the Gentlewomen of Johnson County! If we delighted them, they would “take us up as their cause,” which Matron Malloy said was a good thing.

We rehearsed our play in the garden every afternoon for weeks. Each day, I cried to Matron Malloy, begging her to let me play Daisy Daydream. She chose Petunia instead and cast me as Pig #2. (That made me cross, which is why I took your name in vain that one day, so I guess that is a fourth thing I apologize for, God.)

The day of the play, the Gentlewomen of Johnson County arrived in sleek motorcars. We served them what Matron Malloy called “Fancy Lunch.” (The butter was very fancy, indeed!) The ladies wore crepe dresses and felt hats—even Matron Malloy brought her nicest cane!

During Fancy Lunch, one of Matron Malloy’s grumpy Kansas City friends visited. I very much did not like him. (Nor would you, God.) He had a crooked nose and crossed arms. Matron Malloy glared at him, the way she once glared when tiny, hobbled Emma slurped applesauce.

After Fancy Lunch, we performed Daisy Daydream’s Farm. It was horrible. The crooked-nose man just scowled, arms crossed. The society ladies called me “piglet.” Worse still, when Petunia stepped on the rake, she dodged! It didn’t knock her noggin—not even a little! (I now agree with other Christians that acting is sinful.)

Afterwards, the Gentlewomen of Johnson County left, cooing of “temperance” and “temperament.”

But that crooked-nose man? He didn’t leave. When Matron Malloy ordered us girls to bed, he stayed.

In the parlor.

With her.

Arms crossed.

I lay in my cot, thinking about that spooky fellow. And about something else, too: Petunia’s teasing. “I’m no yellow-belly, Petunia,” I muttered to myself, throwing off my blanket.

“Belinda?” croaked tiny, hobbled Emma.

“Hush,” I whispered, racing down the hall.

I quietly opened the parlor door, peeking inside. The crooked-nose man clenched Matron Malloy’s bony shoulders. “Boss Pendergast says you’re skimmin’ off his booze money out here in the boonies,” he hissed. “Time for retirement.”

My very frightened throat squeaked.

“Huh?” The crooked-nose man twisted around, releasing Matron Malloy.

She sighed, yanked her cane forward, and thwapped his crooked nose.

14 times.

It only took six.

He lay before her, bleeding. He twitched… sputtered… stopped. Matron Malloy casually shrugged dirt from her nice dress, smiling at me. But not a nice smile. “Good girls stay in bed, Belinda. Naughty girls… get punished.”

She lunged across the parlor. I scampered back, ducking as her bloody cane whooshed by my head. I dashed out the front door, Matron Malloy close behind. Shrieking, I ran across the garden, hopping over set pieces from the afternoon’s performance.

Something wooden thwapped behind me. I was certain it was the cane, sending me to heaven.

But instead of angels… I heard tiny, hobbled Emma’s victory cheer: “Her [naughty word] is clobbered!” (I won’t repeat Emma’s actual word, God, because it is naughty and means “bottom,” but it also means “donkey,” so if you want to pretend she meant “donkey,” I will share that the word was “ass.”)

Thank you, God. Thank you for leaving that rake where Matron Malloy would stomp, knocking her noggin into deep sleep. Thank you for sending us Mrs. Salisbury, our new matron who is not (as the Gentlewomen of Johnson County whisper) “enmeshed in moonshine, murder, and that ghastly Kansas City mafia.” And thank you for finally stopping Petunia from calling me “Bewildered Belinda.” I very much prefer my new name: “Brave Belinda.”

Please forgive my four trespasses. In Jesus’s name, amen.

John Adams (he/him/his) is a writer, improviser, and producer from Kansas City. He primarily writes the genre he’s coined “inclusive absurdist speculative melodrama” – which means “monsters, aliens, and ridiculously huge emotions.” His fiction has been selected for publication by Dream of Shadows, Siren’s Call, 101words.org, and The Drabble and shortlisted in The Molotov Cocktail’s 2019 Flash Monster Contest. His plays have been produced by Alphabet Soup (Whim Productions, 2018, 2020) and the 6×10 Play Festival (The Barn Players, 2016) and selected for readings for the Midwest Dramatists Conference (Midwest Dramatists Center, 2017, 2018, 2019). He performs at comicons and comedy festivals across the United States with That’s No Movie, a multi-genre improv team. Web: http://JohnAmusesNoOne.com. Twitter: @JohnAmusesNoOne.

Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction is now open to submissions! UPDATE: CLOSED



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.


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.


Stories sent outside of the reading period.


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.  


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.


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.


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. 


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!


Gregg Chamberlain – Little Known Facts About Young Erwin Schrödinger

Little Known Facts About Young Erwin Schrödinger


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 


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).