Open call for submissions of flash fiction!

Something new this year! I am going to set up two short reading periods instead of one long one. (The next reading period will be in October – keep your eyes on this site for more details).  Selected stories will not be published until 2020, so patience will be required, but to ease the pain a little, I’ll issue payment for them before the end of 2019.

SUBMISSIONS:  OPEN APRIL 1 to 30, 2019 ~  

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 June 30, 2019.

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 $10.00 (Canadian funds).  Please note that if you live in countries outside of Canada, the exchange rate may mean you don’t quite make ten 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 either the April or the October reading period, payment will be issued on December 1, 2019.

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. Stories will be published in February, April, June, August, October, and December of 2020.

OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW:

In this fourth year of Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction’s existence, I will be accepting six (6) 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 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

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Nancy Brewka-Clark – Love & the Underdog.

Love & the Underdog

By

Nancy Brewka-Clark

The little dog trembles at being so far above the flagstone floor. With a pair of tongs, Mistress Meat plucks a coal red as the eye of a dragon from the fire and flings it into the metal wheel. He begins to run. The wheel spins, rattling the chain connecting it to the spit on the blazing hearth. Blood from the haunch of venison sizzles. He has no idea he is meant to repeat his futile flight day after day until he dies.

***

“Poor little dog. What do they call him?”

“Oh, he has no name. He’s just a turnspit dog. And from this moment forth you are just a scullery maid.”

“Yes, Step-mama.”

“Call me Your Highness, you stupid girl.”

“Please, Your Highness, I would like to have my book. It was Father’s. Every night before I fell asleep, I would translate the tales of Ovid from Latin for him.”

“What need does a scullery maid have of books? Give me your slippers and your stockings. Now, your frock. Henceforth you shall be barefoot and wear only these rags, as befits a girl who has nothing.”

***

Mistress Meat never notices that the roast is flavored with the salt of the girl’s tears. But far above the kitchen in the great paneled dining hall the prince who has been sent by his father to woo the girl’s step-sisters finds the taste tantalizing. Observing him with slightly crossed eyes beneath modestly lowered lashes, the two step-sisters toy with their forks. One dreams of sprawling naked in a featherbed sprinkled with rose petals, the other of a gossamer gown as easily shed as a snake slithers out of its splitting skin. Their mother, thinking she can use a strong young arm to bolster her rule and a hard, lean body in her bed, leans forward in her low-cut gown of purple velvet trimmed with ermine to tempt the prince with her majestic bosom. The pressure crushes her skin to crepe, but she believes herself irresistible.

***

“My lord and master, I heard a most disturbing tale down in the town. The king’s legitimate heir, a lovely young girl, vanished after his death. ”

“Vanished, Will? How could a princess vanish without a vast hue and cry?”

“Unlike the deceased king, who was dearly beloved, the widow who sits upon the throne is roundly loathed and feared in equal parts. She has ordered the tongue ripped out of anyone who questions her rule.”

“Then we shall hold our tongues, my valiant servant, until we can get to the bottom of this matter.”

***

The little dog lies panting in his dark corner long after the scullery maid has wept herself to sleep. Her feet are blackened and blistered from walking upon errant cinders as she went about her hellish work. What if he could creep out of the kitchen and hunt for the slippers taken by the evil-eyed woman with the golden crown on her head? Surely they would be better than nothing.

***

“Forgive me for waking you, my liege. From the looks of this slipper I believe the missing princess might be within the confines of these very walls.”

“My word, it’s very dainty. Wherever did you find it, Will?”

“I was standing guard outside your door when the largest rat I’d ever seen came scampering down the hall. I drew my sword and prepared to run it through. Then I realized it was a little dog. It had a pair of slippers in its mouth. In its haste to escape, it dropped one and vanished down the staircase.”

“Well done, Will. Now we have a plan.”

***

The little dog scurries into his corner, ashamed and grieving. What good is one slipper? Growling softly so that he won’t waken the slumbering scullery maid, he chews savagely on the soft blue leather until there is nothing left but scraps.

***

“Come, girls, and claim your slipper from the prince! It must fit one of you.”

“Mama, it’s mine! Oh, but it’s far too tight. It must have shrunk when I went walking in the dewy garden.”

“Here, sister dear, give it to me. Ugh! Unh! Yes, it must have shrunk.”

“Tell me, Madam Queen, are there any other royal damsels within these walls?”

“Oh, dear me, no, none that I can think of, my dearest prince.”

“That’s most peculiar. You see, my loyal servant paid a visit to the castle kitchen this morning. Oh, don’t bother to ask why, Madam Queen. But, he found a young girl whose foot fit perfectly into this slipper.”

“Oh, no, no, no, that is quite impossible, my precious prince.”

“Is it, Madam Queen? Why don’t we go down to the kitchens, then, and see for ourselves what mischief might be afoot.”

***

Taking the golden crown from the old lady’s head, the handsome young man puts it on the scullery maid’s raven locks. Smiling radiantly, she points toward the little dog. “Canis Vertigus,” she calls. He creeps forward humbly to lie at her feet. Putting his nose between his paws, he stares at her with eyes as bright as her own. She scoops him up to whisper one word into his ear. “Gus.” And he knows he will be hers not just in name but in heart, body, and soul forever.

 

Nancy Brewka-Clark is a longtime published author of short fiction, poetry, drama and creative nonfiction who lives on Boston’s highly romantic North Shore. She’s delighted that “Love & the Underdog” is the second story of hers to appear in Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction.

(You can find Nancy’s first story, The Invitation, here!).

Gregg Chamberlain – Poetic Licence.

Poetic Licence

by

Gregg Chamberlain

‘Twas late on a summer solstice night so dreary, whilst I pondered, weak and weary, over tomes of weird and forgotten lore, that there came a sudden tapping, as of something strongly rapping, followed then by a crashing and a bashing up against my subterranean shelter door.

It must be just imagination, was my initial rumination, just a simple flight of fancy as fatigue now made me antsy. That’s all it is, I told myself, whilst placing books back on the shelf. That’s all it is, and nothing more. Surely no one hammered on my shelter door.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! rang the sound.

“Who’s there?” I cried, now quickly spinning ‘round.

“Berry!” roared the strange reply.

“Berry who?” was my answering cry.

“Berry glad to be here!”

An odd response, there could be no doubt, from whoever, whatever stood without. What mad thing driven past all reason during this post-apocalyptic season, now full of lunatic, childish glee, had come ‘round now to torment me? More important yet, I now did wonder, while I stood listening to the night-time rumbling thunder, how sturdy is my iron-bound shelter door? Can it withstand the pounding more?

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! Once more there came a bashing.

“Who’s there?” I cried, my teeth now loudly gnashing.

“Grape!” came an answering howl.

“Grape who?” I cried, with queasy bowel.

“Grape weather we’re having!”

Wild-eyed now, I turned once more to all my dusty books of forgotten lore, ancient knowledge now my sole recourse, to determine what was the unearthly source of this japing, jesting, joking jackanape, from what hell did it escape, and how to force its swift return to the fires that eternal burn, while ‘neath the constant pounding strokes oaken door timbers groaned in concert with knock-knock jokes.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! Once more ‘gainst my shelter door.

“Who’s there?” I demanded in a final encore.

“Banana!” answered an angry growl.

“Banana who?” Fearful now I did implore.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! My door did reverberate.

“Who’s there?” I soundly cursed my ill-born fate.

“Banana!” returned the beastly howl.

“Banana who?” Faint hope revived, if somewhat late.

Now I perceived there might be cause, despite the scratch of adamantine claws, that I might yet escape with life and soul intact, avoiding need for unwholesome pact. For my unwelcome visitant’s curious way of inquiry could yet save the day. Dawn’s welcome light came on apace, its burning brilliance would soon give chase to any fell creature waiting at my door, and send it wailing off forevermore.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! One last time the echoing pound.

“Who’s there?” I demanded, with defiant sound.

“Orange!” came fast in answer.

“Orange who?” Worry now a returning cancer.

Silence at first, the quiet loud in my ears, giving new strength to my rising fears.

“Orange you sorry you’re alone?” growled back the Unknown.

I let drop the book I had in hand, and as I watched the splitting door, knew as one truly damned, I should see the dawn’s light…nevermore.

 

Gregg Chamberlain lives in rural Ontario, with his missus, Anne, and their cats who allow the humans to think that they are in charge. “Poetic Licence” is Gregg’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, and other weird fiction writers.

The results are in!

Thank you again to everyone who submitted their work to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction during the recent open call! The calibre of work was fantastic and it was incredibly difficult for me to decide the final lineup for next year. I’m not complaining a whit – that’s such a great problem to have!

As of now, all of the authors have been notified regarding the status of their stories. If, for some reason, you haven’t heard from me, check your spam filter first, then fire me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

I am toying with the idea of opening two calls for submissions in 2019, so watch this site for more details.

The first story for 2019 will be published on February 1, so if you haven’t already subscribed to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, I’d encourage you to do so and receive all of our stories in your inbox for free.

Wishing everyone a magical holiday season and the very best in the new year!

~Sheryl

Norm Roberts – Morning Hunt

Morning Hunt

by

Norm Roberts

It is a quarter to too damn early in the morning and I am getting out of bed. As my feet feel the chill of the wooden floor, I look over my shoulder to my wonderful wife. She lays there still sleeping, not stirring, still lost in her dreams. I reach over and nudge her awake. She grumbles and then acknowledges that she is awake. I shower and dress, and she makes us breakfast and piles our gear at the door. As we eat, the excitement of the hunt starts to build, and we smile at each other and reminisce about past hunts while looking forward to placing another trophy in the main room.  I grab the gear and load the truck while she gets cleaned up.

It is cold. Frost hangs from the branches of the trees. The streetlights are barely winning the battle verses the dark and cloudy sky. It is a quiet morning, and we feel like the only people alive or at least crazy enough to be up this early. We start the drive out of town and soon realize that we are not the only people out. As we go along the gravel roads, we see vehicles parked along the shoulders or in pullouts. At first it is just one or two. Then, there are groups of vehicles, some with ATVs at the ready. A few people are returning to town with their catch in the back of their trucks. We start to worry about bagging anything with all this activity.

I drive onward, going farther then I intended to go, down some side roads that I hope will not be as busy. My wife tells me to stop the truck, that it is time to start the hunt on foot. She has a feeling that our target is close now. I never argue against her feelings; she has a knack for these things.

We start walking into the trees. The sunlight is trying hard to chase the dark away and melt the ice crystals in the air. We don’t have to trudge through the snow for too long before she grabs my arm to stop me. She points to show me where to look. I don’t see it at first but then there it is. Not the largest, not the smallest, but just the right size for us. We bag it and bring it home. We will set it up in the main room where we will dress it in lights and bulbs and enjoy it for a few weeks, with the belief that it is the most beautiful Christmas tree we have ever had.

 

Norm Roberts is a lover of lacrosse, and works much too hard for a mere pittance.  His story “Hard Times” was featured in Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction in December 2017.  

Kitty Sarkozy – Another Knight

Another Knight

by

Kitty Sarkozy

The dragon roared in challenge. A knight approached.

There was a time Princess Arianna would have rushed to the window to watch the knight defeat the beast, sure they would succeed. That was a dozen knights ago. Watching someone roasted attempting to rescue her was horrible. She knew what she’d see if she threw open the heavy velvet curtains: a shining knight upon valiant steed amongst a field of charred horses and dead heroes, facing the beast.

No reason for excitement. Hoping for rescue now would lead to depression in a few minutes. Best to focus on needlework. However, her heart, beating faster, never agreed with her mind.

The battle continued. This knight was a mighty soldier. ‘Twas a shame the realm would lose him. She’d write a ballad if she had a name and someone to listen to her sing it.

It’s hard to tell with dragons, but was that a roar of pain?

Unable to restrain herself, Arianna went to the window. With the curtains open, the acrid odour of dragon fire and stench of rotting meat intensified. There was a time when she would have gagged.

The knight was weaving among the rocks and bodies. She saw no horse, hoping it had fled to safety. This knight didn’t gleam. The armor was dull and mismatched — the breastplate black, the bracers rusted steel, and the helmet green with no plumes. Arianna couldn’t be sure from this distance, but the sword seemed red with blood. Was the dragon limping?

This was the longest fight yet. All the other knights faced the dragon head on, sword high.

This little knight hid from the dragon, throwing rocks to distract it, stinging when it turned.

Soon the dragon was chasing its tail like a puppy. Arianna laughed.

Could this knight defeat the dragon?

She gasped when the knight tripped, cheered when the dragon was pierced, felt faint with excitement as the battle raged on forever. Suddenly the dragon fell, its many-times wounded leg no longer able to support it. The knight was there, pushing the sword into its eye; blood gushed.

Dragon dead, the knight limped towards her tower.

Arianna was about to run to her saviour when she thought about what being saved meant. She belonged to the knight. None would question a knight’s right to marry a rescued princess. The knight would become King when her father died. Was the knight cruel? What if she became a prisoner in the palace as much as she’d been here?

Footsteps clanged on the stairs, then outside her door. The door opened, revealing the knight, motley armor dripping dragon’s blood. The knight removed the battered helmet, long damp black hair tumbling around her shoulders.

“Emma?” said Princess Arianna.

“Yes, my love,” whispered the knight.

Arianna ran across the room, throwing her arms around Emma, blood be damned.

“You? How? I can’t believe it! You came, you saved me!”

“Always, my love,” said Emma, baker’s daughter, kitchen maid, dragon-slayer.

 

Kitty Sarkozy is a speculative fiction writer, homesteader and tech support phone monkey living in Atlanta, GA. She has a rather unspecific set of not very useful skills, a plethora of hobbies, and too many pets. When not writing or answering calls, she stays entertained as a background actor and rogue. You can follow her adventures at kittysarkozy.com.

Katy Lohman – Forbidden Means Nothing

Forbidden Means Nothing

By

Katy Lohman

Hallowe’en’s my favourite holiday. Months before October, I get my Hallowe’en Feeling, a chill, a readiness. Probably because the dead leave the Afterlife to visit, or haunt. I hadn’t seen any, yet. Boo. I loved to draw spooky things: graveyards, haunted manors and stormy landscapes. My favourite crayon was midnight blue, perfect for twilight skies.

My brother also loved all things Hallowe’en, especially monster masks. He asked for one starting at age five. Dad refused until Frankie was ten and was found reading H.P. Lovecraft. Defeated, he took us to Hawthorne’s Horror Haberdashery. Reading was always rewarded. It was perfect: a haunted house with goodies we could study or buy. Frankie got a green spiky fish monster with pop-eyes. I, more subtle, got a blue-faced phantom wearing a cowl.

Something felt different this year. My Hallowe’en Feeling was tingling my nerves overtime, and I had dreams of little men with red hats, leathery small humanoid beings with stubs of wings on their backs, and a vast kingdom of tiny doll people with swords. Frankie and I hid in the wine cellar to trade dreams and premonitions, and found we’d both dreamed of the smallfolk.

“This is the year, Rook,” I said, using his secret club name.

“The Neighbourhood?” he asked, voice aquiver.

“Oh yeah. We’re even stronger, now. We can easily evade.”

We did a high five, and broke for lunch.

Evening. The full orange moon loomed close in the night sky. Frankie and I let out howls of delight. Mom was giving out candy this year, so we nagged Dad to stop reading and take us trick-or-treating. He was embarrassing; instead of a costume, he wore a sweatshirt saying Hallowe’en Costume, saggy blue jeans, sneakers. We got our baskets, looked at each other, and sprinted.

“Hey!” Dad called out. “You’re too young…”.

We were too far away to hear the rest.

Downhill to the forbidden neighbourhood, a densely forested area that scared almost everyone. As an owl hooted, we snuck through the open gates.

It was Hallowe’en perfection. Every house, painted in rich dark colours, was surrounded by iron fences, had gargoyles and stained glass windows. One chimney breathed purple smoke. Another was exactly like the Addams Family house. Even the inside, we noted as we passed some windows. A stone house with three fireplaces was partly underhill, the yard a tangle of pretty weeds.

We went trick-or-treating down the whole road, screaming, “Trick or treat! Candy or mischief!” Laughing, adults in cool costumes gave us chocolate, pixy stix, candy fangs, gummy worms and more. Children raced around us, all fully hidden in their costumes. One snorted as s/he passed by, and Rook leaned against me to whisper, “He had tusks, Crow!”

I believed him. This neighbourhood felt different, dangerous with a thousand secrets and people who were not…human. The idea didn’t scare me; in fact, I felt a little high on this new energy. It made me feel wild, like I could do anything I wanted.

Last house was the one partly underhill. Rook looked creeped out, and my spine shivered. Slowly we walked down the driveway, towards a little man sitting halfway down the drive, beer resting on his pot-belly and an actual coffin full of candy by his side. He had a rough face with a long pointed-up nose, wore a dirty undershirt, suspenders, baggy green slacks, muddy sneakers, and a rusty-looking knit cap that seemed to be leaking. Weird.

He gestured for us to come closer.

“No fear,” Rook and I agreed. Holding hands, we went to stand before this…man?

As we came closer, he stood and put down the beer that smelled too coppery to be beer. “And who are you two supposed to be?” he asked.

“I am the Phantom of the Blue Isles!” I said in a hoarse voice.

“I am a Deep One,” Frankie gurgled, crooking his head so his neck looked broken.

“Well, now! Aren’t you two far from home?” We giggled. “Do you know what I am?”

“An English bloke who watches too much telly?” Rook guessed. The man roared laughter.

“Someone respected in this whole neighbourhood,” I guessed.

He studied me, brows lowered, before he said, “I’m a Redcap! Do you know what a Redcap is?” He bared three rows of jagged teeth, and laughed so loud, the owls and whippoorwills silenced.

“Fir Bolg,” I said, grinning. “The shock troops who scare all the Fey. You wield long scythes and dip your caps in the blood of your enemies.”

“Most every human knows to avoid this area. How dare you invade our privacy? You are now game to be hunted.”

A small troupe of children came slinking up, casting aside their costumes to reveal themselves as utterly smooth beings who looked like cherubs. They were drooling. And not kids. The leader had crow’s feet and fine silver hair. I knew we were supposed to run, get caught.

Instead, Rook bowed deeply. “Kind sir, forgive our intrusion. We’ll leave…”. In a crazed voice, he finished, “If you give us all your caaaandy!” He made the mask’s eyes bug out even more.

Well, when in Rome. I made my nails turn to claws, growling with mask fangs turned real. Let’s see if Redcaps could handle being hunted.

The Redcap jammed his big beaky nose in my armpit and sniffed. Then he sniffed Frankie. “Interesting,” he said. “I never thought magi would break taboo.” He yelled, “Pax, everyone.” To us, “You’re welcome back. Your neighbours ain’t.” He raised a finger. “Now, shoo.”

We ran, but we both vowed to go back on another night. We had to Know.

 

Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer and artist whose favorite questions are “What if?” and “Why?” She writes about the fae, dangerous angels, gods, demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing or drawing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, taking online classes, rolling dice, building decks and exploring Chicagoland. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3 and 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie, Volume II. Her favorite angel is Raphael, her favorite god is Enki and her favorite DC character is Wonder Woman.

JP Behrens – Sciophobia

Sciophobia

by

JP Behrens

“Don’t turn off the lights!”
The floor and ceiling illuminate the room to the point of blindness.
“Dorian, we’ve spoken about this. Shadows are not dangerous.”
“Mine are. Please, just leave me alone.”
“Now you know I can’t do that. Nothing is lurking in your shadow.”
The doctor stands up and moves to the door.
“I’ll prove it.”
He knocks twice.
The lights on the floor wink out. “See–”
Two glowing red eyes peer out of the shadow from behind the doctor. Blood splashes across the dimmed walls. Dorian sobs, wishing for the light to return before someone else comes in.

A storyteller most of his life, JP Behrens weaves intricate webs of bold-faced lies, some of them in the form of stories. Everything in one’s life is a learning experience, and he’s tried to learn from both wondrous successes and miserable failures. Though JP has managed to fib less often, he still tells the occasional exaggerated tale here and there. Some can be found in anthologies like Fairly Wicked Tales, O Little Town of Deathlehem, and Return to Deathlehem. He is currently working on two or three books.

Timothy Manley – My Baby is Home

My Baby is Home

by

Timothy Manley

Step, swing; the pick impacted the rock, sending shivers up the handle to their numb arms. The stench of tallow and black grimy sweat filled the air. Their heavy breaths came in gasps as the men worked with indifferent exhaustion. Forceful blows from hefty sledges drove spikes into solid stone, shattering fragments from their bed. Other miners scooped the broken shards up into carts while even more men dragged the carts out, pulled by thick, substantial ropes.

His name was Lethias and he was the largest man in the group, as strong as a horse, many said. He swung a pick too heavy for most to heft much less use, and could sheer stone with a single blow. He was the one to find it first. One of his blows broke through the rock too easily, and carved a hole through something, into an open darkness.

The men moved close, held their candles into the hole to see what was found. Flickering light danced across the broken shapes, summoning shadows of eerie form and figment. The light caught metal and the shine began to grow. The men’s eyes grew wide as they saw the room that began to be illumined before them. The walls were ceramic, covered with designs, and the glistening was given off by figures and statues made from solid gold and silver. Chests were everywhere. Glee began to fill the men, joy at the find, the possibility. Eager hands and tools dug with maniacal quickness and the men broke in.

Lethias was the first to rush and with a swift blow, crashed open the first chest. He stood dumb at what glittered inside: treasure the likes he had only heard about in fables. Frenzy engulfed the men. They fell upon the chests, tearing at them and ripping them open to find treasure, more amazing than the last; each laden with wealth beyond their dreams.

Then they came to the largest chest of them all: a massive box bound with iron chains across all sides. The men surrounded it, grinning at each other. Their lives had been made and they knew it. They were all rich.

“Equal shares,” Lethias said and held his hand out.

Each man nodded and clasped hands in the center above the giant chest. Then, with a nod, they fell to it, ripping at the chains with their tools. Certainly, the greatest treasure of all was inside. Grinning and giggling they lifted the lid.

#

Fog clung to everything. The road up to the mine vanished into a wall of fog, thicker than anyone could imagine. One man was chosen. He was in the lock-box for drunkenness but chosen for his gift of riding. It was known that he could ride like a man possessed and could get speed from a horse it didn’t even know it had.

The scraggly man was led to a fine horse, the best in town. He looked nervous. All the town’s leaders were there, except for Markil the Blacksmith. He had gone to the mine with his war-axe when the screams first were heard and the fog starting spewing from the gaping mine entrance. He never came back.

“You must travel as quickly as you can,” the mayor told the young man. He handed a scroll to him, placed it into his hands as if it were the most important thing in the entire village. “You must ride to the Seat of Tartaris and find help.” He looked away as his voice caught in his throat. “Please, before more be taken.”

The man nodded and climbed onto the horse. An elder woman handed him a wrapped parcel, kissed the fingers of her hand, then touched his stirrup.

The scraggly man’s face grew stern and filled with pride. “I will not fail you,” he said. He spun the horse, kicked its belly and galloped off.

“No time,” a grizzled old man said, watching the rider vanish into the forest as he sped out of town.

“We have time,” the mayor said sternly. “Tartarin watches over us, protecting us from evil.”

The old man turned and laughed, a low gravelly laugh filled with phlegm and knowing resignation, as he headed into the long-house.

The others followed; the old woman stayed alone whispering a prayer to Tartarin to speed the rider’s will and the horse’s hooves.

When she opened her eyes, she saw a figure in the fog. It had been standing there she knew not how long. Fear filled her only to be quickly replaced by joy. She recognized the figure. It was her son, Lethias, her baby boy. He hadn’t been lost in the mine afterall.

“My baby,” she said, and raised her arms to embrace him, her eyes filling with tears of joy and relief. The figure grinned, wicked jagged teeth glistening in the dim light, and rushed to her, its arms outstretched.

 

 

Timothy Manley is a writer of fiction, with four books and some short stories currently in print. Tim is what some call an ‘OG’, that’s ‘Old Geek’. He goes back in geekdom before the internet existed, which is what fed his early fascination in science fiction, fantasy, horror and the macabre. Tim currently lives at home with his wife and the youngest two (sometimes three) of his five kids as well as their dog and cat. If you want to see what Tim has in print feel free to check out his Amazon Author page (https://www.amazon.com/Timothy-Manley/e/B00MP5KEPY). If you’d like to keep tabs on Tim and find out when his next book is due to come out, feel free to like his Facebook Author’s page (https://www.facebook.com/SciFiWriterMan/). Here’s a hint, he often recruits BETA readers amongst those following him on his Facebook Author’s page.

Steve Pease – A Growing Imagination

A Growing Imagination
by

Steve Pease

Simms is a closer; been around the block. I’m the rookie, and the home crowd has lost hope. But … hey … this is the home of the Blue Jays; the place my Dad brought me up.
I smash Simms’s fast ball out of the park.

Dylan steps away from the microphone and smiles. I launch into a blistering solo. In the audience, Beck and Satriani shake their heads in awe and disbelief.

“Enough,” sighs a still-glowing Helen. “You are, without any doubt, one in a thousand.”
As I watch the sun set over the Aegean, I admit that I’m a little proud of myself.

Outside room 306 of The Lorraine, it’s 6.01 pm, April 4.
“Look out!” I shout.
And, as a startled Martin straightens, the bullet thuds harmlessly into the balcony wall.
That night, I have a dream.

Back in England, it’s State against worker. The battle-lines of Orgreave will dictate the next forty years. As the networks capture the conviction and passion of my rhetoric, I outline my vision for a very different future. They relay it to millions.
I believe in the power of television.

The press conference is the biggest the world has ever seen. And the three of us are bone-weary from the days and weeks of negotiation. But, as Palestinian and Israeli lean together to sign the two-state accord, we are also elated. This time, we think, this time.

This morning she seems a little tired, maybe a little sharp. But I don’t consider any response beyond coffee and a kiss. I’ve never uttered a thoughtless or hurtful word. Never doubted us. Never looked at another woman. I’m never irascible, never tired, never drunk.
I love, unconditionally and selflessly. My wife doesn’t pay it any mind; it is all that she has ever known.

You look me in the eye, and say, “You are mad with grief, and more than a little crazy.”
“No, no,” I reply, returning your gaze. “I’ve been researching quantum mechanics, the universal wave function. All possible alternate histories and futures are real. It makes perfect sense.”

My daughter survives beyond two weeks. I never shed those tears. Not one.

 

 

Steve Pease once had a ‘proper job’, drafting press-releases and briefings for British politicians. He argues, rather convincingly, that this was an ideal apprenticeship in writing fantasy. These days, he and his wife enjoy an idyllic lifestyle – walking their dogs by the River Derwent in Northern England.

Steve’s story “White Lies, Black Lies” featured on Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction in October 2017. His work has also appeared on Canada’s Digital Fiction Publishing; in the U.K. sci-fi/fantasy magazine “The Singularity”; in Volumes 1 & 2 of Canadian anthology “47-16: Short Fiction & Poetry Inspired by David Bowie”, and – in the USA – in Fantasia Divinity’s “Distressing Damsels” anthology.