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Submissions Open for Issue 4, Summer 2017

***DEADLINE EXTENDED AS REQUESTED TO 21ST AUGUST ***

From July 13th to August 12th we are open for submissions for our Summer 2017 edition, Issue 4. Take up your mouse and send us your short fiction, up to 500 words in length.

The theme for our fourth issue, which will see Strippedlit500 complete one cycle around the sun, is “Lovecraftian.” Your editor is an HPL fanatic; feed my appetite for elder gods, non-Euclidian angles, and the lurking horrors and whispered madness that lies, ancient and waiting, in your large metropolis.

You don’t have to use the words “Lovecraft” or “Lovecraftian” in either your title or the body of your story, but your story must deal with something related to the HPL mythos.

Please read our full submission guidelines here.

Bring cosmic weirdness, lurking horror, and unnameable depravity; summon the spirit of shadow covered, muttering Arkham – summon the ancient chaos that is the LOVECRAFTIAN!

For those readers who aren’t familiar with the man and his mythos, here are a couple of links to whet your appetite; what a treat awaits you!

Featured

Issue 3 Is Here (Spring 2017)

See the unseen… we have fantastic, horrific, amusing and tragic tales for you in this issue of our simultaneous blog and PDF edition of Issue 3; we will publish the stories simultaneously on our Twitter page; please do have a read of them, we are proud to present more great new short fiction.

Our theme for this issue was “unseen”; the quality of the writing and storytelling is once again very high.

Scroll down from this post to read the issue 3 stories individually. You can also search for stories by category in the sidebar. The stories are also collected under the Issue 3 Category

Issue 3 is also available in a free PDF file for you to download or read online.

Happy reading, and enormous thanks to all our contributors.

Margaret

The Unimagined

By Margaret McGoverne

Meghan was five, and she was cross. Mummy and daddy wouldn’t play with her as much as they used to, and she was in her playroom alone for longer and longer. Mummy and daddy shouted a lot, and mummy often cried.  She had crept downstairs yesterday to see them, but daddy saw the door move and pounced on Meghan, smacking her legs and sending her upstairs. “Only naughty girls spy on their parents!” he said.

Meghan’s playroom was in the attic; it was light and bright, but apart from her dolls and books it wasn’t really a playroom. There was a big brass bed for their occasional visitors but it was Meghan’s retreat now, her haven from her parents’ disputes.

She sat on the rug in front of the cold fireplace; her dolls were asleep, their long-lashed plastic eyes closed. The afternoon sun streamed through the windows, bathing Meghan in warmth. Her parents’ voices were a dull muffle that made her sleepy; she lay down on the rug and slept, thumb in mouth, although mummy said she shouldn’t.

Her nap was short, for the sun still warmed her when she awoke. She rubbed her eyes and pulled her thumb from her mouth – sitting on the bed were two figures Meghan had never seen before.

“Who are you?” she asked, and they smiled at her, although not at each other.

Their names were Tulpa and Enty, and they were here to make friends with Meghan. They were all three about the same size. They looked funny, but Meghan didn’t feel alone anymore. They chatted about her dolls and books, and they played games.

“Did mummy bring you here?” Meghan asked.

Enty smiled slyly, but Tulpa looked sad.

“No, you wanted us to come.”

“I did?” Meghan was mystified, but she was having fun. She had forgotten to be lonely.

Tulpa and Enty came to the playroom every day, and at first, they all played nicely. But one day they couldn’t agree which game to play, and they wouldn’t stop arguing, even when Meghan asked them politely.

“I’ll tell mummy!” she warned. But Enty just slapped at Tulpa and they rolled together, a mass of grabbing hands and pulled hair.

Meghan ran downstairs. Mummy was in the kitchen, Daddy smoked a cigarette at the table.

“Mummy, my friends won’t stop fighting!”

“What friends?” her mother asked, with a guilty start. Maybe she’d forgotten about Meghan.

“Tulpa and Enty, the friends that appeared in my room.”

Her mother’s frown changed into a slow smile.

“I’m sure they’ll stop soon Meghan.”

“But mummy, won’t you come and tell them off?”

An impatient tutting from her father made her mother stiffen. The warm smile died in her eyes.

“Not now Meghan. I’ll bring you some toast soon.”

“Mummy…”

“Please, Meghan!”

She paced dejected back to the playroom. There was an ominous scuffling sound behind the closed door; Meghan was scared, but her mother had told her to go to her room. She peered gingerly round the door: Tulpa lay in the fireplace, her eyes closed just like Meghan’s dolls. Her legs were pointing up the chimney, and as Meghan watched she saw a tiny pair of hands reach down and grab Tulpa’s ankles. Slowly, slowly, Tulpa disappeared up the chimney. She never opened her eyes.

When Tulpa had completely disappeared, Enty’s voice came down the chimney, with a small fall of soot.

“I’ll be back soon Meghan. You had better play nicely…”

Meghan sucked on her thumb and waited on the rug.


Author Bio: Margaret McGoverne is currently writing her first full-length novel while being distracted by short stories, flash fiction and her blog about all things writing.

 

Submissions Open for Issue 3, Spring 2017

From February 1st to 28th we are open for submissions for our Spring 2017 edition, Issue 3.

Send us your short fiction, of any length up to 500 words;  we want your stories, your cautionary tales, your glimpses into new, and familiar worlds.

The theme for our third issue is “Unseen.” That quiet colleague whom no one thinks about, that lurking fear of the basement, that health scare, that mystical experience, that unexplained sighting in the sky. What will you make of the theme?

 

What will be unseen in your story? Emotions, actions, people, events, consequences? Or will your tale revolve an actual, unseen phenomenon; what lies at the bottom of the Scottish loch, atop the rumour-muttered hills?

Or will your unseen be an activity, a thing that happened and must un-happen; are there things that must be unseen?

You don’t have to use the word “unseen” in either your title or the body of your story, but it must deal with something unseen.

Please read our full submission guidelines here.

Get writing, submit your short fiction and bring the force of your pen or mouse to that which is, which must be, or was, UNSEEN!

More

By Yen-Rong Wong

He didn’t think anyone would notice. It was just one more chocolate, one more pen, one more minute. He couldn’t control himself – and he didn’t want to. So it crept up on him, as it always did. It crept up on him because no one cared. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

But freedom is dangerous, and he was young. He couldn’t resist it, though to be honest, he didn’t try very hard to look elsewhere. It controlled him from their first touch, whispering sweet nothings into his ear, showing him a world full of adult secrets. It all seemed so fun, he thought.

He would have given anything to have more. One more bite, one more embrace. He needed more of it every day.

He needed more time.

And they waited. Waited for him to grow up. Waited for him to see it for what it actually was – but they were too late.

It was a day like any other. His hands trembled slightly, but he didn’t think it important. There were other warning signs, there always are. A crack in the wall, the soft rumble of the ground beneath his feet. But it was too strong; the need. And on this day, instead of a friendly embrace, or the flash of a colourful cartoon, it stared back at him. It just stared. It ripped his eyelids apart, and then he couldn’t take his eyes off it. He felt his insides crumble, and time slowed as the crashing of all he had stolen echoed within his chest. He couldn’t move, couldn’t cry for help.

NO, he thought. The desperate word of dying boys. Save me. Please. It’s all your fault, he cried silently. It’s all your fault. You did this to me.

The screen smiled back at him, its bleach white face pulsating gently. He heard its words as the last of it collapsed.

“I didn’t. You did.”


Author Bio: Yen-Rong is a Brisbanite who is currently attempting to write an Honours thesis. She has written for Semper Floreat, Brain Mill Press, and Rambutan Literary, and spends an inordinate amount of time making sure her cat doesn’t totally ruin her couch. You can find her on Twitter @inexorablist, or at her website at www.inexorablist.com.

Crowned Phantom

By CB Droege

She came out of nowhere.

She had to have come from somewhere, of course. She must have been someone’s sister or wife or daughter. It’s not like she didn’t have an origin, or that the universe dragged her from its vast brow fully formed to place her in our path.

It seemed like it though, that dark evening when she stepped out onto the balcony of the palace and stood, waiting for all of us. She did not call to us. No trumpets blared. No criers came around to announce her. She simply stood out upon the balcony which overlooks the great gardens. She wore a sky-blue gown which billowed in the wind; she held the great copper scepter, in all its beautiful simplicity, in the crook of her arm; her silver hair trailed smoothly over her shoulder, and she stood.

The word spread slowly. Over the course of an hour, children woke their mothers, and men grabbed their brothers away from their late-night work, and all of us came out to stand in the gardens. We were silent and stunned and staring up at her. When all of us had gathered, she raised the scepter high and spoke in a clear voice. “The king is dead.” She waited a moment for this to sink in, and for shocked whispers to finish running through the crowd. Then she continued. “I claim this throne by right of conquest, and by approval of the council of elders.”

The already deep silence grew deeper, and we could, for a moment hear the stars turning in the sky, then one voice rang out from somewhere near the foot of the tower, “Long live the queen!” And we all took it up as a chant. We intoned for a quarter hour at least, her lack of any reaction at all to our voices serving only to amplify us. We stopped only because the mysterious woman quit the balcony. Then the bells rang out, and a new era for us began.


Author Bio: CB Droege is a fantasy author and poet living in Munich. Recently his fiction was collected in RapUnsEl and Other Stories, and a selection of his poetry appeared in the Drawn to Marvel anthology. His first novel, Zeta Disconnect was released in 2013. He recently edited Dangerous to Go Alone! An Anthology of Gamer Poetry.
Learn more at cbdroege.com

MacMaster’s Bad Lump

By Barbara Jamison McAskill

MacMaster is still up. Square-shouldered and bearded, heavy booted and reeking of loneliness. He’s had a few. Yawning, he sprawls as if thrown into his chair. Bad Lump pulls his head into his neck with the sting of MacMaster’s breath. Bear paw hands fold over the cat’s cringing fur. Clock ticking. Small ribs squirm for relief from their captor. MacMaster steadies his gaze at the small creature.

A spark from the Rayburn dive bombs the lino. MacMaster belts the oven door shut with a thud from his heavy boot then returns his gaze to the still-squirming ball of fur and nails.

” So…Bad Lump…caught any vermin today? Mmm? There’s a touch of the serial killer in you, this much I know.” He bends over tighter, whispering softly now.

Poor you, no friends to play with tonight…I know how you feel. We’re two of a kind me and you…oh yes indeed…”

MacMaster slurps a kiss on Bad Lump’s nose. “You’re not a bad sort really…you’re the only lump who cares for me…”

Fuming with frustration, bones crushed, tail wagging furiously, Bad Lump tenses, prepares his escape. Nails dig deeper into hairy flesh, ears flattened, a whistle of a hiss leaks from his yellow-brown teeth. MacMaster senses the declining mood. He holds the cat up, mid-air, underneath the armpits, free from claws. Tail licked between his legs, Bad Lump knows what’s coming next: “Go on then! You’re just like the rest! Gut-bucket!”

Rupert is waiting in the wings. There’s work to be done; the hunt is on. Overweight and stumpy, he leaves belly prints in the mud. He’s in bad nick. Serrated ears, asthmatic and dusty, he joins his friend. The two little stink bombs head for their hideout at the back of the tall woods. There they go. Fur and badness. Creeping in and ducking out. Slinking through wire mesh. There, a well-padded graveyard littered with half-soaked heads, a crunch of wings and teenie bones: a stinking banquet, by day a garrison of fat round shiny blue black bottled flies. Garishly, hovering, ghoulishly savouring the stench of rotten luck.

The sound of  MacMaster snore rips the air for half a mile. As he snores, the little punks leave behind the debris scattered and splattered, slashed to ribbons. Another score on their hit list. Scissor-teethed, death-breath, needle claws. A pair of whiskered slayers is afoot. Aided and abetted, low-riding, the small murderers inch toward their prey, intent on a hideous act of cruelty.

Afterwards, they return home, gingerly, limping hind-quarters, thrashed by an out-of-towner, a backpacker, day ticket stray. This is the field of conflict. Creature-hood.

 


Author Bio: Barbara Jamison MacAskill is an artist based in the Highlands of Scotland. Barbara also provided the stunning artwork that adorns our PDF magazine for issue 1.

COWardly

By Shannon Bell

The cow watched me and chewed its cud.

“Stupid fuckin’ animal.” I gave it the finger.

“You’re lumpy as fuck,” it said. “Tragically lost in the void between younger and older, yet to figure out which tribe owes you a badge.”

That’s not possible. A talking cow? And how could a creature renowned for been dumb see straight to my core, voicing feelings I kept hidden in the basement of my soul?

I stormed across the paddock. The cow laughed as I walked away.

###

I looked at the ‘Free Meat Tonight’ sign in the window, stepped into my restaurant, and checked that every person had a platter of thick, juicy steaks in front of them.

“I’m lumpy as fuck,” I said into the microphone. “Tragically lost in the void between younger and older, yet to figure out which tribe owes me a badge.” They all stared at me, confusion written on every face. “It’s ‘all the meat you can eat’ night, so dig in.”

The cow wasn’t laughing now. Oh no. Right now, most of the cow was steaming on plates in front of my diners.

I popped one of its eyes into my mouth and chewed with relish. Its heart and brain were placed before me, swimming in a rich sauce. Yes, it was rude to do it in a room full of customers, but I licked the bowl clean.

A long, low “moo” ripped up my throat, bolted past my lips and echoed through the restaurant. Heads turned, followed by gasps and screams.

Furry ears and blunt horns protruded from my head. A large, pendulous udder bulged out from my stomach and I felt my feet thickening into hooves. My nostrils flared, large and wet and dripping bovine snot onto the tablecloth.

The cow laughed, its mirth ringing through my mind.


Author Bio: Shannon Bell is addicted to words. You will find him madly writing away in the spare time he has available between holding down a full-time job, being part of a dysfunctional family and looking after his attention seeking dog. His stories have been published in three issues of Dark Edifice magazine, two Short & Twisted anthologies and three issues of 101 Fiction. You can follow Shannon at @ShannonBell1967.

The Unloved Ones

By Lorrie Hartshorn

Resolution. That’s what you want, right? An explanation. You want that final breathing-out, the one that comes before you take that shaky breath and start to, y’know, rationalise it all. You want that moment where It Was All Just A Dream! Can’t give you that, son. Might find it on your own if you try hard enough – who knows?

So here’s what we’re going to do: I’m going to tell you a little story. Just float it up out there like them fungal spores – ‘cause sure, it ain’t pretty – and my recommendation for you is that you take one deep breath of your own and hold it while I do. I won’t keep you long, I promise. You don’t want to trust my word, and that’s fair enough, but what’s one little breath unless it’s your last?

OK, let’s keep it sweet. You want to know who I am and where I’ve come from, where we’ve all come from. You all do. Fine. First one’s easy: I’m no one. Can’t remember, never knew – doesn’t matter either way. Next one’s a little tougher. There’s talk but ain’t no official policy on this, you see?

We come rolling into town just like an ordinary show. Hiding in plain sight, boss likes to call it. Striped tents, big old wagons with covered cages on the back of them. Old-timey cars – Alec’s the one who looks after those – with the friendliest-lookin’ ones at the wheels. Good old-fashioned fun is what you ask for, and it’s what you’ll get from us – although whether it’s as fun for you as it is for us is another thing.

The outskirts. That’s always where you’ll find us, kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. We need the space – the actual floor space, you know? Don’t get no big old fields in the middle of cities now, do you? Beaches, promenades – them’s good too, depends where ‘bouts we are. And where there’s space, there’s folk that go wandering, folks that don’t get missed. Easy enough to pick up a stray on the edge of some woods, out in the long grass, maybe down in the warm sand by the pier. Few sweet words, a glad eye – see where I come in? – the promise of a hot meal. We throw the net, you come swimmin’.

We never stay long, you’ll have guessed. I know you can feel that churning underneath you now – you’ll get used to it. Sometimes when you’ve been on the road so long, you get a kind of sea-sickness when it stops. I promise you – yeah, another one – you won’t even feel it soon enough. You make yourself useful, you might still be here when we reach the next place. Maybe that’s what you want, maybe it isn’t. New beginnings aren’t for everyone, I know.

You can go ‘head, breathe it out now. Cough it out of you, son. Feel better for a while. Truth got a habit of stickin’, you know?


Author Bio:

Lorrie Hartshorn is a contemporary and literary fiction writer, whose work has been featured in a number of journals, including Compose, Paraxis, 1000 Words, The Pygmy Giant and Anthem. She blogs at circlesunderstreetlights.wordpress.com and is the founder of Halo Literary Magazine, a new journal of short fiction by women. Lorrie can be found on Twitter at @Bigoldsupermoon

Initiation

By Elizabeth Bradley

Dust exploded all around Seraphima and she shielded her eyes as the shuttle winked out of sight. The silence that followed settled heavy on her ears. Seraphima scooped up her battered suitcase and looked to the settlement that lay before her.

Dust exploded all around Seraphima and she shielded her eyes as the shuttle winked out of sight. The silence that followed settled heavy on her ears. Seraphima scooped up her battered suitcase and looked to the settlement that lay before her.  No turning back now she thought, passing a sign warning of wild animals on the stony path that led towards the pod-shaped buildings.

She had traveled here with another woman, who, the moment the hatch of the shuttle opened and she set foot on the planet’s bleak surface, turned around and asked how much it would be to take her back. Without argument she shoved her credits into the pilot’s hand and re-boarded. The pilot glanced at Seraphima. She shook her head. She was staying.

She had wanted to come here, she thought, kicking a pebble and watching it skitter down the path. She knew what she was getting herself into when she signed the one-year contract to teach the inhabitants of the newest federated planet.

A giggle coming from the bushes interrupted her thoughts, and a small girl popped out.

“Hi! What’s your name? Are you our new teacher?”

“Of course she is dummy” said a fat little boy climbing of the bushes behind her. “Who else would she be?”

“I’m Seraphima.” The little girl smiled. “And yes, I’m here to teach you the history of the Federation and about other planets.”

“Wow. Have you been to other planets?” the little girl asked, wonder shining in her eyes.

Seraphima laughed. “A few.”

The boy scoffed. He looked her up and down and said, “We’ll show you where your house is. Come on.” He made her uneasy but he had taken her suitcase and walked away, giving her no option but to follow.

“I’m Gemma,” the little girl said, taking her hand. “And that’s Clem. He’s my brother. He doesn’t like outsiders, but I like you.” Seraphima felt a warm glow as she listened to Gemma chatter away. She had just pointed to a low greenish pod, saying it was Seraphima’s when Clem stopped and whistled. He dropped the suitcase and ran to Gemma. He tore her hand away and whistled again. Gemma started crying. “Run!” she screamed. The two children left her frozen there as they ducked into the closest building and slammed the door.

A low roar behind her snapped her back to reality, and she ran, snatching her suitcase as she sprinted towards the green pod. The noise behind her was getting closer but she dared not turn around. She could feel hot, sticky breath on her back. The ground shook with a pounding rhythm.  Swinging her suitcase behind her she felt it make contact, and heard a primal yawp. She crashed through her door and slammed it shut.

The beast roared one last time. After a moment she heard receding footsteps. Seraphima fell against the wall, sliding down to the floor in a heap. This is going to be a long year.


Author Bio:

Elizabeth Bradley is a SAHM and writer living in rural Alaska. She loves bad reality TV and good wine. She is exploring science fiction worlds through flash fiction while working on her first novel. Check out her blog noplacelikenapaskiak.wordpress.com or follow her adventures on Twitter @LizjSmith7