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.

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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