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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!

The Lurker

By Megambiguous

It lurked.

It lurked like it always did, in the desolate, depths of the darkness, just paces away from the triumphant path, observing all who passed in good confidence. So effortlessly did it remain hidden, invisible to the usual bystander, like a ghost sent to haunt those who routinely passed by, just waiting, waiting until their backs were exposed, just waiting to sink its teeth in.

That was its favorite. That’s when it liked to feed; when the threat was not perceived, when the prey felt safest, secure, all guards down, all trust and faith in their physical senses- No, the coast is clear they thought, I can move on. That’s when it would attack, when it would strike its deceptive claws into their backs, instantly returning to its den, only to observe the residual effect of its subject’s confusion.

Its favorite part was when its prey would swivel around to be met with nothing, nothing at all, minds betraying them, longing to identify the threat, longing but finding no evidence to validate their perception. Distrust, they began to feel, distrust in their own cognition, their own senses; now that was its goal, that was what it fed on.

Doubt.

Time would pass, and again it would wait for its prey to pass too, internally cackling at their fear, their concern, their anticipation of attack, fueling him further, as he remained hidden and situated, not today it thought, not today, better when they least expect it, better when their focus is upon greater things, when their desires grow stronger than I, and when they forget I exist; that’s when they are most vulnerable.

The distrust of themselves would grow, as would its power over them. That’s how it kept them there. They could go nowhere else really, how could they? How could they trust themselves to such a thing?

Stay with me my pretty, it thought, stay with me and you’ll never have to rely on yourself too much, not too much at all; your existence will be limited but at least you won’t risk losing more, but at least you won’t risk gaining more.

You belong to me my beloved, it cooed, as it returned to its den, scuttling in reverse to its empty nothingness, its lurking hollow. Yes, I will be here it thought, I will always be here.

They remained. They remained like they always did.


Author Bio: Just a 23-year-old girl, totally on her own, with a passion for writing. Literature has given me the opportunity to live various lives, and I wish to provide others with unique experiences that can only be obtained through living vicariously through another character or story. Life has left me with lots of bumps and bruises, much more than the average girl my age, but I long to provide others with perspectives for their current circumstances, and potentially even connect with the reader, to remind them that we’re not all alone after all- we fight the same demons, we wage war with the same inner conflicts, and despite what we might believe, there’s hope. Though our settings and circumstances may vary, we are indeed still the very same; we are wired for affirmation and we are crippled by our insecurities. That is what I long to portray. I hope to inspire, move, stir, and motivate the reader. I’m just a 23-year-old girl who wants to leave her mark on the world.

I have a personal blog with pieces which genres vary greatly, but I do write to share them nonetheless: megambiguous.wordpress.com

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

Ring of Truth

By Mike Olley

In three determined strides, Paul Matlock reached the front porch of the semi-detached house and stood with his finger hovering over the doorbell. His hand shook. This was more difficult than he’d thought. He only needed to say a few words, what if it came out all wrong?

‘I er… I’m conducting a survey for British Gas, do you have a couple of minutes?’
Not engaging enough.

‘How do you feel about God?’
Too powerful.

‘Can I have my ball back?’
Child-like, but along the right lines. In the end he should just be honest:
‘I’m Paul, you gave me away forty years ago today. Hello Mum.’

He pushed the doorbell decisively. Whether the bell sounded decisive inside the house was hard to tell; the double-glazed glass porch, crammed with flowering plants, muffled any interior sound. He pressed the bell again. Still no answer. He took a step back. The curtains were drawn in the front lounge.

Inside, Margaret sat in her kitchen with a large gin and tonic, she never normally drank this early. Today was special. She felt tired. She’d taken all the pills.

Paul pushed the bell once more. Waited. Nothing. Maybe another day, maybe not. He left.

He never saw the notice that said ‘Bell not working, please knock.’



Author Bio:
Mike Olley writes short fiction. His work has been published in several anthologies. A designer by trade, he’s also quite a good carpenter and grower of cactus plants. Originally from London, he spent a few years in Spain before a quirk of fate brought him back to live in an English seaside town.

Mikeolley.com
@mike_olley

Not Seen and Not Heard

By Stephanie Hutton

There are more siblings than windows at home. She must find a way to her parents’ eyes. One brother does it with thrashing and crashing and screams. Their eyes follow, but so do their fists. The eldest sister does everything precisely and well. Her success leaves an afterglow of approval in their irises. The twins’ symmetry mesmerises her parents without effort, pulling their pupils along on invisible threads.

She practises smiling in the mirror whilst pinching thin skin on the tops of her hands. Separation of what is seen and what is felt, like oil from water. Waiting to be wanted, she sits among the shadows in corners of the house. She watches for signs of their thirst or hunger, for red cheeks that need an open window or blue feet to cover in silk slippers.

There is a world of colour out there. But to step out of the front door leaves her clutching her stomach and breathing as fast as her old dog. Did their eyes flicker towards her as she glanced away? Best to keep quiet watch.

In her dreams, she pirouettes or soars or strides out of flames, as loud as opera as her parents turn their heads away.

She reaches the end of childhood belonging to nowhere and no-one. As the cataracts of attachment fade, she sees that they both look straight through her.

One cool evening, she shuts all the windows and heaves the curtains across. She wets the dog’s head with tears as she rubs her nose against his. The weight of his gaze holds her steady as she steps out of the back door under the watchful eye of the moon.


Author Bio: Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in the UK. She has published her flash fiction, short stories, and poetry online and in print.

In 2016 she won the Writers HQ Competition, Ad Hoc Fiction, and Bibliophone 1000 Words Heard Competition, and was shortlisted for the Black Pear Press Short Story Competition and Brighton Prize. She believes in the therapeutic value of short fiction.

Only Some Things

By Daniel Soule

The old man sat in the corner of the bus stop, perched on the metal plank they called a seat. The kind of seat they, people in councils and town planning, decided it would be good to install so that people like him couldn’t sleep on them, moving them on to be somewhere else, anywhere else but asleep on the bus stops at night.

It wasn’t night now, though people still seemed not to notice him. Perhaps they averted their eyes because of what he represented or how he appeared.

One of the old man’s hands was twisted and gnarled, like a knot in the branch of the world tree, deformed and bulbous. His other hand missed some fingers, and his neck flaked dead skin in white drifts onto his collar. Warts grew on his face, and a boil, red and angry, lay on his neck beneath an ear. His hair was unclean and flattened back with strokes of his gnarled hand.

He sat waiting.

They came in ones and twos, sometimes threes. A bus would pull up and move along with them on it and others would come.

While he waited, he thought of his brothers. In the old days, they would ride out together, visiting places near and far, going on great adventures, seeing the best and worst of it. That was life and they were a part of it. But now he rarely saw them together, though they carried on the family business in lands far away.

A mother and her toddler walked into the bus shelter. He was a beautiful little boy with curly black hair and eyes of walnut. The mother appeared not to see the old man, instead she consulted a timetable on the wall and checked her phone.

The little boy noticed the old man sitting all by himself. Children sometimes saw him, especially the little ones, when language hasn’t yet divided up the world for them into this but not that, changing everything into only some things, as though the words matter and not the spaces in between.

It was at this moment that the old man’s heart sank because his sister arrived. She knocked the phone from the mother’s hand, who assumed she merely fumbled it. The mother bent to pick up the phone letting go of the little boy. The old man’s sister, Fate, took the little boy’s hand and led him to her brother, Pestilence. The little boy smiled and put his tiny perfect hand on top of the gnarled hand of the world tree. Tears, saltier than a wailing mother’s, welled in the old man’s eyes and he returned a tired smile.

“I’m so sorry,” said the mother, gathering her perfect little boy. She didn’t look at the old man. She couldn’t.

A bus pulled up and the woman and her little boy rode away, heading off to see one of the old man’s brother’s soon.



Author Bio:
Dan was an academic but the sentences proved too long and the words too obscure. Northern Ireland is where he now lives. But he was born in England and raised in Byron’s home town, which the bard hated but Dan does not. They named every other road after Byron. As yet no roads are named after Dan but several children are. He tries to write the kind of stories he wants to read and aims for readers to want to turn the page. Dan’s work has featured in Number Eleven, Storgy, the Dime Show Review, Short Tale 100, Phantaxis, Devolution Z, and TheGhostStory.com

Twitter:      @Grammatologer
Writing ie:  Emerging Writer’s Profile
 Website:    Grammatology.co.uk
Facebook:  WriterDanielSoule

The Protector

By Paul Stansbury

Luda stood peering into the deep shadows. The bright flowers and lush field grass in which she stood stopped abruptly at the base of the tall oak trees. Their thick and twisted trunks supported a canopy of leaves blocking all sunlight from the forest floor. Behind her, Maks and Anya played quietly along the creek that meandered across the meadow.

“Make sure Maks and Anya are safe.” mother had said as Luda stepped from the cottage porch. It was a task she took seriously.

She knew the beast was there. Babushka had told her of Zicgaforja lurking deep in the shadows of the forest. Even the village woodcutter with his broad, double bladed axe for protection avoided this forest. Behind the trees in the darkness, long dead leaves rustled on the forest floor. Is that the faint, dark scent of the creature floating on the wood’s cold, damp breath? It chased away the fragile warmth of the Spring sun, sending a chill through her. Regardless, she stood her ground, eyes never turning away.

While the children played blissfully, Luda stood between them and the waiting evil. She held her staff at the ready by her side. The beast was patient, waiting for its prey to come within range – muscles tensed, poised to attack with ripping teeth and tearing claws.

Mother’s call came rolling over the meadow, breaking her concentration. Maks and Anya jumped up from their play, setting off toward home. Luda turned with one last intent stare into the dark recesses of the woods and called out in smug defiance, “Lucky for you Zicgaforja, Mama has called us for supper.” With that, she threw the twig she had been holding into the shadows and turned to join her brother and sister in a race back to the cottage.


Author Bio: Paul Stansbury is a life long native of Kentucky. He is the author of “Down By the Creek – Ripples and Reflections” and “Little Green Men?” His stories have appeared in a number of print anthologies as well as a variety of online publications. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky.

Absolution

By Trinity

Miss Tedder’s arm ached. But she bore it with a mixture of stoicism and grim satisfaction; the girl had deserved a slippering, and Miss Tedder had administered a thorough punishment. With a faint nostalgia for the days when children could be struck with impunity before the local education authority poked its nose into the affairs of religious schools, Miss Tedder crossed the path that led from the schoolyard to the church next door.

It was a beautiful building, served faithfully by brothers from the Franciscan order, but Miss Tedder was blind to earthly aesthetics; she sought the comfort and justification of the confessional box, and this morning she had felt that need keenly.

The curtain to the confessional was drawn back; she had timed it right, then! She could unburden herself right away, and be back before the lunch break was over. Settling into place with a grunt, she glanced through the ornate metal grill that separated her from the brother hearing her confession. The church was dimly lit, and her eyes weren’t what they once were, but Miss Tedder had no preferred confessor. Absolution was what she sought.

She murmured the confessional words rapidly, in a perfunctory tone that betrayed no thought for their meaning; “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.” They were a formula, an incantation that was necessary to sanction her actions and bring self-justification.

She shared what she had come to say, confident that the brother would agree with her, and enable the hatred that flowed through Miss Tedder, the absence of compassion that she miscalled discipline.

“She is a difficult child. Quiet, always watching me. Most insolent!”

She continued her tirade against the twelve-year-old girl she had just beaten, for having the temerity to attend school with a button missing from her blouse. The child was slovenly, a reflection of her dissolute family. Her father wasn’t even a Catholic! Miss Tedder had dug out all tough roots remaining from the place where her heart should be and felt no hypocrisy when she lied to herself that her hatred of the child had no sectarian basis.

The child was always watching from her large dark eyes. Plain spinsterish Miss Tedder felt the sting of judgement. She had dragged the girl to the toilets once, ordering her to wash the disgusting eye makeup from her face. The child had obeyed, crying that she didn’t have any makeup. The dark ring around her lashes could not be scrubbed away. Miss Tedder thought of this but said nothing. She waited, impatient for absolution, but her confessor was silent.

From across the courtyard, Miss Tedder heard the school bell herald the end of lunch; she had tarried too long, and her need was met. Perhaps confession hadn’t been necessary; the brother had given her no penance, no act of contrition. He understood and approved her actions!  Miss Tedder rose from the wooden bench, polished by generations of sinful backsides, and hurried back towards the school, where no doubt the children were making the most of her absence.

As she opened the door to leave the church, a sombre-habited figure emerged from a side door. Brother Everard returned to the confessional box, tea in hand. He called to Miss Tedder but she had already left the church. Perhaps it was a sin, but Brother Everard smiled and allowed himself a quiet sigh of relief.


Author Bio: Trinity has no social media presence but is grateful for the opportunity to share stories online.

Encounter

By Elizabeth Bradley

Gravel skittered down the desolate road as Jenn kicked her feet, hypnotized by the crunch and scatter in the otherwise silent air. Fog had descended on the forest suddenly and caught her more than a mile out from camp. She hitched the leather strap on her shoulder, repositioning her rifle and tried to ignore the churning of her stomach. She wasn’t expected back for hours, but the fog had obliterated her chances of tracking anything in the woods. Her t-shirt clung to her slick skin underneath the thick canvas jacket. She shivered.

Trees towered over her, stark and menacing in the semi-darkness. They appeared from nothing and then receded behind her, back into the thickening fog.

Her breath rose in a mist. She gripped the leather rifle strap, her knuckles white. Quickening her pace she glanced around, trying to find something familiar. Had she passed the turnoff?

Two lights appeared, cutting through the fog. Jenn jumped to the side of the road and waved her arms, hoping that the passing motorist would see her. But the lights did not come any closer. She dropped her arms. Slipping its strap from her shoulder, she swung her gun to the ready.

“Hello?” Her words were swallowed by the dense mist. The ground was silent beneath her as she edged forward, years of stalking deer gave her a light foot. A tall figure emerged from the fog. Its back was to her and wrapped in a long coat.

“Hello?” she called again, lowering the rifle. The figure twitched. She pulled the gun up, trained on the stranger. “Can you hear me?”

She gripped the gun tighter trying to resist trembling, adrenaline coursing through her veins. The figure turned. Her stomach tightened and though she tried to speak, no words could escape. The creature standing in the middle of the road was shaped like a man, but there was something wrong. Its features were distorted and stretched. Dark black eyes bore holes into her.

It darted towards her and she pulled the trigger.

The bullet exploded from the end of her rifle in slow motion. A flash of fire. The acrid stench of gunpowder hit her nostrils. The figure raised its arms, pointing in her direction. The bullet swerved and headed straight for her. It slammed into her shoulder and pain blinded her as she fell.

Gasping for air, Jenn gaped at the figure who stood only a foot away. A loud whirring rang in her ears, and the lights ahead grew stronger, enveloping them both in light and sound. With a crack, the figure vanished, and as the light dissipated around her broken body, she disappeared in the darkness.


Author Bio: Elizabeth Bradley is a writer and mother living in the rural Alaskan bush. Her flash fiction has been published in StrippedLit500, and longlisted in AdHoc Fiction’s weekly competition. You can find her on Twitter at @LizjSmith7 She is working on her first novel, which will most certainly feature more aliens.

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!