Choices Made (Part 1)

By David Olsen

She hadn’t cared about him for a long time and he was absolutely fine with that. He just wished that they could both stop lying about it. Every time that she used the word ‘love’ she did so with a look of forlorn hopelessness in her eyes. It was a look that said that what was being spoken should never be heard and that what was unspoken was tearing her apart. Julian understood. He knew the truth of it all, better even than Eileen thought he did.

Lovelessness wasn’t meant for the young and yet here they were. The feelings and reservations that were and that had always been were too strong and he was worn out from struggling against them for so long. However, unlike the legend of Sisyphus and his rolling stone, Julian could abandon his daily toil. So, on that cold Thursday morning in December, Julian walked away; from Eileen, his job, his family and everything else that had vexed him for as long as he could remember.

Julian had been satisfied that if he made a clean break with everything and everyone and every place that he knew, the issues that he had attached to them for so long would be left behind too. If only life’s troubles could be as simple as a one-off process of detachment, Julian thought, as he pondered the view from his new apartment in his new city. The rain poured down on the streets below and he stood pondering what followed next in the story of Julian; the man who had tried so hard to escape his problems that he’d simply created a whole new set of exactly the same problems in a different place.

He hated the rain. It reminded him of the place he’d left behind and its regularly soggy and somber inhabitants. Worst of all, it reminded him of Eileen. The day they had met had been a typically damp one. Eileen was bundled deeply in her soggy coat, her dark hair lank and shapeless, obviously unequipped for the downpour. Julian had stood under his oversized and gaudily patterned umbrella, a supposedly ‘amusing’ gift from his sister a few months previous, and watched her approach. How could she be from this town and yet be so unprepared for the elements, Julian had thought with a sense of comfortably dry self-righteousness. Despite this ill-fated beginning, Julian and Eileen had worked out quite well for a time. But only for a time. Good things never really last, at least Julian never believed that they did.

After a while, the feelings that they shared had evolved from like to love and back again. Neither of them voiced it, but the love didn’t last. The problems that Julian had always felt would be solved with the power of love, like so many songs before had promised him, were forever present. They lurked beneath the surface, just out of reach and obscured, but ever-threatening nonetheless. When Julian had said goodbye, Eileen had seemed surprised. Deep down she understood, he had thought to himself. She was probably just as relieved as he was, she was just better at hiding it. Either way, his choice was made.

Part 2


 

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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

Shadow Man

 

By Margaret McGoverne

We snuggled in the dark, the two of us, breath held. We were waiting for Shadow Man to materialise again; when he did, we could breathe and whisper our wishes. Bella lay on her back, cold feet on my legs. Every few minutes the show would reset, and the window would light up, painting a fleeting portrait of a face, Shadow Man’s face, on the ceiling. We had another chance.

Continue reading “Shadow Man”