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.

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.

 

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!

The Breakers of Kraken Mare (Part 2)

By Margaret McGoverne

(Part 1)

The perpetual hazy orange sky during the daytime (as long as fifteen earth days) and the liquid methane rain combined to produce in Marlow a settled melancholy. He was only content when he trekked to the towering dunes along the Southern stretch of the lake and set his imaging goggles to display the methane waves as a whitish-blue colour, the closest approximation to earth waves they could manage. The east-to-west prevailing winds of Titan had produced dunes that rose more than 90 metres, and he would find a stable shelf to sit and watch the restless methane waves that disappeared when he removed his goggles.

He hadn’t found the purpose or the peace of mind he had sought on Titan; this was no grand project of human endeavour, but a shameless cash grab. Back on earth, the scientists were working on a form of liquid methane that could power bio-propellant rocket engines; first ignition tests had been successfully completed, and the inevitable methane rockets would allow mankind to roam the solar system, harvesting yet more methane to fuel further exploration and more wanton use of fuel back on earth.

Donning his goggles, he watched the heavy gas breakers fizz and dissolve into foam as they reached the shore. He and Jenny had loved to watch the boomers as they broke endlessly, endlessly against the sandy shore. Just like our love, Jenny would say, pulling him closer.

“Jenny.”

No one replied; not even a crash and boom from the methane waves. Marlow stood up, stretching. He wasn’t tired from his trek, and he wasn’t ready to return to the refinery. He had wanted a grand gesture, a triumphant, heartbreaking riposte to Jennifer’s desertion of him, but it hadn’t worked out like that. Even the gravity made him feel ironically light and easy.

He climbed higher up the dunes, aiming to reach the summit. On his journey to Titan he had read up on all the moons in the solar system; he had been surprised to learn there were nearly two hundred of them. One in particular had fascinated him: Miranda, a moon of  Uranus (the next planet along, he had thought, as if 900 million miles were a hop on the bus) featured a cliff situated in its Southern hemisphere called Verona Rupes; the cliff face had been measured by the Voyager 2 probe in the 1980s at more than five miles high; the tallest known cliff in the Solar System. Marlow wished he could visit that cliff, maybe hike its lower reaches, and view the grand vista its heights offered. But Miranda had little to offer humankind in terms of resources, and no bases were built there.

This dune he was lightly climbing, as nimble as a mountain goat in Titan’s low gravity, couldn’t offer quite the challenge that Verona Rupes would, but he would traverse it just the same. But when he reached the top, adjusting his goggles through their chromatic scale, the waves below appearing now green, now pink, now black, he felt unfulfilled by the lack of effort it had required of him.

A memory of he and Jenny at the beach rose, unbidden. They had scaled the dunes one balmy evening, then, full of energy and unwilling to walk home, Jenny had taken his hand. They pulled off their shoes, socks, and jeans, and jumped lightly from the dunes, arms outstretched, running towards and embracing the waves. They had staggered, breathless and laughing back to the dunes, covered in sand and then they had tasted each other’s salty mouths. Marlow realised with a jolt that was physical that this had been their last visit to the sea before Jenny left him.

He sent his yearning out over a billion kilometers, wishing she were her with him now to see him, as he dialed his goggles to earth-wave colour and dove, arms outstretched, from the dune to the craggy rocks and the silent, invisible methane waves three hundred feet below.


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.