Jimmy by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

“…When tonight’s darkness came it marked thirty years, seven months, and six days since the night of my death. Able to see once more with the sun gone, I stood up from my bones and made my way to the house to try again to find help. I discovered two people standing at the desk, getting their room keys…”

Replacement by Sara Backer

“…Luke takes the remote control off the bed table and throws it across the floor, out of Gloria’s reach. “Hold me,” he says.

Gloria pats his back, like her mother used to pat hers when she was a child. She thinks about Ketut’s hard back, how his wiry muscles stand out. Luke’s back is white, freckled, and soft…”

The Earth Provides by Travis Oltmann

“… ‘You see the army outside?’
‘Tough to miss them. They’re everywhere,’ she responds with a mouthful of food.
‘Do you know where they’re going?’
‘Most of them will go to the airport; some will be on the major roads.’
‘They’re so young.’
‘The older the conflict the younger the soldiers,’ she says…”

Dark Refrain by Alexis A. Hunter

…If there had been a body, I would have clung to it. I would have looked into the lines of his young face, seen the echoes of his boyish grin and realized fully that he was never coming back. That I needed to mourn and let him rest.
Michael was dead, but he wasn’t resting…

The Stories of Read Short Fiction:

Jimmy by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

June 30, 2014 Paranormal 1 Comment
Jimmy by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

Jimmy
by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

The moon shouldn’t be so bright when you’re dead.

I’ve been dead for thirty whole years, much longer than my entire life on earth. Throughout that time, I’ve found that almost nothing bothers me as much as the fact that the closest I can ever get to seeing the sun again is looking at the cold light of its opposite.

Before I died, my name had been Jimmy. It’s a name that many other people shared with me, but it had also been uniquely mine. No other name could have fit me so well; no other name could have described my sandy brown hair, big smile, and love of having fun. My name was me. Now my name is just five letters carved into a cold piece of stone, forgotten and uncared for in a corner of an overgrown garden.

The stone doesn’t even show where I really am, because my parents never found me. That’s ironic, considering how what’s left of my bones is actually buried right near the garden where my gravestone now is. They were put there, in that shallow hole in the forest ground, by the man who stole me from my world. I don’t even know why he did it, he just did. He viciously separated me from my life, attacking me with a huge knife that glinted in the moonlight as he raised it over my body again and again.

It’s still something that I don’t like to remember, even now.

My parents used to own this land, all twenty acres of it, and I lived there happily until that man pushed me away into this cold misty world, where I have been stuck ever since. Here there is no sense of feeling and there is no one to talk to. Everything is hazy, as if I’m stuck in a fog that will never lift. The only thing that can part the fog is the sun, but it is so bright that it blinds me and I have to hide. When the moon rises to once again mock me with its cold glow, the only light I can bear now, I rise with it. *** Read on! ***

Replacement by Sara Backer

May 19, 2014 Literary 2 Comments
Replacement by Sara Backer

Replacement
by Sara Backer

Luke never knew Gus; he wasn’t responsible for taking his job. The drug test fired Gus, fair and square, but the staff seems to blame Luke for replacing him in the operating room.

Luke looks at photographs of Gus on the staff coffee room bulletin board, trying to understand his appeal. The staff is so lazy they never bother to remove them, although they’re five months old. Gus dressed up as a punk Santa Claus with a Mohawk wig and dark sunglasses, holding two nurses on his knees at the hospital Christmas party. A candid snap of Gus downing a Pepsi after surgery, a small line of blood still on his forearm. He wears his blah-blond hair in a crew cut in front and a small pony tail in the back. He has a large nose and a badly capped front tooth. Then there’s the photo of Gus and Diane. Luke doesn’t know why he keeps looking at it–Gus’s tongue is stuck out like a snake and Diane’s leaning back with her mouth open wide. They’re dancing in the cafeteria, under garlands of syringes and gauze. They don’t mean it seriously.

“Gus was a damn good surgical nurse,” Diane told him. “And a great guy, too.”

“Do you have to use that word?”

“What word?”

“The D word.”

Diane laughed in disbelief. “You know, you’re scary.”

Diane’s hair is black, a short pixie cut, and he can’t tell if her skin is dark or tanned. His own face stands out for its paleness. In Oregon, no one has a tan in March, but this is California. Everything’s different.

When Gloria, Luke’s wife, asks him about his day, his work, his co-workers, he doesn’t know why he never tells Gloria about Diane. He hasn’t from his first day on the job at the university hospital. He’s created a secret when he has nothing to hide. *** Read on! ***

A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

February 9, 2014 Humor, Mainstream 5 Comments
A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

A Lift Back to Luscious
by Susannah Carlson

“Le chien est retourné à son propre vomissement, et la truie lavée au bourbier.” (Henry V, Act V, Sc. 3)

“I want pizza,” my stepson says from the backseat.

It is eight-thirty in the morning.

“Maybe after your test,” I say, knowing the test will last at least until dinnertime.

“I want pizza now,” he says, his tone an emotionless command.

“Well, Michael, we can’t do that. We have to be at Seaside in ten minutes.”

“I’m hungry.” He kicks the back of my seat.

“I gave you breakfast, Honey.”

“I hate pancakes.”

“You like them when your father makes them,” I say, sweetly as I can.

“I hate your pancakes.”

And I hate you, I think. “I don’t know what to do about that, Michael.”

“I’m going to tell my dad you didn’t give me a good breakfast before my test.”

In the rearview mirror, I see he’s holding his cell phone. My throat clenches. I swallow. “I gave you breakfast, Michael.”

“Nothing good,” he says, giving my seat another kick.

I tighten my hands on the steering wheel as if it were His Majesty’s spoiled little neck.

In my past life, I delivered lunches to Silicon Valley tech companies, lugging stacks of insulated carriers full of scrumptious numnums for engineers and executives and their peons. I made so little back then I often couldn’t afford lunch myself. Now, on a full stomach, in new clothes, my nails ground down to the quick and replaced with long, blunt, white-tipped acrylic, I steer my husband’s silver Volvo into a space in front of Seaside Taekwondo. I glance in the rearview at The Dauphin, who glowers in the backseat in his starchy white gi and danbo belt. He hates taekwondo almost as much as he hates me. It’s mutual. *** Read on! ***

The Earth Provides by Travis Oltmann

January 4, 2014 Action/Adventure 2 Comments
The Earth Provides by Travis Oltmann

The Earth Provides
by Travis Oltmann

1.
Nyiragongo looms in the distance. There are beggars that look like scrap metal, children with yawning machete scars across their faces, and women that walk around sterilized and lifeless.

All while Nyiragongo chortles and coughs and spits out vaporous clouds of smoke.

Kevin stands on his balcony and examines the leftover damage from the last time it got agitated. Veins of charcoal stained ruts are apparent in the countryside. Bonte traces a path in the air with his finger. “When it erupted in two thousand two, the lava flow through the city and buildings disappear. Smoke was everywhere. We were running and running, people were screaming and falling because they choke. It causes a lot of damage, my uncle had a shop and it burn to the ground. He lost everything in less than one day,” he tells Kevin.

“How come you didn’t leave?” Kevin asks.

“This is my home. I never leave. I did not leave when CNDP fought the army in the streets and I will not leave when it happen again.” Bonte leaves some air in his lungs so his chest puffs out slightly.

“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t.”

“It will, it always does. The only people who can stop it make too much money from it.”

“They’re saying Achibe is going to make a move soon.”

“Yes, I hear the same things.”

“Do you think he can do it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. He will need a lot of guns. The Army has the UN and they help with helicopters and troops.”

Kevin nods and thinks for a moment. “Can we move the meeting with Osei to tomorrow? With him knocking at the gates I should probably speed this trip up.”

“I will check and see. I will call you in the morning.”

Bonte exits the room and the door shudders when it closes. Kevin locks it and pulls a satellite phone from his bag. Day fades as the sun eases itself into Lake Kivu. The remaining shreds of light creep through the windows and broken shutters, coating the back wall in streaks of apricot and umbra. Kevin squints as he dials. *** Read on! ***

Dark Refrain by Alexis A. Hunter

November 30, 2013 Paranormal 10 Comments
Dark Refrain by Alexis A. Hunter

Dark Refrain
by Alexis A. Hunter

I get a letter from my brother every day. He’s been dead for seventeen years.

The first one came the day after his funeral. A dozen pastel envelopes packed the mailbox — condolences from family and friends who couldn’t make it to the service. I clutched these piles of empty words and tucked my head down against the drizzling rain. It peppered the back of my neck, a cold kiss that made me hunch my shoulders up further.

As I stepped onto the porch, a gust of wind snatched away his letter and it stuck against the railing. A single white envelope. So plain. Abnormally small…

…and so achingly familiar.

The condolence cards flipped to the wet grass and lay forgotten. My fingers found the coarse white envelope and gripped it tight. I could not tear my gaze from his name in the upper left corner: PFC Michael E. Colt.

I fought to breathe. My world spun. I sank to the porch, my back pressed against the railing’s wet boards.

His last letter. His last words.

But the date on the envelope read September 5th. It had been mailed the day after the officers came in their dress uniforms to tell us the news.

Trembling fingers. Hunched over the letter to shelter it from the drizzle, I worked slowly to avoid tearing the rain-splotched paper. A furtive glance toward the front door. Mom was asleep. She’d been sleeping a lot since my brother died.

Thin sheet paper. I could still see the outlines of his scrawled handwriting tucked between the folds. I used to tease him — told him that he wrote like a five year old. I brought the paper to my nose and inhaled. Mildew and sand. Or maybe that’s just how I imagined it.

I unfolded the pages.

        Ann,
        Sorry I haven’t responded to your last letter…

I dragged my gaze from his words to the date he’d written near my name: September 4.
*** Read on! ***

Eudon by Sean Eads

October 22, 2013 Fantasy, Horror 2 Comments
Eudon by Sean Eads

Eudon
by Sean Eads

On a spring day in May of 1351, in the village of Castrum Saint Jean, two brothers named Adelard and Henriot saw a boy no older than twelve come from the woods that marked their farmland’s northern border. Henriot saw him first when he stood up to knock dirt clumps from his spade. He rubbed his eyes, because the boy was naked and appeared to be underfed and exhausted.

Such occurrences were not unknown in those hopeful months following the Black Death’s decline. Entire villages had disappeared. One might have encountered the sick, beggared orphan anywhere. Nevertheless Henriot was stunned by what he saw, and without a word he cast down his spade and ran.

Adelard looked up, saw his brother hurrying toward the boy, and followed. At twenty-three, Adelard was older by two years, though more often than not he bowed to Henriot’s judgment.

“You, boy!” Henriot said. “What is your name?”

The brothers stopped within a few feet of the lad, who teetered and fell to his knees. They bent over him in alarm and rested him on the ground. The boy’s breathing was very shallow and his shrunken stomach made a steep slope down from his prominent ribcage.

“He has not eaten in at least a week,” Adelard said.

“Let us bring him into the house.”

Adelard stripped his shirt and wrapped it about the boy, whom Henriot carefully managed over his broad right shoulder. They ran the quarter-mile to their farmhouse, which had belonged to their mother and father before the plague took them the previous year. The boy moaned as if very ill but he ate the bread they gave him and drank several glasses of water. Then he smiled and looked up at them. *** Read on! ***

Other Summers by Ray Cluley and Michael Kelly

September 15, 2013 Literary 4 Comments
Other Summers by Ray Cluley and Michael Kelly

Other Summers
by Ray Cluley and Michael Kelly

The moon is fat and bright, holding back the dark. A warm wind blows across the high summer grass, touching their faces, their sticky summer skin, and moves on, its faint summer song trailing and fading like summer itself. Dying.

The girls giggle, nervous, excited; their faces glow in the shine of the moon, wide and innocent still. The boys shuffle, kick at the dusty ground, snort, push and shove and laugh.

“Summer,” Mary-Ann says.

“Summer,” Alisha repeats, wistful.

“There’ll be others,” Ryan says.

“Other summers,” Josh agrees.

The high grass sways. They wait, giggling and sniggering. “Shush,” one of them says, and that gets them laughing.

Sixteen-years-old, all of them. Their skin smooth, eyes bright like glass marbles, hair thick and glossy, lips red as cherry popsicles. The four of them stand in the tall honey-grass, looking out beyond the field and the fat moon’s brilliance to the edge of darkness. Waiting.

“When?” Mary-Ann asks.

“When?” Alisha repeats, anxious.

“Soon,” Ryan says, staring into the dark.

“Real soon,” Josh agrees, licking his lips.

They are thin and bronzed, fidgeting, touching, all angles and questions. How? Why? Who? When?

Then, from the inky darkness, a sound, faint and growing. Music. An organ, an accordion, like a child’s wind-up toy. And as they watch, their thin bodies aquiver, coloured lights wink on, lighting the darkness in reds and blues, greens and yellows, like strands of Christmas lights strung across the night sky. Christmas in summer. *** Read on! ***

The Diver by Colleen Anderson

August 11, 2013 Literary 1 Comment
The Diver by Colleen Anderson

The Diver
by Colleen Anderson

She pierced the air like an arrow shot from an angel’s bow. Her feet pointed toward heaven as though knowing where they’d step next, her hands pressed together, directed the way to her descent. The dive would have received the highest points in the Olympics; her form was so exact, her back arched just right, her legs together, her short blond hair tied tightly back from her head, adding to the streamlined look.

Doug was sure that he was the only one who saw her dive, viewed her perfect diving figure, the calm look upon her face. Had her eyes been open? It was hard to tell and he was so mesmerized by the image as she streaked earthwards that he could do nothing but gape, frozen in an awkward salute, shading the sun from his eyes.

Then, she did not slice through the water, for there was none. Though Doug cheered her to be able to part the earth, she hit with a reverberating thunk and sickly bounce that stopped people on the street. They turned slowly, not knowing exactly what had happened, where the fall had been, perhaps subconsciously fearing the results. In the inevitable rush to the broken doll-like thing, the screams and murmurs, the cell phones stuck to ears, and even in the subsequent wail and hysteric flashing of emergency vehicles, still Doug did not move. Could not move. That arrow of flesh and blood and bones had struck his senses at the moment she died, and there was no doubt with all the blood and other bits he would not look at, Doug had been numbed to his mortal core. His poor meat brain, its pathetically simple synapses could not absorb the mix of death and beauty. *** Read on! ***

Everything, All At Once, Forever by Michael Wehunt

June 30, 2013 Horror 13 Comments
Everything, All At Once, Forever by Michael Wehunt

Everything, All at Once, Forever
by Michael Wehunt

It seems to rain every time she visits David’s grave. Petra drips a trail from the bus stop into the house and stands in the kitchen, in those empty hours until dark. She picks at leftovers in front of the television until the gravy on the meatloaf thickens into jelly.

She has heard of people following their spouses into the earth. Dying from a broken heart after a lifetime of companionship seems so full of romance. But Petra just keeps going on, she doesn’t know why. She sits with eleven months of dust on her skin. Later, there is thin sleep, David’s smell a little fainter in his pillow each night. She has to breathe deep to get to it.

And waiting each morning is a new set of hours to fill. Her hands won’t allow her much gardening, but still some mornings she rakes them through the earth to collect clods of dirt beneath her nails. She’ll lay outfits across the bed, a dress for herself and one of David’s dark suits. She fusses over which of his ties to fold along the breast.

Through each piece of routine the hole in her life tiptoes behind like a shadow tapping her shoulder. Late in the morning she takes the bus into town and drifts through barnlike antique shops filled with things she can no longer adore. Even the joy of looking has left her and she is left with simply the familiar movement of her body.

At last the fourth in this cluster of shops is exhausted, and she along with it. She is about to pass back into the day, the clouds of minutes, when she sees her husband standing on a shelf behind the cash register, the suit she buried him in as sharp as it was the distant spring day he bought it in Essex. She stands frozen by the door until two women brush by and set her into motion.

Halfway there she can see it is not David, of course, but a doll. It stands not more than half her height, its polished Oxfords affixed to a wooden base with an inviting red button recessed between them. But it has his face. Petra was with David when the heart attack struck. She recognizes the wrenched-open mouth, the eyes that bulged in agony behind his spectacles. That very face has been captured in molded rubber. *** Read on! ***

Hassenlopf’s Stroke by Gary Cuba

May 23, 2013 Humor, Mainstream 3 Comments
Hassenlopf’s Stroke by Gary Cuba

Hassenlopf’s Stroke
By Gary Cuba

In the early afternoon of his first day of work at Reliant Data Services Corporation, Henry Hassenlopf suffers a massive cerebral stroke. It happens as he sits in his newly assigned cubicle, in front of his PC workstation. No one in the cubes surrounding Henry’s notices what has happened to him.

Henry’s initial panic slowly gives way to a cooler internal assessment. That there is still something of a mind left to self-referentially consider his own plight, he takes as a positive starting point. Under the negative column, he notes that he is completely paralyzed–no, not quite so, he realizes. As he takes sequential stock of his body, bottom to top, Henry realizes that he can still twitch the big toe on his right foot, flex his right thigh muscle, and move the first two fingers on his right hand slightly. His eyes and facial muscles still function. But he cannot utter a sound, not even a grunt. And he can’t twist his neck; his head remains fixed in position, staring at his computer monitor. Its screen clock reads 2:09 P.M.

What a pisser, Henry thinks. Sixty-four years old. After having searched so desperately for decent work in my field for the last three years. And I blow it on my very first day!

Henry sits and waits. He figures someone will eventually notice his problem and get help. Surely they will notice, he thinks. Eventually, they will. *** Read on! ***

Resonance

Validating short fiction as the ideal writerly art form for these current jam-packed times, this article from The Telegraph on the rise of the short story is a nice overview of short fiction's coming into its own.

Announcement

Read Short Fiction announces Pushcart nominee

The editors of Read Short Fiction are proud to announce that our Pushcart Prize nomination for the year goes to Michael Wehunt’s “Everything, All at Once, Forever.”

“Everything, All at Once, Forever” is a rare find. This story plumbs the terrible depths of loss in a way that few stories have; in our opinion, this is literary horror at its finest.

To learn more about the Pushcart, click here.

And to read “Everything, All at Once, Forever” please click here.

RSS Short Story News Center

  • Posted by Travis Bruno on Aug 19, 2014 - Capsule Computers 2014/08/19
    Capsule ComputersPosted by Travis Bruno on Aug 19, 2014Capsule ComputersIt is worth noting that this is a short story collection so there is no running theme in the release but it does feature Kazue Kato's first work, Boku to Usagi (Me and the Rabbit), as well as stories and designs that would eventually be worked into the ...Viz Media Announces the Sep […]
  • The 10 best new books to read - BBC News 2014/08/19
    The 10 best new books to readBBC NewsHer new collection of nine surprising, sometimes supernatural tales is a superb sampling. In the title story, a woman who experienced life-changing violence as a young girl stages a wicked payback on an Arctic cruise. Her weapon of choice: a 1.9 ... […]
  • Terri Schlichenmeyer: Collection of short stories is addicting - Jacksoncountychronicle 2014/08/17
    Terri Schlichenmeyer: Collection of short stories is addictingJacksoncountychronicleAnd that's just one of the themes in “Shots Fired,” a book of short stories by C.J. Box. Throughout the years, says Box, fans have asked where they could find some of his shorter works, wondering why there wasn't an anthology. Now there is, with ... […]
  • Age is the theme in Bova's collection of short stories - TBO.com 2014/08/17
    Age is the theme in Bova's collection of short storiesTBO.com“New Frontiers” also includes some just-for-fun stories: “We'll Always Have Paris” finds the characters of “Casablanca” picking up their lives after the war. “Inspiration” wonders if H.G. Wells might have given a teenage Albert Einstein the idea about ... […]
  • Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 interview: BJ Novak of the US Office on debut ... - The List 2014/08/15
    The ListEdinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 interview: BJ Novak of the US Office on debut ...The ListSo it's been a bit of a surprise to everyone – himself included – that he's come out with a collection of short stories, which he'll be reading in his debut Edinburgh comedy show this month. 'The ideas for many of the stories came to me while I […]
  • Hudson native pens third book, collection of short stories - Hudson Hub-Times 2014/08/14
    Hudson Hub-TimesHudson native pens third book, collection of short storiesHudson Hub-Times"Swarm to Glory" is her third published collection of short stories, all which revolve around the theme of endings -- from the ends of life, relationships and even a haircut. "One story is about a woman who has hair down below her knees and gets it cut .. […]

Recent Comments on Stories

  • Kristi Petersen Schoonover: This piece is both moving and haunting; we enjoyed its abili...
  • Kristi Petersen Schoonover: To be honest with you, I live in an area in the country in w...
  • Bryan Pfeiffer: Ah, how the details and habits of ordinary people (like the ...
  • Sara: Thanks for the great illustration!...
  • Tom Jolly: Fun story. Your setup and hook dragged me right in....
  • Bobby: Great commentary on the state of the modern-day workplace (a...
  • Stone: Nice story. Reminded me of when my son used to take tae Kwan...
  • Mary Casey: Great story, kept me interested to the end. You made me want...