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Red Letter Day by Tim Reed

Red Letter Day by Tim Reed

Red Letter Day
by Tim Reed

Today will be a Red Letter day. After writing the title, John smiled grimly and added the following sentence: And that is a deliberate term—red denotes blood and we all know the power of letters, when put into words.

“And what dreadful words will bring on the apocalypse?” He chuckled—a touch madly—and looked at his surroundings, half-expecting a horror to enter at any moment. But he was alone in his shack, hiding in the darkness, back to the kitchen wall.

On his lap lay his diary. The diary—intended to document the past, present and possible future to anyone sane enough to find it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of anything positive to write—in other words, no lies—so he began with the truth, knowing time was running out on his Red Letter day. An hour or two and the tatters of the world would be fed to the wolves.

“And what awful wolves we have summoned.” John shuddered, cursing being privy to knowledge best left in the distant past. Now that the dim time was returning, coming full circle through the sludge of human achievement, part of him welcomed it—it would be a fitting end to humanity’s ignominious reign.

But first, his mind sought the past.

Throughout the twentieth century, and in the early years of the twenty-first, humans craved war…

John broke off, thinking he heard a noise from the study. Cautiously, he rose, holding his breath, but a peek through the door showed that he was alone. Or was he? *** Read on! ***

Baby Bird by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

September 3, 2012 Humor, Science Fiction 13 Comments
Baby Bird by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

Baby Bird
by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

I keep thinking we should have left it to die, you know, rather than do what we did. Seal it back up, let it go wherever it was going, let someone else find it, not us. What wouldn’t I give for it not to have been us. But there we were, limping back from a SNAFU’d mission that had almost bankrupted the government, when up pops ET in a leaky can that needs fixing. From global embarrassments to galactic heroes in one go; we could see the ticker tape and the medals, the books, the films of the books… oh yes, we thought there was a God that day—and that was before we’d even gotten the damn thing out!

Jack and me, we suited up and shimmied over on lines. I remember glancing back to check that Shaz had us covered in case it leapt out and tried to blast us with something. God knows what; the pod was little bigger than a coffin and we hadn’t detected any weaponry but then, what did we know? This thing could have been crammed with homicidal aliens the size of gnats, all tooled up with deadly devices. We chuckled about wrapping the whole thing up in a bin bag and squirting insecticide in there and Shaz mimed thrashing around with a fly swat—Whup! Wallop! Thwack!

But it wasn’t gnats. I got to the pod first, clipped on, braced for Jack’s impact. When he hit, I slid sideways and grabbed at a couple of small protrusions; instinct, you know? Well, it’s a good thing I was tethered, I can tell you, because I let go again pretty damn fast. Right up close to my visor was a viewing plate, and right up close to that was a face. Who knows what it was supposed to look like but it didn’t look good. Its mouth was open and twitching ever so slightly, there were skinny-looking fingers plucking at its throat, and its eyes kept flickering—three eyelids; top, bottom, and one inside the corners, like a cat. I couldn’t see teeth. It looked like it maybe ought to be kinda pink, but it was actually more kinda grey.

I yelled at Jack ‘Get over here!’

‘Oh Sweet Jeez!’ he said. *** Read on! ***

Ma’s Move by Meera Jhala

June 24, 2012 Paranormal 5 Comments
Ma’s Move by Meera Jhala

Ma’s Move
by Meera Jhala

Folks in small towns love telling stories. Sometimes the stories are love stories and sometimes they’re ghost stories. Sometimes they’re both, because most often a ghost story is a love story, just gone terrible wrong. Some of them ghost stories are about our house. I’m awful glad for that, because I figure the taller the tales grow, the less the neighborhood brats will harass my Mabel.

The Social Services lady first planted the stories, after she went to check on Mabel and saw strange lights flickering in the house. Then came the break-in. That was Miracle-Gro; the stories got fatter and juicier after that. A local janitor, armed with a knife, had slipped into the basement of the house. When the Sheriff arrived, brakes screeching and siren blaring, there wasn’t anything much left for him to do but call the Coroner; the janitor lay dead in the cemetery across the street; ivory-pale, ivory-stiff.

For three days afterward, poor Mabel sat on a chair, rocking. All the detectives could get out of her was that she wanted her Ma, as though she didn’t know I was right there beside her. *** Read on! ***

Flat Pack by Patrick Whittaker

Flat Pack by Patrick Whittaker

Flat Pack
by Patrick Whittaker

On the morning of April 30th, Mr. Dwight T. Cooper of 19 Acacia Avenue unexpectedly received a large package. Why he signed for it without asking what it was or where it had come from is anyone’s guess. The most likely reason is that he had just gotten out of bed and wasn’t thinking straight.

The package was taller than Mr. Cooper and as wide as it was tall. Clearly it wasn’t going to fit through the front door, so he asked the deliverymen to put it in the garage. They both refused on the grounds that once a consignment had been signed for it was no longer their responsibility. Rather than demean himself by resorting to pleas and threats, Mr. Cooper offered them a bribe, which was accepted with ill grace.

It took two minutes, a lot of grunting and a stream of obscenities for the men to manhandle the box into the garage. As they drove off in their van, they left Mr. Cooper with the words ‘capitalist exploiter of the masses’ ringing in his ears.

Mr. Cooper did not take umbrage. Being manager of the local supermarket, he felt there might be some truth in the charge.

Dressed in slippers, blue pyjamas and a dressing gown that had found its way into his suitcase during a stay at the Manchester Hilton, Mr. Cooper stared in bemusement at the package. There was nothing written on it other than the words ‘FLAT PACK. HANDLE WITH CARE.’

At length, he opened the envelope the deliverymen had given him. Inside were three instruction sheets. One was in Japanese. The second was in German. Discarding these, he scanned the third, which was written in something vaguely resembling English.

To give a flavour of what Mr. Cooper was up against, here’s the fourth paragraph in full: The person of the place develops “A” on the smooth surface to prevent gratuitous vibration (you can use the box to which it has visited). Whole woman the union agrees on the glue as shown in fig. 2. The lowering shifts “D” in the position, flattening how in fig. 2A/2B with the openings which are in the structure of the person afterwards. Stick the union rabbit like in fig. 3A. Agree on the union and on the group of the side.

Mr. Cooper opened the box. Inside was a mish-mash of plywood panels, aluminium whatnots, screws, nuts, bolts, plastic thingamajigs, copper washers, electronic gizmos, some silvery gewgaws that had accidentally fallen in during packing and an alum key.

Despite not having ordered the package, despite not knowing what the end-result would be, despite not having the foggiest idea what he was doing, Mr. Cooper set about assembling the parts. He figured that by skipping breakfast he could have the job done within an hour, which would allow time for a quick shower before dashing off to work.

It took him nearly an hour and a half to get all the items out of the box and sorted into neat piles. Another half hour and he’d connected his first gizmo to a thingamajig using one of the gewgaws that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. By now he was sweating and slightly manic. *** Read on! ***

Bro by Matt Hoffman

Bro by Matt Hoffman

By Matt Hoffman

Will knew she was getting tired of him, as they usually did—tired of the repetitive, unimaginative movement of his jeans against hers, barely keeping in time with the rap beat bouncing off of the basement’s brick walls; tired of the way his hands hung limply on the front of her hips. She had accepted his invitation to dance with a shrug, and as far as he could tell, her interest hadn’t increased. He wasn’t surprised when, as the beat faded away to a second of interstitial crowd noise, she released herself from his grasp, turned, and said that she was going to go use the bathroom.

“Okay,” Will said.

The relative silence was broken by a new beat, distorted bass and snare over barely audible synths. She squeezed her way through the crowd of dancing couples, heading in the direction of the stairs, away from him. Will watched her go for a second, looked around at nothing in particular, and started making his way over to the bar, apologizing as he pushed dancers up against their partners in an attempt to clear a path.

Will waited behind a cluster of people until the bartender, a muscled guy in a frat T-shirt, handed him a half-empty red cup and turned away to the next customers. Some of Will’s beer sloshed onto his sleeves as he made his way to the wall, where he had a little space to stand.

Will sipped his beer and looked around. A few colored lights flashed intermittently over the makeshift dance floor, turning the dancers’ skin and clothes red, blue, yellow. A few strobe lights were blinking, indistinguishable from the occasional flash of a digital camera. At the far side of the room, it looked like some stragglers were still being let in, two or three at a time. Were Will’s floormates around? He scanned the crowd and spotted Ed from the quad, who was standing on the calmer side of the room talking with a short
girl in a red blouse. Will decided not to bother him.

Will sighed, leaned back against the rough brick, and decided he might as well wait around for—had she told him her name? Whoever. Bathroom girl. There was a chance she might actually return. Will glanced over at the dance floor to see if she had found a new partner yet.

That was when Will saw him: The guy was moderately tall, dressed in crisp off-white khakis and a neon orange polo, the collar popped to his jaw, aviator glasses gleaming beneath his brow. He was grinding authoritatively with a pretty girl who had a tight pink T-shirt, a denim skirt, and long, dark hair. Her eyes remained shut as she danced, her face set serenely into an expression of entranced satisfaction. The guy held a red cup in one hand and bore the hint of an apathetic half-smile.

But he was Will. ** Read On! **

Gibraltar by Mark Sutz

July 29, 2011 Fantasy, Mainstream 1 Comment
Gibraltar by Mark Sutz

By Mark Sutz

Like most identical twins, my brother Oscar and I were indistinguishable from one another to most people. We weren’t the kinds of twins who harbored any unique moles or tics or cowlicks that would, to the discerning eye, separate us one from the other. On every square inch of our bodies, we were exactly alike, two people walking the earth who seemed in every hop, slurp, action or speech, to be the same. Even when we got into trouble, the harsh punishments were meted out in doubled, equal chunks. Our bar mitzvahs were even held in unison, our passage from boys to men held side-by-side, firmly cementing in our minds that we were going to travel through our lives closer to one another than most could imagine or desire.

The only thing different about us was the titanium rod that had been inserted into Oscar’s ankle when we were twelve. He’d sustained a nearly identical injury to me during a particularly vicious skiing accident, an impromptu downhill race we’d engaged in during a ski trip in Zermatt.

Even the scar left visible on his ankle we shared, but when the doctors had gone into my ankle they’d determined I wouldn’t need the permanent assistance of a metal rod to help strengthen my joint. The scar on the insides of our left ankles was shaped like a fingernail moon. Try as we might, we couldn’t ditch our identicalness.

That is, until we were eighteen and Oscar met Luisa. ** Read on! **

Man Murders Wife by Judy Viertel

March 11, 2011 Horror, Literary 3 Comments
Man Murders Wife by Judy Viertel

Man Murders Wife
by Judy Viertel

I’m running. I stop to retie my shoe, and find myself looking at a young woman’s breasts. She’s walking towards me—I don’t mean to stare, I’m not a lesbian, although my short hair and lack of makeup often confuse people. It’s the way her tight shirt pushes her breasts up that makes them difficult to ignore. They’re oddly rounded, like two cereal bowls propped against her chest. As I finish with my shoelace, she wobbles past on spiked heels. Ankle breakers, my grandmother would have called those boots, and her leather skirt is so tight she can only manage tiny, nibbling steps. The two men she’s walking with have to support her as she steps down into the crosswalk. They look ten years older than her. They outweigh her, each of them, by at least a hundred pounds. It’s none of my business. Even so, I start thinking about something I recently read.

A man murdered his wife. She was a fashion model. Did he use a gun, or was it a knife? I can’t remember. He killed her and dumped the body. But first, he cut off all her fingers. He pulled her teeth. Why? No fingerprints, no dental records. There was no way for the police to identify the body. But those detectives, they were smart. They traced the serial numbers in her breast implants. That’s how they caught the husband. ** Read on! **

The Tale of Rauðúlfr by Lisa Farrell

February 18, 2010 Fantasy, Literary 3 Comments
The Tale of Rauðúlfr by Lisa Farrell

The Tale of Rauðúlfr
By Lisa Farrell

Hulda watched the flames dance until her dim eyes saw only light. She listened to the snapping and popping of the twigs, and ignored the sound of women’s voices through the wall. A bird was screeching outside, and she wondered how it could bear to open its beak and call out in such cold.

She had not thought she would survive this winter, but the children told her that the signs of Harpa-month were already here. Well, she could not yet feel it. Her bones still felt like the twigs in the fire, though under siege by ice rather than heat. She could barely move, but spent her hours trying to fold herself up small, keeping her face in the glow, until they teased her that the bristles on her chin would singe. They did not respect her, these young women whose bellies still waxed and waned like the moon. They had continually knocked into her as they prepared the day meal around her, as though she were an unwelcome guest. Yet this was her seat, her place, and she had earned her spot by the hearth-fire, having cooked on it for so many years. At least Rauðúlfr had made the women promise not to let the fire die. He was a good boy; he took care of his mother, as a son should. ** Read on! **

Ragnarok by Patrick Scalisi

January 28, 2010 Fantasy, Speculative 6 Comments
Ragnarok by Patrick Scalisi


by Patrick Scalisi 

I didn’t mean to cause the end of the world. I suppose it’s just in my nature.

Plus, it wasn’t entirely my fault.

My roommate was such an asshole. If I didn’t need the cash, I would have kicked him out a long time ago. All his friends were always there, lording over the place as if they were gods, smoking, drinking, stinking up my apartment as if it were a crack den.


I got home around two last night after working second shift at the Gladsheim Diner. Odin was already there, half in the bag with his girlfriend Frigg. I think they were incapable of living their lives sober.

 “I asked you not to smoke in here,” I said as I watched the two of them roll a new joint. I tried to make my voice sound as weary as possible: not difficult, considering I had just worked a ten-hour shift.

“Relax, Loki,” Odin said, not looking up from the delicate task of stuffing and rolling, stuffing and rolling. “Have a hit. Have a beer for Christ sakes. You’re too wound up.”

“Too wound up,” Frigg agreed as she took the joint, unrolled it, and began the process again herself.

I ignored them, dumped my bag on the empty end of the couch and went to my room.  I thought about some of my stuff that had gone missing in the last few weeks, and I kept meaning to install a lock.

Who has time for that?

Adding it to my list of priorities, I opened the door and heard manic yowls that came from the chest at the foot of my bed. I threw it open and found Fenrir bound hand and foot with a bit of string, her cries and meows now deafening.

“What the hell—?”

Frigg appeared at the door faster than I would have thought possible, given her lack of brain cells.  “Cat kept climbing over everything,” she said. “Scattered the pot twice. Thing bit Tyr’s hand after you left.”

“Where’s your head?” I shouted. “You can do that to a cat!”

Frigg rolled her eyes and returned to the couch. “You’d think it was your kid or something.”

I stepped back into the living room, Fenrir nuzzled in the crook of my arm. “Odin, come on man.” ** Read on! **

Handy Man by David Landrum

November 8, 2009 Horror, Speculative 2 Comments
Handy Man by David Landrum

Handy Man

by David Landrum

“Hey, baby, I’m your handy man.” — From the song, “Handy Man” by Otis Blackwell

I’ve always liked the song “Handy Man.”  I like the original version by Jimmy Jones and the cover by Del Shannon.  My favorite, though, is the recording James Taylor made of it in 1977.  I like Taylor’s version because he sings it in an easy, sweet, gentle voice, and this reflects how I am.  Of course, I like the song most of all because I do the thing the guy in the song says he can do.  I fix broken hearts.  I’ve done it now at least two times.

The first one I fixed belonged to a girl name Linda Seales.  I got to know her when I worked at a McDonalds in Indianapolis.

Linda was not a pretty girl.  She had red hair and blue eyes but her teeth all had spaces between them and she was a little chubby.  She came from a poor home.  As a senior in high school she started working at Mickey-D’s to earn spending money.

Linda didn’t open up much at first, but after a while she started talking about a kid named Tom Hefner, who was giving her a hard time at school.

Hefner came from a wealthy home.  Religious, good-looking, popular, clean and wholesome, he tormented Linda without let-up—and to the great amusement of the other students. Every day he launched some kind of barb at her.  She insulted back, but he had popularity on his side and good looks.  “Suck my nose,” she would say, but her insults had no effect because he, and the other students, knew he rated higher on the social ladder than she.  Linda patiently endured it and confided to me, the Handy Man. ** Read on! **

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