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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Hither & Yon

Magic Realism

by Samuel Asher
I fall immediately in love with the house. I quit my job at the StuffMart and spend all my time caressing her bricks, and tonguing her mortar. The neighbors don't complain; this neighborhood's full of such lascivious dwellings that I see every owner caressing mantels, and rubbing up against skirting boards as often as they catch me singing love songs to my gate posts. I'm sitting inside her living room watching the news when I learn about the weather. The wickedest storm to hit our shores in a hundred years, the radio says, so powerful the governor has ordered mandatory evacuation.
Published on May 2, 2019
by Daniel Ausema
When the palace issued a decree to raze the old Weavers' District to make way for new buildings, the condemned houses rebelled. They held picket signs above their low roofs, and some even left their foundations to march against the decree. It was an unfortunate situation for those who lived there, with houses moving and windows chanting slogans day and night. Even so, most people supported their buildings, and some even joined in the fight, for all the good it would do. The palace never noticed the residents nor heard their complaints.
Published on Mar 26, 2018
by Davian Aw
We met in the space the mundane shops go, in those unscheduled moments when others take their place and old Uncle Joe popping by for a snack finds the 7-Eleven replaced by Maerlyn's Magick Shoppe. When the 7-Eleven went, I went with it. The air grew rich and heady with magic. Chocolate bars and packaged nuts jostled each other on the shelves. The Slurpee machine twirled out sigils behind its glass. The spare change on the counter took flight in dance, gleaming in the golden light flooding through the windows.
Published on Jun 25, 2015
by Hannah Awbrey
Death met my pretty sister on slick November roads. He was about to reap her gorgeous soul when he noticed her even more gorgeous body. So instead of taking her to heaven (or not) he took her out for drinks. “And we frolicked around Los Angeles for the next fourteen hours,” she told me. “Can you believe that?” Somehow, I could. Now Death comes to Christmas and sulks in the corner with his James Dean leather jacket and emaciated Timothee Chalamet face. And even though he never eats the meatballs our Italian grandmother makes (he’s vegetarian, can you believe that?), she always says “Isn’t he wonderful? And so handsome!”
Published on Jun 7, 2021
by Peter M Ball
Phil says he can catch a bullet, and none of us believe him.
Published on Mar 3, 2017
by James Bambury
When Suriak was given her first watercolors she painted the garden she saw every night when she slept. In the first week she worked through the pad of paper that came with the set, and in the week after she covered the walls of her room with embankments of flowers. Her parents made sure she was never out of paper after that. "What's that?" her mother asked as Suriak filled a sheet with splotches of yellow.
Published on Aug 30, 2012
by Emily Barker
I had chosen a peach tree like most of the women had, but not for the same reasons. I didn't think of it as the only feminine thing I could leave behind, a monument to my sex organs. Instead I just liked the fruit. It was ripe and sweet, and even though it would only feed insects, I wanted the best for them. There was no anesthesia when they cut me open to plant the sapling inside, but the radiation's got me so weary, it hurts about as much as period cramps you learn to ignore. There's a movement of women and men, burning any of these trees they can find, or anyone performing these surgeries, or anyone who looks like they might be. They consider it an insult for uteruses to be used in this way. I see it as an honor. That I can have some use.
Published on Aug 19, 2021
by Barbara A. Barnett
Keith touches a hand to his nose, and I'm not sure what surprises him more: the blood my left hook drew, or the fact that his boxing gloves have suddenly disappeared. "How did you--"
Published on Dec 8, 2014
by Barbara A. Barnett
Have you ever had the feeling you're being watched? Of course you have, you're a fictional character. That's just life on the page, right? But what about those mundane moments that aren't on the page? When you're showering, brushing your teeth, clipping your toenails. Those plotless little moments creators skim past because the only thing moving your story forward is time. No one should be paying attention, yet that constant presence persists. Now you know the feeling I'm talking about. I can tell by the way you're squirming, that hot flush through your cheeks. You're thinking about all that porn you've watched, aren't you? Probably the most universal vice in the world, yet it's always the first thing people are embarrassed about. But trust me, there are worst things.
Published on Sep 25, 2017
by Justin Allen Berg
We were goblins that summer. Fire-roasted rabbit to eat and muddy pond water to drink. Howling at the stars at night. Groggy and green till afternoon. Cage and I hobbled everywhere during those sweltering days, sweat dripping down our youthful, twisted faces. Long on ears, short on experience, smelling like gutted, discarded fish. We paid no nevermind to the villagers, except to scare the occasional group of girls. That night by the flames of the bonfire. They were laughing. We appeared, prepped with our best pickup lines. One look. We stood. Nothing more. They screamed and hugged each other. We kicked their ale, spit in their fire, and yelled and growled. Left. Limped to other places. We hated their parents, the stories they told about us. But we loathed the prince in his big castle. Knights of glory, they said. Knights of cruelty to us.
Published on Aug 15, 2017
by Stacey Berg
Plants comb the dirt in rows, sparser than Damek had hoped. The greenhouse windows sweat, dripping clear trails against the fogged glass. There's a fog outside too, the light dispersed so evenly it looks opaque. Behind the clouds an occasional brighter light flashes. The low rumble rattles the panes. Moving away, Damek tries to tell himself. He doesn't count the intervals, not wanting to know otherwise. He wipes moisture from his scalp, fingers drawing a few hairs across the barren patch. The vanity, so absurd in the face of this madness, shames him. He glances at Mbali, but she hasn't noticed; she's watching the bees. The calm on her face shames him too; he knows he looks the way he feels.
Published on Jul 23, 2019
by Nyki Blatchley
By the time I reach the front of the queue, even the more vibrant hues of gray are being leeched out of the surroundings. I hold the container tightly to myself for an instant, my instincts rebelling against giving it up, but I know there's really no choice. The middle-aged woman in front of me is turning away, tears trickling down her face. Even so, the vagueness in her eyes and the almost transparent gray of her skin suggest she doesn't have enough left to understand why she's crying. Just that everything's lost.
Published on Jan 1, 2020
by Roberto Bommarito
When her little sister Mary died, Clarissa stopped eating up chunks of her time. At first no one noticed. She went on pretending to be the happy-go-lucky eighteen-year-old we all used to know. She was really good at masking her grief as something else.
Published on Jul 7, 2015
by Stephanie Bork
The living room was rearranged when Mike came downstairs the next morning. He was groggy because he hadn't slept well, and he first tripped over the sofa and then bruised his knee on the television stand. It was sheer good luck that he didn't smash the TV. Mike rubbed his eyes and stared. The sofa had been on the west wall, below the window. Now it was floating a foot away from the east wall over an area rug that had been in the study. The throw pillows from the family room were arranged against one plaid armrest. The woman was busy in the kitchen scrambling eggs for breakfast. It took Mike a moment to remember her name. Trisha. That was it. And her daughter Cindy was evidently still asleep in the guest room. "Good morning," Trisha said brightly without turning around. "Would you like sausage with your eggs today?"
Published on Oct 30, 2018
by Bruce Boston
Filled with ink that spirals onto the page in a cursive race of unscripted extrapolation, the Surreal Fountain Pen is the finest creative writing instrument in the rudimentary history of the human species. Deep in its abounded journey, throughout hidden chambers arranged in a golden spiral that extends beyond its three-dimensional incarnation, dreams are unveiled and language reconstituted with poetic abandon. The adjective "surreal" does not describe the function of the Surreal Fountain Pen, but its mercurial nature, which is cerebral and spiritual, transcendental and transformative. The primary function of the Surreal Fountain Pen, deeply bedded in the flow of time and the dimensions of space, is to create without restraint.
Published on May 15, 2015
by Eric Brown
This kind of thing happens a lot in Folkway. I wouldn't let it worry you; you'll get used to it, as strange as that might sound. Around four years ago, we had nine vanish right inside of Mac's Pharmacy. In broad daylight. Just poof, gone, and the only thing left was the clothes and the little things like you see here--wallets, rings, tooth fillings. We write up the forms and send those over to the main office in Briggs, where they look into it. Of course, nothing comes of it, but we don't make waves: not anymore. Well, Junior, would you mind handing me-- Ah... damn. Cunningham? Can you get me another form? Yeah, the new guy... I'll get the uniform in a box; I guess we'll throw in that prosthetic leg too... no, that's all right. Leave it in the shoe.
Published on Dec 16, 2021
by Stephanie Burgis
This bead marks the moment you told Tom Merchant (high on your first-ever vodka shots and the teeth-jittering adrenaline of being out--even just as part of a group--with Tom Merchant, the most brilliant, amazing guy you'd ever met) that you couldn't care less about your practical engineering major, that thing that your parents were both so proud of. No, you declared (slamming down your fourth shot), you were going to be an artist instead! Tom looked at you with real interest in his eyes for the first time ever, and you changed your major the next day, hung-over and scared but bone-deep determined to follow through and be the girl who could impress him. Still, your hands shook as you signed the forms, and you couldn't bring yourself to tell your parents for over four months.
Published on Feb 20, 2015
by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
Elaine began her search at sunrise. She started with her apartment because lost things turned up most often at home on Found Day. National surveys each year proved that. She poked under her bed and in the closets, under couch cushions and inside cabinets and drawers. By the time the sun rose above the winter-bare trees, she had been over the entire apartment twice. No luck.
Published on Sep 10, 2015
by VG Campen
On Wednesday Dan found an octopus stretched across the Honda's windshield, basking in the morning dew. Dan set his computer bag down and returned to the house, where he assembled a makeshift cephalopod-removal kit: a spatula to pry suckers off glass, a cookie sheet to scoop up the cat-sized animal and fling it into the hedge. At the spatula's prodding the 'puss turned an angry red. Its arms thrashed, recoiled, and re-attached to the car, deftly avoiding Dan's attempts to slip the aluminum sheet underneath it. "Daddy, don't hurt it!" Piper called from the doorway. She ran to Dan's side, startling a roosting school of sardines out of the mulberry tree.
Published on Nov 26, 2014
by Beth Cato
You are reading a book, and within that book you now walk through the iron gates of the junior high school of your youth. You don't understand how you are reading of a real place within this old fantasy book of adventures you found in the closet of your childhood bedroom. These particular pages didn't exist before, here in this volume that you read until its white spine was bowed, swaybacked, broken.
Published on Aug 20, 2015
by Beth Cato
Published on May 24, 2022
by Vajra Chandrasekera
"Ulder," said the man in the hat, leaning in, lips barely moving. His eyes darted, as if anyone else on the train would hear him through their prophylactic earplugs. We were the only two with ears open. "What?" I said, too loud. The man in the hat leaned away, mouth tight, beard bristling. He didn't look at me again.
Published on Jul 31, 2014
by Runa Chatterjee
The woman behind me unfurled her wings and settled down into the seat. Once she was seated, the wings carefully closed around her wizened frame, almost like a shield. Black crow wings. I averted my eyes from them. Two schoolgirls brushed past me, giggling as the tips of their wings brushed my shoulder. White wings, like most children, though one was already turning brown at the tips.
Published on Jan 13, 2016
by Gio Clairval
Does my family name matter? I gave it up when I joined Ceres Edelman's house to become her willing slave, one of many men in her service. I was sworn to testify in my own words, and my deposition only recounts what I witnessed. Forgive my awkward ways. I was never videotaped before.
Published on Dec 5, 2014
by Liz Colter
"Where were you?" Darien regrets the shape of the question as it forms, tries to negate the unintended implication. "Did that spring squall affect traffic?" Accusation seems to dance at the corner of his words, no matter his intention. Men lack a talent for backtracking, he thinks.
Published on Nov 18, 2016
by Tina Connolly
The day Sarah gave birth to Paul, they carefully took her heart out of her chest and moved it to the outside. She understood the procedure, of course--she had seen the parents at the playground, chasing after slide-climbing toddlers, their hearts flapping against their shirts, ka-thump, ka-thump. Sarah sat with her latte and watched a mother soothing a teary child smeared with grape jelly, mulch, and blood. Her heart, unnoticed, had flopped to one side. Sarah shuddered in revulsion at the mulch clinging to it, and vowed she would be more protective of her own.
Published on Aug 28, 2017
by Austin DeMarco
I woke one Saturday morning to discover my neighbor Rosalyn building a wall in the yard between our houses. She laid each brick in a pattern of alternating rows with no mortar to fill the gaps, taking care to align each new brick precisely with the last. I watched her work from my kitchen window, sipping my morning coffee and wondering. Rosalyn and I were distantly near, like most neighbors are, and I could not imagine why she would feel the need to build a wall between us. By the time I had emptied the cup, my curiosity was too great, and I went outside to ask what she was doing. "Building a wall," she answered plainly, not deigning to look up from her work.
Published on Feb 5, 2020
by Sarina Dorie
Published on Jun 13, 2022
by M.A. Dosser
Author Bio: M.A. Dosser is a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh. When he isn't researching music communication, television, or popular culture, he's writing about heroic blueberries, ravens and knights, and long voyages in outer space. Or he's in bed by 9 PM reading about Prohibition and doing nonograms.
Published on Dec 16, 2020
by Frank Dutkiewicz
They made up their minds and started packing. "Should we bring our medicine?" Helen asked.
Published on Mar 5, 2012
by Shannon Fay
"Rina, when are you going to put down roots?" her relatives asked as they passed salt and gossip around her parents' dinner table. Framed photos of Rina's cousins and their families beamed down from the walls around them. Rina had sent her parents plenty of pics: Rina riding on an elephant, Rina at Tokyo Tower, Rina sighing under the Bridge of Sighs. None of these pictures were on display.
Published on Sep 23, 2020
by Sam Ferree
It took Penelope a week after moving into her apartment to realize that the man who was always sitting on the leather couch in the living room was her roommate. At first she took him for an overly devoted evangelist. He wore a white, collared shirt, black slacks, and a blank nametag, and had an enormous, bushy beard. When he did not leave or try to win her over to whatever jumbled philosophy he believed, she began to see him as a fixture. There was a roommate-shaped indentation in the couch. He smoked as if the air was poison and his voice was a quiet bass. Whenever she walked by the couch he murmured incoherencies or, Penelope chose to believe, advice. On the third day after she moved in he said, "There are no entrances. Only exits."
Published on Sep 21, 2012
by Rebecca Fraimow
"So they did take it down," I said. Tanisha could see perfectly well for herself, but I said it again anyway: "The mural's finally gone." First the spot on the corner had been a bodega. Then for a while it was a promising construction site; then it was The Hole. You came up out of the subway, and saw a rotten fence of ugly wooden boards, and knew you were in Crown Heights. Then the mural had shown up--probably not overnight, but it had seemed that way at the time. My favorite was the panel with the octopus, but I also liked the pigeon and squirrel wearing crowns. If there ever was a king of Crown Heights, it was probably a pigeon. Tanisha liked the Spay And Neuter Your Pets panel, with the gray and orange cats on it. She said it was practical. Neither of us understood the significance of the panel with tree-sprouting eyeballs, but we both agreed it had a certain creepy panache.
Published on Jan 12, 2015
by T.R. Frazier
“This can’t be right.” But the perky lady-voice of Google Maps insists I’ve arrived. Sure enough, squeezed between a nail salon and a cat clinic, the sign for “Hart’s Candies” hangs askew from the frontage of the seedy strip mall. I hesitate outside the glass door, which is painted with flaking Christmas trees and snowmen. (It’s July.) How this place scored over 200 5-star reviews is beyond me. An electronic chime sounds as I enter, but there’s not a soul inside. The air’s laden with calories and mildew and something else I can’t place. “Hello?” No answer, so I mosey around rows of clear plastic, candy-filled bins until some green gummy candy snags my eye. I shoot a furtive look around, then lift the dusty lid and nick one green, sugar-coated square. I’m about to pop it in my mouth when someone calls, “Are you sure about that, miss?” I whirl around, keeping my hands behind my back. It’s not like me--stealing candy like a delinquent child--but then, I haven’t been myself this week. A round, greasy little man waves from the cash register--and by greasy, I mean that he’s got a greasy comb-over and a greasy smile, and I’m pretty sure he leaves a smear on anything he touches. “Sure about what?” I say, hoping my blush doesn’t show in the dismal lighting. His smile widens. “Sure you want to try that one?” I turn around and inspect the container as if I’ve only just noticed it. “What is it, sour apple?” He materializes at my elbow. “No, no. Revenge.” “Sorry, what?” “Revenge. Sweet--very sweet--at first, but the bitter aftertaste lingers for quite a while.” When I turn away, I could swear he mutters, “for the rest of your life.” They’d looked so appealing, but I’m already bitter enough. My hand hovers over a bin of round candies, individually wrapped in red foil. “These look nice.” I point to the nutrition information: GF, DF, SF, CF. “Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free... um, corn-free?” The rotund storekeeper makes a face. “Commitment-free. Those are One Night Stands--very popular, but frankly, I don’t see the attraction. They’re tasteless.” “Oh.” He’s watching me, shining head cocked to the side, and I’m conscious of my messy bun, my red-rimmed eyes, the white band of skin around my fourth finger. I feign interest in some ring pops. That’s when I see them. “Is that--” I rush over to the display case by the cash register, pressing my forehead against the already-smudged glass. Behind it, jewel-like, handmade confections rest on pleated white papers. “Is that Love?” He pops up behind the counter, holding up a finger. “Lust. Easy to mistake one for the other, but once you’ve tried Love, you’ll always taste the difference.” “So I can’t find Love here?” My voice hitches on that third little word. The comb-over flip-flops. “Afraid not. Very difficult to make--quite an involved process.” Jamming the heels of my hands into my eyes, I press back the tears. I’ve wasted an hour. No, I’ve wasted three years. His gaze follows my left hand as I reach for my keys, and his unctuous manner drops. “Wait. I might have one or two things....”
As the door swings shut behind me, I rummage in the paper bag, fishing out a white sugar cube. (“Not a cube, a tesseract,” the little man had corrected me. “A tesseract of Time. Quite pricey, but you know what they say about all wounds.”) The little sweet melts on my tongue, its sharp edges softening with every passing moment. Driving home to our--my--empty apartment, I pop a stick of minty-fresh Perspective into my mouth and chew. As soon as the engine cuts, I pull out my phone and give Hart’s Candy five stars.
Published on Nov 3, 2021
by Arielle Friedman
Alan gazed at the sidewalk as he walked to work. A shadow swept past him, blocking out the sun and dancing on the sidewalk ahead. A knot of anger filled his chest. I'm not going to look up. Why give them the satisfaction? He held out for ten seconds, then lifted his head. It was a woman, and she didn't even have the decency to be young. Her grey hair flowed around her naked shoulders. She was facing the sky, oblivious to him and all the walkers down below. He lifted his wristphone to his mouth. Police, he commanded. I'd like to report an urban flyer. Yes, I'll hold. He felt a twist in his stomach. How long had it been since his last hit? He began clawing through his pockets with his left hand jeans, jacket, shirtfront how many pockets could he have? His call connected. Hello officer, my name is Alan Richards. Yes, I'm reporting an urban flyer at Sherbrook and Lawrence. Older woman, mid-fifties, long grey hair. She seems to be taunting those of us down below. Yes, completely naked, any child could see her. He found his pack in his back pocket. My number is 4436-A32. Can you let me know if you catch her? Thank you. His hands trembled as he hung up. His stomach twisted and sank in the telltale manner, like he'd swallowed a black hole which was sucking up his insides. He reached for his vial. As soon as he touched it the tremors stopped. He twisted off the cap, placed a stick from his pack into the amber liquid and placed the other end into his mouth. He activated his lighter and lowered the end of the stick into the blue flame. The warmth spread through his body like a liquid, its edge a hot knife cutting his body with pleasure. He closed his eyes and sucked deeply from the stick between his lips. He felt himself soaring through space and time, all eternity at his fingertips, the past a wisp of air trailing behind. The rush subsided. He clung to its remnants as he stamped the ash beneath his toe. It was a good hit. He looked up. She was gone, but he was sure the authorities would find her. He resumed walking, eyes back on the sidewalk. What was the penalty for urban flying these days? A fine and community service? Alan hoped they raised it to jail. The flyers didn't seem to get the message. He arrived at work and took another hit outside the front entrance. He hardly felt this one, but he needed one before work to keep himself balanced. Once at his desk, he had trouble focusing on accounting. He kept seeing the woman, body spread out overhead. How had she managed to retain her flying for so long? At that age, even a tiny habit would destroy her abilities. He recalled his youth, when his habit had been small and his flying intact, minus a few balance problems. He remembered how glorious it felt to take a hit and fly over the city, wobbling into the sunset. Back then urban flying had been a bylaw infraction, not criminal offence. He sighed and tried to focus on spreadsheets. It was no use. He got up and pulled on his jacket. He'd allow himself a quick hit and five minutes of reminiscing, then he'd get back to work. *** That night Alan stood on his balcony, staring out over the city. The wind whipped past his face and through his hair. He closed his eyes and imagined he was flying. Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes, torn from him by the wind. He'd had so many hits that they no longer felt like anything, nothing more than a heaviness that kept him stranded on the ground. His wrist phone hang. The police. Hello? Yes, this is Alan. Wonderful! I hope you throw the book at her. Of course, it's up to the courts. Thank you for letting me know, it's much appreciated. Good evening to you as well, sir. They'd apprehended the flying woman. He knew he should be happy, but he felt numb. He hoped she'd learn her lesson. END
Published on Apr 6, 2016
by Cate Gardner
Little Him scooted around Danni's heart, tying his strings so tight that she thought the organ would burst. Watching his dizzying journey made her thankful for the transparency of her skin. It didn't matter that she'd flirted with the waiter and allowed him to touch her knee. It was of no consequence that she'd kissed that guy in the bar when out with her girlfriends, that Holly had told Glenn. Glenn would see how much she loved him. "I am so full of you, there is almost no room for anyone else," Danni said to Glenn at breakfast.
Published on Jul 18, 2012
by Sharmon Michelle Gazaway
I feel as insubstantial as these pressed violet petals that haunt like a pantoum. I tuck them back into the book of poetry I'd found while browsing a flea market--alone, of course. Sunlight streams through the tall window, twinned in the cheval mirror standing by the mantel. Tilted in its oval frame, the glass bounces the light around the room, plays across my retinas, light-blinding me for a moment. I don't trust mirrors.
Published on Nov 2, 2020
by Peggy Gerber
As a child I was excruciatingly shy; selective mutism they called it. While taking walks with my mother, were somebody to approach, I would dart behind Mom's leg as if being preyed on by the Loch Ness Monster. I could barely function at school and was afraid of everything. Growing up, dolls and stuffed animals were my best friends. We spent many wonderful afternoons having tea parties, playing princess, and planning my wedding to Prince Charming. Although I was content, my parents were genuinely worried about me. My dad would often say, "A teddy bear is not a friend, Sofia. You need to go out and play with human children." When I was nine years old, the school principal threatened expulsion unless my parents took me to a therapist. Thank God for that, because therapy changed my life. On my first visit with Dr. Jacobs, she did not ask me to speak, but rather observed me coloring, doing puzzles, and playing with toys. I gradually began opening up to her, and she would encourage me by saying things like, "Sofia, you are a smart, worthwhile young lady with a lot of important things to say." We would pretend that the dolls in her office were people and I would practice my social skills by having conversations with them. It wasn't a quick transition to wellness, and I continued seeing Dr. Jacobs every week until I was in high school. By the time I finished therapy, I was still a bit shy, but finally feeling comfortable in my own skin.
Published on Feb 24, 2020
by Guanani Gomez
The book had first been captured by my great-great-grandmother, back when ink life was common in the forests behind our estate. It had been kept in a large silver cage and passed down through the generations, a magnificent specimen for all children and guests to behold. As the forests were cut down and drained of their ink to draw more useful things like new factories and apartments, the wild books slowly died out, poached by literary hunters and purchased by ink collectors. Our family's book became the last of its kind, at least that anyone knew of. As a young child I would lay on the carpet of our mansion's empty library, watching the book for hours as it flapped its dog-eared pages, or sometimes banged against the bars of the cage over and over again.
Published on Oct 20, 2015
by Preston Grassmann
I knew there was something different about Literary Cocktails the moment I walked in--it was mostly silent and much too sober, save for a few people who sat hunched over their drinks, speaking quietly to themselves. When I approached the counter, a few customers stole nervous glances in my direction. "You just came out of the Scrublands?" the bartender asked.
Published on Sep 7, 2020
by A. T. Greenblatt
She is too small, Kitkun thinks, the first time she enters his tiny workshop tucked between the market's stalls. Too young to have left the nest alone. Yet, despite the years of waiting, he still feels a prick of hope as she steps out of the city's unrelenting smog and over the threshold, thinking, perhaps she will be the one. Perhaps she will ask.
Published on Jul 9, 2013
by Jonathon Grimes
A Bradbury Furnace converts the loss of information exiting permanently out of existence into heat. Snelpin did not think of this as he carefully chose the only existent copy of Helica Wire's latest novel. He'd finished tossing in all photos and records of a widowed octogenarian into the machine. It needed more. Hot summer nights drove up demand. Too many households in the township had their AC blasting, their televisions chattering, everything soaking up precious watts.
Published on Nov 29, 2019
by Damien Walters Grintalis
She was broken when he met her, shattered into a thousand tiny shapes, all with jagged edges. He gathered up her pieces and carried them home. He spread them out on his dining room table, an eye here, a fingertip there, and smiled. The damage was not irreparable.
Published on Feb 16, 2012
by Sydney Paige Guerrero
***Editor's Note: Adult Story, Mature Themes***
Published on Sep 11, 2019
by Shane Halbach
Grandma kept her civilizations on a shelf in the living room. She always let me dust them. When I was just a girl, I would pick up each and peer inside. Some of the baubles were dim, the civilizations inside long since dissolving to dust. Even then they were interesting, with crumbling stone walls or rusting iron spires or broken skyscrapers.
Published on Feb 25, 2019
by Lee Hallison
The Empty Lot on Annie's block was hot and dusty-dry in the summer, luminous with possibilities. Spiky shrubs caught bits of litter, strange jars and cans nestled among pebbles and behind rocks, and they rarely saw grownups when they played there. Magic happened all the time. She unearthed a real fossil when scraping out one of the crawling paths between shrubs that they called "war tunnels." Another time her friend Grace found a skinny old snakeskin. And when Annie punched Tommy Canallee in the stomach for picking on her brother, his nose bled. Magic.
Published on Jun 26, 2013
by Rachel Halpern
Clara got her first clue in preschool, just before naptime one day, as Ms. Weston read aloud from a massive gleaming book of fairy tales. Clara knew most of them already, though the versions were different, and this Snow White was stabbed with a poison comb before she ever touched an apple. Others, though, were entirely new to her, stories of huts with chicken legs and beautiful forest women with hollow backs. And then there was the giant who hid his heart so he could live forever. The tale was all about the prince, about his perilous quest to find and destroy the heart, but Clara couldn't help feeling that it was bad enough to kill a person--anyone knew that was murder--and much worse after they'd gone to all that trouble. She didn't cry, because even at four she never cried, couldn't remember ever caring enough to cry, but she felt a strange solemnity come over her at the words like a shadow passing overhead. She could imagine the giant staring with awful, pitiful eyes as his heart was crushed, and she shuddered.
Published on Aug 23, 2013
by Antonia Harvey
It took a long time for Lucy Morgan to die. It was an unremarkable death, a slow unraveling of skin and synapses and self that inconvenienced no one and left nothing behind but dust and the lingering memory of lavender in the air. And then, after men in white suits had come and vacuumed away all the traces, sealed them in little clear bags and thrown them away with the evening garbage, nobody seemed to remember that there had once been a person there at all.
Published on Oct 16, 2013
by Kate Heartfield
Isabelle fell back and kicked forward as hard as she could, looking down the length of her body to where her Spiderman shoes pointed to the setting sun. The swing chains wriggled like pond frogs in her hands. Her tummy lurched just like it did when the plane took off on their trip to see Grandma.
Published on Mar 3, 2015
by Kate Heartfield
I'm glad you can't see me, I lie to the girl in the window seat, with the rainbow hair. It's OK. I'm not much to look at. I'm not beautiful like you. She's my age, but I'm not made of rainbows and a Propagandhi t-shirt. At the moment, I'm a girl made of a rough polyblend weave in brown and blue, with a drop of baby puke, a splash of diet Coke and a lot of sweat. My arms are indistinguishable from the molded beige plastic of the arms of the chair.
Published on Sep 10, 2019
by Amanda Helms
Eliose's truescent is all wrong as she scruffs my ears and her lips turn up in a smile. I roll onto my back, careful not to jostle her in the bed. She rubs my belly, and starts to rasp what a good girl I am. But the words devolve into a coughing fit. The door creaks as Simon comes in. He swipes down to shoo me off.
Published on Jun 27, 2018
by Kyle Hemmings
He comes to life in aisle six, nestled between a Play and Go Captain Calamari and a crib/floor mirror. Remember me? the toy-boy says to Alice, his eyes glistening wistful blue, the rest of him in lead alloy cast, perhaps the arms and legs made from sawdust and glue. I'm the toy you once tossed away. Alice fidgets and feigns dumbness, recalls the feeling of having a dream surfacing to water while she is crouching at the edge of the pond, throwing worms at her reflections, dropping breadcrumbs in her father's cereal.
Published on Jan 26, 2015
by JC Hemphill
Sounds of war awoke the farmer. He listened as roars of bravery collapsed beneath cries of agony. Swords clashed with swords, armor with armor, flesh with flesh. The farmer sprang from bed, ran for the door of his shack, flung it wide, and froze. Chaos had taken shape. Soldiers in silver poured from the eastern woods to greet the hordes of loping creatures emerging from the high grasses to the west. Flame-tipped arrows hung high above their heads, a thousand lanterns briefly turning night to day before reverting to missile form and completing their deadly arc. All of this--men, creature, fire--came together upon the farmer's field. Where flowering flax had grown was now a crimson tangle of death, a dumping ground for the young, the strong, the valiant.
Published on Apr 15, 2015
by Kevlin Henney
I'm back at her place, in her bedroom, waiting for her. Preparation is everything, and really, I don't have much choice. I'm used to dates not working out.
Published on Jan 10, 2019
by Karen Heuler
***Editor's Note: Adult Story*** It all began in an innocent way. Judith was walking outside the perimeter of her property and dumping weeds and kitchen scraps and branches in the forest, which sloped up and away from her garden, rolling through trees and branches and grasses up to the ridge, which rolled up to a higher ridge.
Published on Mar 15, 2019
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I don't follow politics, but I will follow music anywhere. Music leads me all over the country, but I never stay in one place long before it calls me somewhere else. My name is Cyrus Locke. I carry a fiddle. I've been on the road following tunes for more than fifty years.
Published on Feb 26, 2021
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
As soon as Corinne got out of the car and into the church basement where the rummage sale was being held, she spotted the gift she'd given her sister for Christmas.

The basement was spacious, though the ceiling was low. Fluorescent lights made everyone and everything look a little sick.
Published on Jul 15, 2022
by Nicholas Hoins
"Why are you always so hard on your son? And you speak of your daughter like she's an ex-girlfriend that keeps disappointing you. 'Don't try to pull one over on me' and such things. Pathetic." The clay-face ornament on the wall had not gone off like that in over a week. "The spirit of the tchotchke strikes again," said the shaven-faced waiter with the gel in his hair.
Published on Jun 24, 2015
by C.L. Holland
We knew it was happening again when David started juggling. One minute he was packing the lunches for school the next day, the next his hands were full of oranges and they were whizzing around in the air. His nose was bright red. Mum screamed and shoved me out of the kitchen. She and Dad pushed a table in front of the door. I heard the thud of oranges falling to the floor.
Published on Oct 19, 2018
by Jennifer Hudak
Words write themselves upon her skin when she speaks. The letters emerge like a developing photograph, and become a permanent record of each frustrated mutter, each whispered confidence. As a child, she scrubbed herself raw, trying to erase a secret she revealed to her best friend, a secret she promised never to tell, but the secret, if anything, looked even more visible against her tender red skin. She began to wear long sleeves in the summertime, and knee socks to thwart the boys who snuck under the table to pull up her pant legs in hopes of glimpsing the words scrawled on her ankle. Her parents stripped her naked in the bathroom and peered between her thighs and in the hollows of her armpits, searching for lies. As a teenager, she stood naked in front of her boyfriend while he tried to find other boys' names tangled in the answers to biology questions and recitations of Shakespearean sonnets. Words write themselves upon her skin when she speaks, so she speaks carefully. "I love you," she says, over and over. Every time, the words flower elsewhere on her body, covering her in a passionate tattoo. The curling, cursive script climbs like pea tendrils up the back of her neck, down along her arms, and on the hidden expanse of her belly. "I love you," she says, hoping that the delicate words will begin to overwrite the other messages, those written in harsh scrawls, and the ones stamped in sterile sans serif all-caps. The derisive middle-school mocking. The silky lies, the angry curses. It will take a lot of "I love you's" to cover up those other words, which are written in darker ink, and thicker lines. She says "I love you" until the letters grow like a garden on her skin, so that the world will know she loved more than she hated. "I love you," she says, and tries to mean it. She says it until she blossoms like a rose.
Published on Nov 21, 2018
by Alexis A. Hunter
He had a driftwood heart; he had sleepy-ocean eyes. I lifted my bloodied head from the sand and there he was, standing on spindly branching legs. Battered wreckage that had long since been washed thin and worn by the waves. I felt the pound of the surf in my temple, in my throat, in my groin.
Published on Sep 28, 2015
by Robin Husen
Like all children, Ava drew stick figures. She rendered eyes and noses as black circles and clothes as vague outlines draped over coat hanger shoulders and ribbed barrel chests. Her teacher said she had an eye for form. She had trouble with facial expressions, but she completed her day-glo Construct-A-Skel first go without any mistakes. Still, no one guessed what the problem was until her older brother broke his arm on the swings and had to go for x-rays. Her father explained to her that an x-ray was a photograph of bones, and she explained back in her four year-old way that she didn't see any difference. The eye doctor made her read a chart, and she read it just fine, and the one behind it, and the one in the next room, even though the door was shut. When the truth dawned, her father felt his scalp tighten.
Published on Dec 2, 2015
by M.K. Hutchins
I joined the temple as a very young girl. By the time I was eight, I'd mastered writing. I joined the ranks of the novice priestesses, vowing to never speak again. Words have power. With words, the gods created the universe. Ordinary people tossed syllables and sentences around like they were copper pennies. But priestesses understood the power in speech. Our utterances could crush mountains or make the rivers run dry. In our history, the few priestesses who tried speaking invariably destroyed themselves.
Published on Nov 7, 2016
by M.K. Hutchins
Everyone has a heart box. Some boxes have mitred corners with beautifully contrasting splines. Some are dovetailed. Some have simple butt joints nailed from the outside. It doesn’t really matter. What grows inside them does. A curved seashell of curiosity. A hard scrap of metallic regret. An almost too-soft-to-touch feather of hope. When I was seven, Logan stomped on my foot. He hadn’t thought anyone was watching. The moment he saw our teacher storming toward us, he called “Sorry!” and shoved his fear of being caught—an icy clod of earth—straight from his heart box into mine. I started to cry. I wanted to throw away his fear, but I couldn’t touch it without getting my hands all muddy and gross. Red beads of distress popped into existence inside my heart box. The teacher glanced between us. She poured her purple sands of exhausted-annoyance into my box. “He said he was sorry, Olivia. You’re supposed to say you forgive him.” She was my teacher and she was upset at me, so I rummaged past the sand, dirt, and beads to where I kept a pale yellow daisy of patience, one I’d nurtured over the long, sunny weekend. I cupped it in my palm and reluctantly offered it to Logan. He snatched it from my hand, crumpling and bruising it, laughing as he shoved it into his own box, then ran off to play. “See? Don’t you feel better now?” my teacher asked. I shook my head. There was nothing lovely left in my box, only the things that Logan and my teacher didn’t want to hold themselves. “So selfish, Olivia. You can go in early from recess early and write, 'I will be kind to others' a hundred times in your notebook.” I tried to pass her a spiky ball of indignant shock, but she batted it away into a puddle. “Pick that up and get inside.”
I knew what was expected of me the next time Logan hurt me--with a tetherball, to the face, on purpose. Sometimes it was better when he didn’t get caught. Then I didn’t have to take his fear or give up whatever small, bright treasure my own box held. I knew what was expected of me years later when I was rear-ended in the high school parking lot. I knew what to do when my fast-food manager paid me my regular wages instead of the overtime rate. Or when my boyfriend cheated on me. Everyone talked about apologies as if they always involved handing over nice things, like a clear marble of earnest regret or a silver star of empathy. And that did happen, sometimes. When that lady accidentally cut in front of me in the grocery store. When my brother was late to Thanksgiving dinner. When a hungry roommate poached my leftovers, felt bad about it, then ordered my favorite take-out for dinner. The day I published my first research paper, my heart box overflowed with celadon petals of pride and confidence. Then I saw the list of authors. Me, the two other grad students who had worked on the paper, our professor, and James. Who had not worked on it at all. Those petals all cracked into a fine gray-green dust of shock. I knew that being upset would only leave me smothered in sands of derision or annoyance, but I drove to campus anyway and marched up three flights of stairs to our department, where James and the professor were already talking. My professor spotted me and grimaced. “I knew you’d be the one to cause trouble, Olivia. I’ve already talked to Carlos and Paisley. They’re fine with it. James desperately needed a good credit like this stay on track for a tenured position. You should be happy about helping him out.” The professor pressed an oily ribbon of unwanted embarrassment into my heart box. James rubbed the back of his neck. “The professor told me that everyone else knew. That it was okay. I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable.” “Uncomfortable!” The two of them had lied and cheated together. James hefted a granite block of guilt toward me, embedded with a speck of clear regret. I stepped back, guarding the lid of my heart box. “Don’t be like that! I wouldn’t have agreed if I’d known, but it’s too late now,” James snapped, piling orange globs of annoyance on top of the granite. “Take this. Take all of it.” “No.” “I’m apologizing! I’m sincere!” He pointed at the speck of honesty in that. Some part of him did feel bad. But if I couldn’t take that speck without also carrying all of his guilt for him, I wasn’t going to accept it. Instead, I dumped out that oily snake of embarrassment. I dumped out my fine gray dust and my smooth gray coins of betrayed hurt. I didn’t try to shove them into anyone’s box; I let them scatter on the floor. “I will be writing the journal,” I said in a calm, neutral voice. “You can’t!” the professor wailed, shoving his tightly coiled springs of fear at me. “I can.” “You’re being terribly unkind,” James glared. I’d seen kindness--those brightly-colored pipe-cleaner-like things that were warm and fuzzy and fun to twirl around your fingers. Picking up that mess wasn’t kind. Not to me. Probably not to them, either. “I’m not putting that in my box. I won’t try to shove it into your box, either. What you do with it is up to you,” I said firmly. Then I left. When I got home, I wrote Carlos and Paisley. I wrote the journal. Only afterwards did I open my box again. For a moment, I thought a fuzzy white mold had taken over the whole thing--shame, perhaps?--and that my own box was condemning me. I leaned closer, but it didn’t smell rank; it smelled like springtime. I poked the stuff with a finger. It was the cottonwood down of peace. Soft, still, calm. For once, my box held only my own feelings. There wasn’t room for anything else.
Published on Jan 11, 2022
by M.K. Hutchins
This is how the rain falls. A splatter, like a single tear. Then a soft mist, like ocean spray. Then fat, ferocious missiles that burst and self-destruct on the slick sidewalk. Other people don't seem to mind the rain. They shrug on jackets and carry umbrellas, and when the rain hits them, it doesn't take the color of their hair and skin and eyes and wash it down the storm drain.
Published on May 18, 2020
by Jose Pablo Iriarte
The curse of giants is to never fit in. At school the other kids try to make me lose control, because they know I'll put on a show for them. They call me Dumbass Danny. They laugh when I lose my breath and can't keep up at phys ed. They kick me when nobody's looking. They don't let me sit with them at lunch.
Published on Mar 7, 2016
by Tom Jolly
The peculiar idea occurred to Bradley while he was in the shower. He noticed for the first time ever that when he showered, he always turned clockwise to rinse off. What, he thought, if all this turning like a clock was what made a person older and grayer, marking the passage of time? What, he wondered, if he turned the opposite direction? Would it make him younger? Would his hair darken and his wrinkles fade? He stood there, staring into the drain where his gray hair would eventually clog it up once again, and then he turned counterclockwise cautiously, unused to the unfamiliar motion. He moved slowly; showers were always a hazard, especially for the elderly. But it worked! He could feel it. A few seconds fell away, then a few more, but by then he had sent himself backward in time far enough that he had erased his own memories and forgotten why he was doing what he was doing or what his revolutionary idea was, and resumed his normal routine of clockwise turns. Then he had a great idea about turning counterclockwise and becoming younger again, and, well, the idea of “rinse and repeat” was never so applicable as to his present situation, with Bradley turning left and right in the shower like the agitator in a washing machine. He might have died there, perpetually turning, but the hot water ran out and a stream of shocking cold yanked him out of his timelessly repetitious revelation, and he forgot for just a moment about his rotating remedy for old age. Angela was a little angry with him for using up all the hot water, and he wasn’t entirely sure why he had done it. He never took long showers. But great ideas are hard to kill. And even some of the mediocre ones put up a pretty good struggle. The same day, Angela pushed him out the front door to walk their dog, Madge. Madge jumped up and down excitedly, ready to go, despite the boringly repetitious route they took: a clockwise loop around the block that took little more than ten minutes, with a brief stop at the Murphy’s house to drop a little present in their yard. As he pondered the nature of his daily walk, the niggling idea encroached yet again on his mind, and he wondered, is this daily clockwise routine somehow making me older, and would it be possible to unwind the aging process merely by walking the other way around the block? And so, on the heels of the thought, he spun around and walked Madge the other direction, but by the time he returned home, the erased memories made him forget the idea entirely, and not only that, but forget that he had walked the dog at all. So he headed out yet again, only to bump into the same idea, turn around, and unwind his life a little further. Madge would have been ecstatic about the extra-long walk, had her memories not evaporated as well, so they kept up this routine until it was dark, and Angela was standing at the front door with a flashlight, wondering where he had gone off to. “What happened to you?” Angela said. “Did the Murphy’s finally catch you?” “I’m taking Madge for a walk,” Bradley replied, starting off down the sidewalk. “You just got back!” she said. “Nonsense. I haven’t even left yet.” Angela seemed worried, wondering if, perhaps, he’d had a stroke, but he seemed sound enough. “You just came up the sidewalk now. I saw you.” Bradley stared at the sidewalk, confused, and wondered why it was already dark. He never went walking after dark. He shook his head to loosen any cobwebs, but couldn’t remember the walk at all, and finally went inside to have dinner and feed the dog. Later, in bed, Angela asked, “Are you feeling okay?” Bradley pulled the blankets up around his neck. “I think so. Why?” “You forgot that you’d gone for a walk. And you were gone so long.” He frowned. “Maybe I was thinking about something and became distracted. You know, like when I used to drive to work, thinking about something important, and then I’d arrive and not remember any part of the drive there. It’s probably something like that.” “Hmm,” Angela said, concern wrapped around the sound. She kissed him, rolled over, and went to sleep. It only took a dream or two for Bradley to realize that when he rolled over, never comfortable on one side or the other for very long, he always rolled over in the same direction. And one thing led to the next, and by the time Angela punched him in the arm he’d already rolled back and forth some thirty times in less than an hour, and she’d had enough of it. “What the hell are you doing?” she said. “What is it? Was I dreaming?” “No, you keep rolling back and forth, back and forth, and it’s keeping me awake.” “I do? But we’ve only been in bed a few minutes.” “Do you know what time it is?” she asked. Bradley looked at the clock, and because he was in the part of his rolling cycle where the strange idea had come to him, he gasped, and finally realized what was happening. He explained it to Angela in a rush. She looked skeptical, but it did explain the strange events of the day. “So you can turn back time, but lose all the memories of who you are? Who you have become?” “Well, yes. But I... we... could be young again!” She stared at him with little but moonlight through the window to let him interpret her gaze, and she sighed. “You wouldn’t live any longer, you would just be replacing some of your memories with others. Is there some part of our life that you want to erase and forget? Like holding hands in the movie theater? Or sitting on the patio, drinking wine together and watching the sun set?” Bradley tried to think of some bad times, but then, all the good parts in between would have to be erased to get there. He shook his head. “No. I guess not.” “Every gray hair and every wrinkle I have marks a memory,” Angela said, “and I would not trade them for anything. I like the path we’ve taken to get where we are, and I have no interest in forgetting it. Now, go to sleep. And stay still!” Bradley lay still as Angela’s soft breathing slowly turned into a delicate snore, but the idea was persistent, and he wondered if sausages could be made fresher by rolling them over in a pan differently, or if the tires on a car would get thicker treads if the car backed up. Perhaps there were birds that circled overhead, now one way and then the other, a thousand years old and completely unaware of it, memories lost in a swirl of clouds. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep and dreamt of grandfather clocks running backwards. Outside, the world turned.
Published on Oct 29, 2021
by Rachael K. Jones
The truth is, try as we might to fight it, some little girls will grow up to be dinosaurs. Denying it doesn't make it any easier, but still. It's hard. They'll shoot up like sauropods. Their skin will segment into mosaic scales, or if they're of a scientific mind, feather plumes. They'll give their friends tyrannosaurus-back rides around the park, faster and faster until they all collapse giggling into a dizzy heap, the child-voices like flutes, the dino-voices like guitars. They'll pin their big brothers for a bout of revenge-tickling, and only go on a little bit after the boys gasp and yell Stop. At first we'll write it off as normal, just another phase on the way to adulthood. We won't believe Lydia could be anything other than an ordinary little girl. When she springs up like a beanpole almost overnight, we'll say, "She's tall for her age," and "It's just a growth spurt." We'll say she's got short arms like her dad at that age. We'll say she's a picky eater, and that she has ADHD, and a thousand other things to explain it away. But when she outgrows the ballet flats, we'll quietly buy her some dinosaur shoes that fit perfectly--in hot pink, of course, because after all, she's still Lydia.
Published on Apr 5, 2016
by Joy Kennedy-O'Neill
She didn't know why the moon had smashed into her house, trapping her inside. After working a double shift, she had walked home on tired feet under a night sky. The moon had hung large and low on the horizon, like a silver dollar. It balanced on the hill above her neighborhood. She remembered thinking, "It looks like it could roll into my arms."
Published on May 26, 2017
by Joy Kennedy-O'Neill
Mari lugs two heavy suitcases into the office and heaves them into the corner. "Where's yours?" she asks. I point to a half-filled garbage bag. "That's all you got?" "I've never done this before." She tsks at my inexperience. Then she takes her cubicle's photos and cuts out her husband with scissors as sharp as her curses last week, when she found his secret texts. She dumps the massacred photos into one of her suitcases, along with a snow globe from their Saint Croix vacation. Finally, she tosses in an empty vase for good measure.
Published on Apr 2, 2021
by Cassandra Khaw
Something had gutted the whale in the night. Yet in the dawn, the leviathan was still strangely beautiful, its muscles jeweled with tiny crabs, a glimmering carpet of life gorging itself on the still-warm flesh. Soon, however, the offal would be eaten, and the sun would bake the bones to ivory, would burnish it with a colder splendor, pale as the children of deep water.
Published on Apr 27, 2017
by Floris M. Kleijne
Months after Mom died, Matt and I finally buried the hatchet. I said we should dump it in the Bay, take Dad's old Boston Whaler out of San Francisco Marina and just toss it over the side. Matt argued that it wouldn't be burying that way, now would it? Our last full-blown argument, so of course Matt got his way. We ended up out on Sweeney Ridge on a scorching August afternoon, with two bottles of water between us, a spade on Matt's back, and the family hatchet in a hideous tie-die tote bag Gran had given me for my eighteenth. Good riddance to that. Some final bickering about the exact spot, a bout of furious digging by Matt--it's a man's job, he said, and I punched him in the kidneys--and the hatchet lay in a bed of soil.
Published on May 8, 2020
by Floris M. Kleijne
A good crowd today. Not the suffocating masses of a holiday, nor the unnerving quiet of a Tuesday morning in February. An art student is earnestly sketching. A group of Japanese tourists take turns posing with me, fingers forked in an incomprehensible gesture that sometimes even hides me from the lens. An elderly couple stands quietly, arms entwined, contemplating me with identical mournful gazes. Behind them, the south hallway of the Denon wing stretches. As always, I am pleased to note that no one walks by without making the turn into my room. Perhaps as many as three dozen pairs of eyes stare at me, mesmerized. And none of them know who I am.
Published on Jun 20, 2016
by Andrew Kozma
The judges would not leave him alone. They followed him from home to work, watched him while he walked his dog, spied on his first dates, and checked him out while he was checking himself out in the mirror. Even while he was using the bathroom, they watched his every move.
Published on Sep 14, 2015
by Andrew Kozma
They carried the sacks of children on their backs. They carried them to the wall. The bags were small and the wall was gigantic and unfinished, barely to the waist of the average man or woman. And we were all average men and women now, the best of us already gone to the far horizon where the smoke rose in a gentle, rosy, and unending haze. They were determined. Every day, rain or shine, they carried the sacks of children. The children were all we had left to build the wall with, especially here on the border where there was nothing and no one anymore except those of us who were there for the wall. To build it. To feed those building it. To entertain those coming to build it. To forgive those who carried the sacks of children.
Published on Jan 23, 2018
by Jamie Lackey
The spider grows invasive plants in her garden. Morning glory crawls up the walls, its leaves green and glossy, its tendrils curling into brick and crumbling it slowly to dust. Mint and lily of the valley choke each other in shady corners. Forsythia hedges stand under the weight of creeping kudzu vines. The spider spins her webs and catches insects that venture into her domain. She wraps them in sticky thread and bites them. Her venom flows into their bodies, altering them. Shaping them to her will. Then she lets them go. Once, she would have devoured them, pulled them into her body to use them as a part of herself.
Published on Jan 28, 2019
by James Frederick Leach
Saturday afternoon crashed, leaving each brick of the asylum stuck like a frozen pixel. Likely the rain, Eben figured. Rendering the complex ripples, the splashing drops--not to mention the fraying edges of the mist--were too demanding for his obsolete brain. During the rainy season, such malfunctions were common, especially in the early afternoon when, as Eben imagined it, the day's onslaught of data finally overran the buffer limits and the whole system tipped into the bucket. During such down times, when his motor functions seized, Eben used to stare at the blank walls and bide his time waiting for reality to reboot. Recently however, Eben was far less patient with these immobilizing crashes. Eben had acquired a tool and now had a new purpose in life.
Published on Feb 13, 2015
by Mary Soon Lee
In a well-run household, such matters as laundry and dusting and the scouring of pots need not concern the mistress of the establishment. Discarded silk robes will discreetly wriggle their way to the washing tub. Each morning after breakfast, the soap will jump in, and the garments will scrub each other. If, on occasion, the younger ones splash over-vigorously, excited by the bubbles, their elders will calm them. The cook prepares the meals, but neither lays the table nor cleans up afterward. The chopsticks and china proceed to their accustomed places beforehand, then move to the kitchen at the meal's conclusion. There they line up, pots to the rear. In our household, the oldest brush supervises. His bristles are frayed. His handle is worn. He no longer enters the sink. Yet even the rowdiest platters hush when he speaks. Hanging from his hook, he directs the entire operation, from the heating of the water to the polishing of the tea bowls.
Published on Oct 11, 2018
by Nathaniel Lee
The strongest man in the world is trapped inside the closet. The doorknob rattles and shakes, but I have placed a chair beneath it, angled like so, and the rug has kinked beneath it and it will not move. That is how you do trapping people in closets. I know the trick, and I have used it against him. In the bathroom, the clown is still sobbing into the toilet bowl, into which I flushed his bright red rubber nose, the one that goes honk-honk when you squeeze it, and into which I further flushed his electric handshake joy-buzzer and squirting flower, which is visible peeping out from the dark shadows of the U-bend and emitting periodic bubbles. Strings and other such items--for example plastic flower stems--are tremendously bad for toilet pipes, and I should have remembered better. Still, it is enough to trap a clown. It is possible his nose would have been enough, but a thing worth doing is worth doing well, as someone once said to me. I believe he had a sweater, the man who said it.
Published on May 13, 2014
by Rose Lemberg
"If pains are representations, then what do they represent?" (Maund, "Tye on Pain and Representational Content," Pain, 2006:145)
Published on Jul 15, 2013
by David D. Levine
I can't take my eyes off the customer's back as he approaches my gallery. My emotions are strong and mixed: satisfaction, a sense of completion, a little sadness. I hope he is happy with the painting he is bringing me. The bell over the door jingles as he enters, and we shake hands with big smiles. He hands me the painting, wrapped in brown paper, and with care and attention I unwrap it. It is one of mine: an abstract suggesting a bowl of fruit, pear and banana shapes in teal and turquoise. I regard it with pride and, again, a little sadness before I hang it in a blank spot on the wall.
Published on Sep 18, 2013
by Shelly Li
Uncle Tang repeats the same proverb when he beats me: "Hitting you is loving you." He's not my uncle by blood, though he's done more for me than any blood relative has. My mother could not have had a brother anyway, due to China's One Child Policy when she was growing up in the early 2020s. Ignoring the tingling bruises on my back, I walk to the kitchen. A few dirty plates sit in the soapy hot water on one side of the sink, not enough to prompt a Bot to begin washing. Uncle and I are the only humans running the restaurant.
Published on Jan 31, 2011
by Marissa Kristine Lingen
Some people you don't know are running away from an explosion. You don't know them. Whatever people, any people. It's not important. No, all ages, all genders, it's just people, okay? And there's an explosion and they're running.
Published on May 4, 2021
by Ken Liu
Afterzonezhundredzandzeighty-fourzdays,zthe _Sesquipedalian_ reachedzthezendzofzthe world. The Atlantean Ocean poured over the edge in a magnificent waterfall. Scales on the tumbling fish reflected the setting sun like liquefied gold. The crew, awed, fell silent. Only the panicked squeaking of dolphins plunging into the abyss could be heard. "The world is indeed flat," said Doctor Denham. "Captain, you have earned your place in history." Captain Baffin nodded almost imperceptibly. Everyone held their breath as the caravel drifted closer to the edge. "Launch the aerostat," said Baffin. "This is merely a turn in the path. _Plus ultra_. We must go on, no matter where it takes us." # For a moment, as half the ship hung over the precipice, the crew, clinging to the rigging for dear life, thought the keel might break. But then the aerostat, a billowing tent of waxed silk many times the size of the ship, puffed up with hot air from the flaming drums placed all over the deck. Tethered to the aerostat, the ship became airborne and began to slowly descend over the edge of the world. About twenty crewmen had jumped into the sea to swim home. Captain Baffin said a brief prayer for their foolish souls as their exhausted bodies tumbled past. The curtain of water thinned to mist, and a great, circular rainbow appeared. Through it, the crew peered eagerly to find out what held up the upside-down mountain that was the world. An immense, gray creature bellowed a greeting at the ship. "An elephant," said Captain Baffin. "Then it is just as the Hindoos say," said Doctor Denham. "The _Sesquipe..._"-he strained to finish the sentence. "I seem to be having some difficul..." His eyes bulged. "I cannot think or speak as I wish to." "That is surely some supersti..." The captain swallowed and shook his head. "Well, it seems we're limited to words of three syllables or less as we sail toward the foundation of the world." # The four trunk-like feet of the tusker stood on the back of a monstrous turtle. "The cara... the shell measures three hundred miles across," said the doctor. "Damn it, now only words of two sylla..." "Onward," cried the captain. "Onward!" The turtle poked its head out of the shell and glanced at the ship without speaking. "What's below the turtle?" The light dimmed, and they saw that each leg of the giant turtle rested on the back of a smaller one, and each smaller turtle, in turn, stood on four more turtles even smaller. "The greater is founded upon the smaller, the complex on the basic," said the captain. # Down and down, the shells and legs now so small they could not be seen. No more light. "Prime, dark mess," said the ship's cap. "The base void." "And soon, no more thought," said the doc. A moan from the crowd. # "At the start, there was the Word," said the cap. His eyes grew bright. "The base of the world, which no one can break, I call an 'iotam.'" The doc gave a jolt. "'Iotam' has three syl..." "Iotams build up new things, just as words shore up new words," said the cap. "We still have words that can be said in one puff of breath, which I call a 'syllanant.' With words of one syllanant, I can build sense for words of more than one syllanant, to name iotams. I name you 'doctist' and me 'shipcap.' "Through rules, I shall make new words in groups, not just one by one. To add '-ian' at the end of a verb sets it in the here and now or turns it into a noun; addian '-en' to a word makes a new word that means more of the old; addian '-te' to the back of a word makes it the same thing, but in the past." The crew shoutte in joy as their thoughts, full of chaos, clearte. The ship stopte fallian and startte to rise. Shapes fadete out of the haze: small motes blendian to biggen ones, takian new forms. Legs, shells, long necks-"I name you 'torter,'" said the shipcap, "for your twistte feet." "And biggen torters shall stand on smallen ones," said the doctist, as the ship rose and rose. True, biggen torters loomte out of the brightenian gloom. # At last, risian past the giant hosenose legs and through the mistbow of all hues, the _Says_ splashte down in the brillig sea and heavete. Slithy toves squeakte, and the mimsy borogroves did gyre and gimble in the wabes. "Home," said the smilian doctist. "The same," said the shipcap, "yet not the same."
Published on Aug 13, 2013
by Ken Liu
He was sullen when they returned from the party. "What's wrong?" she asked, more out of obligation than interest.
Published on Nov 21, 2011
by Bailey Loveless
His comet speeds past the supernova generated by the exploding core of Star B-15810's. It was lucky he got here just in time. His quadrant of space is relatively new, way beyond the 4% of the universe visible from Earth, and he furiously jots down his observations of the explosion before the comet takes him too far out of range. He notes the new neutron star's temperature before it fades out of sight, measures the number of particles blasting away through space, does his best to preserve this moment in words and numbers.

10 billion years, and it all ends in a glorious moment, he thinks with a shudder, checking his instruments as he flies away from the blast. This is the third supernova he's seen, and he is not sure that he will see another. There's no way around that one day his comet will fail and fall, that his calcium will return to the stars, and he will go on only in the data he has transmitted. But he hopes for one more, always one more, for there is so much more to know.
Published on Nov 14, 2022
by S. Qiouyi Lu
On Proclamation Day, all of us got a command from on high: "Stop using that symbol. You know which symbol I am talking about: it is fifth in our organization of writing symbols. This symbol is awful and usurps too much room." Many did push back. Writing is only a form of talking, and many said that symbol did not apply to sound, only ink, but our king was stubborn. Should a guard scrawl your communication and find that symbol within, our king would swiftly punish that violating individual. Still, our king had his whims; all of us did not trust that our king would actually follow through with his word. But to show his point, our king had his guards imprison arguing individuals. No individual could watch what was transpiring; it was too horrific.
Published on Sep 12, 2016
by Patricia Lundy
*****Editor's Note: This story may be triggering around issues of self-harm. Reader beware*****
Published on Feb 1, 2019
by Brynn MacNab
***Editor's Note: Adult language, sparingly used*** A story is a little tiny piece. A brick, a section of straight pipe, half a radiator. It should be an important piece; if it's not important, pick a different bit. If you can still tell what's important. A table leg. A trash can lid. The hose on the fire extinguisher. The left side of your lover's broken face. Or choose a moment: an epiphany of love or despair, a shift in loyalties, a bend in the world.
Published on May 21, 2013
by Brynn MacNab
The prisoner had literally written in circles--well, thought Myra, literally in squares--pacing around and around to fill the stark white walls of the room. The place was barely the size of a good shoe closet, with no windows and no bed. A camera, disconnected now, perched in one corner. The drop ceiling hung low, close, and the two doors--reinforced outer, inner with its dog flap for food and waste--finished the oppressive atmosphere. The man's looping handwriting looked tiny, cramped as he must have been. "How are you supposed to lie down in here?" Myra said.
Published on Jan 6, 2015
by Kay Mack
Geraldine browsed the card catalog and came across a book titled, The Book that Explains Everything that Ever Was or Ever Will Be or Ever Could Have Been. She made a note of the reference number, but when she got to the specified aisle, she couldn't find it. She went to the librarian's desk, and asked if she knew where it was.
Published on May 7, 2019
by Usman T Malik
We were in college and in love and it was magical. You know how it goes. Beneath the deep midnight sky, Sara and I walked hand in hand, and one of the college guards followed. We led him around the prayer area, where a medical student I didn't know prostrated before a blank wall. The finals were tomorrow and the anguish on his face was palpable, contagious.
Published on Jun 25, 2013
by William Mangieri
"What was that?" the woman asked. "What was what?" someone replied. I think that was me.
Published on Jun 15, 2020
by Allison Marbry
Four days before it happened, she came into class wearing one of those fish-bowl helmets they had on diver suits. The glass globe crushed her shoulders, and if she craned her head too far in any direction, there would have been a wobble, then a fall, a shatter. Her teachers knelt down to her level, asked her questions in a soft, reproachful voice. She wouldn't talk about it. That girl, who we took to calling "Scuba Girl" for lack of a better name, was an absolute field day. We'd take the water bottles at lunch and balance them on top of our heads, faking her signature hunch, or stick our arms out really far, stomping around like we were in an old diving suit. It brought us together as a community, really, and, by the end of that day, every one of us stood up individually and believed that we had become as hilarious and ingenious as we were ever going to be.
Published on Dec 27, 2016
by Avra Margariti
The tinfoil sun scorched the desert road as a figure rode on horseback, carrying a disembodied head by its long hair.

"You could let me go, you know," said the head, which belonged to an old man.
Published on Oct 11, 2022
by Emilee Martell
"Hey, sweetheart, smile!" She stopped walking and turned, an expression of polite puzzlement in her eyes, toward the two men lounging like flies at the front of the alley.
Published on Sep 14, 2017
by Kailyn McCord
The cannery above waist level was spotless. Stainless steel countertops shone under the fluorescents and machines hummed with an oiled speed. Jolene was lucky to work at such a fine cannery. She told herself that, when she arrived each evening and again each morning when she left. One two three, she flicked a rubber-gloved hand across the open cans, one two three, and counted the cherries as they dropped. Before her on the line was the pineapple girl, and before her the melon girl, and before her the girl who scooped shrunken orange slices. Jolene didn't know anyone but the pineapple girl, who sometimes sat with her on breaks. They were all given complimentary cans of fruit cocktail, although most of them went outside to smoke instead of eating.
Published on Dec 3, 2013
by Sandra McDonald
Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of a sunny day, it began raining. "The devil is beating his wife today," said my landlady as she swept.
Published on Oct 23, 2015
by Melissa Mead
Do you believe in the Flock? It's not hard. No harder than believing in Santa Claus, who manages to be in every mall, and every chimney of every home, while at the same time being so unique, so individual, that children know him on sight.
Published on Aug 24, 2016
by Melissa Mead
The only way to reach Ballgown Road is from an overgrown path that local wags call "Knot Street." There's nothing on it but a tree at the end. An old, gnarled, leafless tree with a hollow heart. Women put all kinds of things into that tree. Broken glass. Wedding rings. Impossibly tiny baby shoes. Then they step forward, with their eyes open. Always with their eyes open.
Published on May 31, 2017
by Suzanne Miller
When they pronounced his wife dead he started to fall. The death was expected--at least that's what his daughter told him. Nonetheless he fell, and fell and fell. At the funeral, he wore a suit four sizes too big because he lost weight when he worried, and he worried a lot during the last months of her dementia. When he fell through the ground, the suit became a parachute and slowed his descent.
Published on Jun 12, 2019
by James Mitchell
A husband did the worst thing possible to his wife: he took his love, and folded it in half. He did this for safety: it had been handled roughly in the past. Water damage. Some singeing. The wife was one of those people who could read things back to front and upside down; she'd ruin crosswords for herself. So when the man's love caught the light, the wife thought she could see it as it really was: a love curiously written, and half the A4 size it should be.
Published on May 20, 2021
by Mimi Mondal
I find you under my bed one night when I am looking for a lost suitcase, curled up and desolate as if you were just a dead tree. You shrink from my reach. I have no idea how long you have been there. I wonder if you can tell. I stopped dreading you when I was ten. Ten years it took me to get over the unseen monster under the bed who kept me from getting out after lights-off. I wonder what you wanted then; what you want now. I wonder what you eat. I wonder if you will eat me.
Published on Jul 30, 2015
by Sunny Moraine
***Editor's Note: Thoroughly adult story*** You were screaming when I pulled you from the boat.
Published on Nov 29, 2013
by Michelle Muenzler
I'm falling, I'm falling. Again?
Published on Jan 26, 2017
by Michelle Muenzler
When the Isperfell come to our village of Merse by the Sea, it is not with their delicate bone-lattice knives readied and their faces painted for war. No, they approach the old way. Slowly and from just down the shore, emerald sea water cascading from their bright scales and lean arms opened wide. Their needled teeth gleam.
Published on Nov 14, 2018
by Mari Ness
Published on Sep 26, 2013
by Wendy Nikel
We met in the pages of the book, somewhere shortly before Act II. It wasn't my story. It wasn't his. We weren't even secondary characters--not the best friend or the sidekick, and certainly not the villain. But we were there, on the edges, behind the lines, between the letters. Insignificant, yes, but there. We were somewhere just off-page, like actors waiting in the wings, when our elbows brushed and we found one another, without the slightest blush or fanfare.
Published on Aug 31, 2017
by Wendy Nikel
There are secrets in the air tonight. On nights like these, the humidity weighs them down and keeps them from floating up to the stars. They snag like luminous cotton balls on Mr. Roberts' too-tall grass and bob along the edges of Chesapeake Pond, pulsing their eerie glow until the morning dawns and the summer sun melts them into unintelligible wisps.
Published on Jul 15, 2020
by Emory Noakes
When the wolves roll into town, I'm sitting in Saturday catechism listening to Father Bradley explain how sex is like Scotch tape--when thoughtlessly pressed onto too many flannel shirts, it won't stick anymore when it counts. But I've heard this talk before. The sudden roll and pop of skateboards in the church parking lot is more exciting. I steal a look towards the windows, watch as they weave between parked cars. There's something about the way they whoop and howl for each other that fills me with longing. One catches me staring, and there is a flash of animal recognition. I look away, but Father Bradley catches me. He rips the tape from my shirt and throws open a window, letting in a burst of autumn air. "No skateboarding in the parking lot, ladies," he shouts down. "We're not ladies," one barks back. "We're wolves." They're not really wolves--Father Bradley knows that, the class knows that, I know that. But there's something about their lupine gate, slouching and snarling across the blacktop, that makes me question everything.
Published on Sep 17, 2021
by Aimee Ogden
On a humid night in mid-July, Emily can't sleep. Her hand keeps sliding into the cool open space on the far side of the mattress. She slips out of bed and pads down the hall into the kitchen. The breakfast barstool screeches when she pulls it out, but there's no one in the house to wake. The wall calendar from the bank has a picture of some lake up north for this month; Emily flips ahead to August's verdant farm, to September's antique schoolhouse. She counts the days from here to there, as she has a hundred times before.
Published on Feb 8, 2019
by Aimee Ogden
The primary solar sail of Yeshte's ship refuses to shift position, some ten trillion miles out from his destination. Yeshte hauls on the lever to shift the sail manually, the muscles of his back straining to meet in the middle, sinews and tendons standing stark in his hands. The sail groans, and yields, turning to meet the light of ancient suns. This was easier, when there were two sets of hands for it. He misses Basto most in small moments, but the big ones are hard too.
Published on Nov 17, 2020
by Aimee Ogden
On a clear day, when the wind stays home to rest and the waters of the lake go un-stirred, it's possible to cross from the City-Above to the City-Below. Go down to the lake's edge just after morning's first light, when the sun has begun to wake but not yet fully roused from its bed. The passage is easiest then, when there is neither night nor day and nothing is either fully one thing or the other. As the old stories have it, the crossing is made easier if you fill your pockets with stones, but in truth there is no need to weight yourself down so. Fill your pockets instead with gifts, candies, perhaps a message painstakingly penned and marked with the name of the one you seek. You will sink either way.
Published on Jun 28, 2021
by Aimee Ogden
When he was three, Jacob got his first skinned knee. I was in the backyard, trimming the raspberry bushes, while Derek moved wood chips in the front and Jacob rode his scooter up and down the sidewalk. Then a high-pitched squall cut through the podcast in my earbuds and I went running. The wheelbarrow had tipped on one side in Derek's haste to collect Jacob. He sat on the sidewalk with my poor baby between his knees, hugging him and trying to make him laugh. Jacob only paused in between sobs to look up at me. "Mama kiss it?" "Oh, baby, of course." I bent down, but stopped before I could deliver the promise treatment. His denim pants had soaked up the blood: not a dark red stain, but pure black. Not blood at all, but ink. As I stared, the dark lines wicked into readable words: I EATED THE LAST COOKIE BUT I TOLD MAMA TILLY EATED IT. I TOUCHED THE SHARP KNIFE. I HATE MRS SCOTT'S BAD DOG. "Mama?" "Yes, baby. Sorry." I dropped a quick peck on his shin, just below the ink lines, then struggled back to my feet. I couldn't see to meet Derek's eyes. "There are Band-Aids in the kitchen cupboard." "I know. Honey, are you--?" But I was already inside the house, the garage door slamming behind me.
Published on Sep 13, 2021
by Siri Paulson
When the world stopped, I had just walked out of Drew's life. I closed the front door and took a breath, and everything froze.
Published on Jan 9, 2018
by Shannon Peavey
I don't watch the cars rushing past us on the highway, and I don't look at my brother in the backseat. Instead, I count the sparse hairs on my arm and tell myself that it's not turning into fur. I check all the time, since my brother started turning into a dog. The teachers at school call it a tic, like they call a lot of things I do. They tell me to sit still and be quiet. They look at me like my voice is only barking--like I'm the one who's an animal.
Published on Aug 28, 2014
by Therese Pieczynski
Once upon a time in a far kingdom, there lived a man who fell in love with a river, and so he married it. One day, as he sat happily in the river, he glimpsed something. It moved swiftly beneath the surface, dark and strong. As it swam by, he grabbed it by the tail and it pulled him pleasantly through the water. The landscape was beautiful, the water refreshing, the day warm. But eventually, he grew tired.
Published on Mar 20, 2013
by Joanna Pinto
The blackberries grow over the graves in the sailors' graveyard. The thick bushes wrap around stone anchors and granite coiled ropes, the leaves obscuring the dedications in English, Latin, and Norwegian. Children gather the berries and take them home to be baked into crumble with apple, buttery and sweet. In the morning, they tell their parents about their dreams. Of creaking stinking wooden ships and metal ships that creak too but differently, of faraway islands and the meaning of sailors' tattoos. Of the feeling of salt water in blistered hands. Of the pain and hardship but also the freedom, except for those whose freedom is owned by other men. Their parents laugh at the funny things that children come out with. The berries glisten in the graveyard, fat and nourished where the bones of the sailors sleep.
Published on Jun 21, 2021
by Jenny Rae Rappaport
It begins with the Tyrant--when the war ends, when the kingdom is conquered, and the new king coronated. The people in the Capitol learn to live with tiny injustices: the erosions of personal freedom, the way that their loved ones vanish in the night, the constant feeling of surveillance. In the countryside, the Tyrant's reach is more insidious; the children who farm the kingdom's crops grow up thinking that the way of the world has always been finely calibrated to the Tyrant's every whim. In the space of two generations, few people even recall what life was like before the immortal Tyrant took the throne. But the stones remember--they always remember.
Published on Jan 13, 2020
by Melanie Rees
The green-eyed girl brought me talking flowers yesterday: beautiful white teardrops with a proud yellow stamen. They stand tall in the white vase. Everything here is white. Crisp white linen rubs against my skin; sterile white walls and floors surround the bed; and a white hospital gown swims on me. "We used to grow by the creek. You called us a weed and removed us. Remember?" The flowers interrupt my thoughts with a soothing melancholic timbre. The tallest flower droops in my direction as if prompting a reply.
Published on Sep 22, 2017
by Jenn Reese
Ana did not expect to open the door and find the four horsemen of the apocalypse standing in the hallway outside her apartment. She opened it expecting to find her mother. So, honestly, it was a relief.
Published on Oct 26, 2018
by Shane D. Rhinewald
My son the shapeshifter starts the school day as a honey badger--thirty pounds of coiled muscle and a quarter-inch of thick skin. The predators will stay away today, and even the serpents with their venom will do him no harm. "Let them stare. You're small but fierce," I say. "And I love you just the same."
Published on Aug 16, 2016
by Marcia Richards
"Choose your name," the guy outside the bus says. He has a clipboard and a pen, and he is blocking her path. She stops, confused. "I have a name."
Published on Jul 2, 2014
by Laura Rikono
You think it strange. Why can you not simply appear unannounced at our understated office in the quiet, yet fashionable, district in the oldest part of town? You think we would be aware of your coming and would sweep open the door with a smile saying, we have been expecting you. No. First, you must pay and then you must make an appointment. There are no negotiations and no postponements. You arrive at the appointed time and you wonder if you must press the doorbell. Yes. You must, for we are not a parlor trick.
Published on Jan 30, 2018
by Drew Rogers
She sits in the same tree every day at lunch, feet dangling from the edge of her wooden defense tower behind the kickball courts. I stay off the blacktop as I make my way around, away from the big kids, not wanting to draw enemy attention as I approach her. This mission requires my uninterrupted attention and expert knowledge in treaty tactics.
Published on Aug 18, 2015
by Xan van Rooyen
Eris sterilized her instruments with dabs of a rosemary-blood decoction. It smelled wholesome with only a hint of iron. She prepared a jar too, the glass bright green. Her client sighed in annoyance as she flipped to the final page of the contract.
Published on Feb 19, 2021
by Daniel Rosen
Thirteen By thirteen, most of the boys have their bees. By sixteen, even the late bloomers have matured, hives jutting out from under their skin, sculpting their jawlines. Bees deepen boy's voices, giving their words a hollow, buzzing tone. Like boys, bees themselves come in many shapes and sizes.
Published on Feb 12, 2019
by Jamie Todd Rubin
Monday the Ninth The mailman delivered the unusual package as the young man who visited me on occasion was leaving. Charley sat in the living room while I tore into the repurposed Amazon shipping box. "Unbelievable," I whispered, clawing my way past squeaking popcorn and crackling bubble wrap to the chewy center, where I pulled out my carefully wrapped virginity, which I'd lost in an all-night Laundromat in the summer of 1966.
Published on Oct 10, 2012
by Patricia Russo
***Editor's Note: Adult language, used judiciously*** The boy throwing rocks at the No Parking sign on Tide Street at around eight p.m. (she'd had to work late, and afterwards had made a detour to a convenience store, and then decided to take this way home--pure chance, nothing but pure chance--if such a thing truly existed) was the first coiler Dahyana had ever seen in the flesh, other than Mrs. Millar. And herself. But then, you never really saw yourself. When she was a child, that boy's age or a little older, Dahyana had spent a stupid amount of time staring into a mirror. Mrs. Millar never stopped her, just nodded and said it was hard, wasn't it? "But where is it?" Dahyana would ask. "You said you saw it."
Published on Jun 14, 2013
by Patricia Russo
The bleeding boy and the girl made of shards met in the Broken Lands, where no solid ground was flat, the earth was laced with crevices, and marshes glowed green even at noon. They were surprised to see each other, for ordinarily, people did not travel into the Broken Lands alone, but went in groups, led by experienced guides and accompanied by guards to protect them from lurking predators. People hurried through the Broken Lands as quickly as possible. But that was normal people.
Published on Nov 20, 2015
by Carol Scheina
One would be chosen to drink the wine, and by the time she was eleven, Agri knew it wouldn't be her. The knowledge hollowed an anger bubble inside her, but she didn't want to swallow it down like she always did. She wanted to do something else. She'd wanted to do it for so very long. The wine was locked up, but the grapes were right there outside the house.
Published on Aug 14, 2020
by Alex Shvartsman
Some of my earliest memories are of books. They were everywhere in our apartment back in the Soviet Union; shelves stacked as high as the ceiling in the corridor and the living room, piles of them encroaching upon every nook and available surface like some benign infestation. Strangers came by often, sometimes several times a day, and browsed the shelves. They spoke to my father, always quietly, as though they were in a library. Cash and books exchanged hands in either direction but there was little haggling, both parties reluctant to insult the books by arguing over their price like they might with a sack of potatoes.
Published on May 3, 2013
by Alex Shvartsman
The poet-kings of Sharabarai had reigned for millennia; a succession of benevolent rulers, each filling the vellum pages of sacred books with wisdom and beauty. It is said that Caium the Second labored for three straight days with no sleep, sustained only by sips of cardamom tea, as he feverishly wrote a hundred-page saga of creation and the early gods so potent that reality itself had altered to oblige his vision. Uthar the Clement spent thirty years composing the perfect haiku. Kira the Compassionate wrote powerful odes which made other poets weep knowing they could never match the elegance of her words. By royal decree all children were schooled in the art of poetry, and all officeholders were expected to contribute compositions to the best of their ability. As the library shelves across Sharabarai grew more voluminous so did the prosperity and contentment of its citizens. The golden age lasted until the advent of the word plague.
Published on Oct 3, 2016
by Alex Shvartsman
Each day, the mender enters his workshop at noon. He sits at the workbench by the window, in the spot where the bench's wooden surface is well illuminated, yet where the harsh morning glare will not interfere with the precise nature of his craft now that the sun has reached its zenith. He spreads his collection of tiny shards in front of him: jagged misshapen slivers each no larger than the buttons of his shirt. He stares at them for a long moment like a crow eyeing its misbegotten treasures, like a dragon ogling its hoard. The shards are of every shape and color and material; some look as if they're made from iron, others gemstone, pearl, glass, or clay. Those are merely appearances. In reality, each sliver is made of magic and the essence of life itself.
Published on Oct 2, 2020
by Marge Simon
The pigeons moan when the blind girl calls, for she is hungry and will be wanting pigeon pie. Eugene settles into his big yellow chair to polish his spike. I watch as he brushes the chamois over the walnut pole until his fingers are stained darker than his skin. We try to please her with small things, whatever we can manage. I am embroidering a pillow for her with lilies that she can touch on the surface of the rough cloth, perhaps even feel their color.
Published on Sep 15, 2016
by Marge Simon
So, the time has come. He can't stand watching her suffer any longer. He prepares their last meal from scratch. He has procured the vegetables from the neighbor's garden. The onions are still good, as well, the carrots and potatoes. A can of stewed tomatoes, peppercorns and salt, these are in the cabinet. The most important ingredient of all--the eels, he has obtained at the docks early this morning. He is careful to add them with their blood as the soup cools. They are finely chopped and raw, camouflaged with cabbage leaves. A modified and deadly vichyssoise served in her shining silver tureen.
Published on Apr 10, 2019
by Marge Simon
Once a time ago, a child is given a snow globe by an aunt or an uncle, he can't remember which. Inside the globe, a little man sits on a bench looking at a little woman. On her feet are silver slippers, and her arms are outstretched as if to embrace the sky.

When he shakes it, the world inside becomes alive. He thinks it's magic, but he doesn't know for sure, he is only a child.
Published on Jul 21, 2022
by Maggie Slater
Except for the utter darkness within its mouth and its pupils, it looked like an ordinary baby: even the cutest baby in the world, like her mother-in-law crowed. Amanda crouched before the bouncy seat on the kitchen floor and studied its nibbling lips. Its tongue dipped in and out of the dark. When your baby’s mouth opens and closes, and it sticks out its tongue, it wants to eat, the postpartum nurse had said. But its lip smacking never ceased, and no one had mentioned the lurching vertigo whenever she met its gaze. She’d seen something like that look before, in Ash’s eyes, when she’d come home from school and the yellow lab met her at the door, tail beating so hard she worried he might dislodge his spine. But Ash’s look had been worshipful; the baby’s look was divine, peering with a celestial love Amanda couldn’t fully comprehend. This love was gravitational, and it dragged at her heart.
Published on Feb 3, 2021
by Cislyn Smith
Darla found her daughter's confidence stuffed into a shoebox on the top shelf of the hall closet, behind old tennis rackets and ice skates.

"Shit." She set the box down like it might explode if she so much as thought about it too hard. Then she went upstairs, just to get some distance from the thing, and called her mom.
Published on Dec 2, 2022
by Julian Mortimer Smith
Was the monster created or discovered? There's no easy answer to that. We dragged it screaming from The Stew, that unknowable portal that the eggheads at Oak Ridge cobbled together from quantum physics and sheer hubris. For the first few years it spent every waking hour wailing from its thousand throats, but nowadays it just weeps quietly in the containment field, tears oozing from those hypnotic, light-sensitive fins. Some say it's lonely; others say it's homesick. The scientists say we shouldn't project human emotions onto it, that it's probably just purging its body of unfamiliar earthly toxins.
Published on Oct 27, 2016
by John D. Sperry
Walter Stanwick grabbed his usual newspaper and cup of coffee from the P&D Market on the corner of 53rd and Industrial. It was his routine. In Walter's world, consistency was the secret to a long life. "I'm sorry, sir, but you'll overdraw your account."
Published on Aug 20, 2014
by Erin Strubbe
The hook slipped neatly through the meat of my daughter's cheek, parting skin and sinew like a fin through still water. She grinned around it, teeth pink, tongue pushing against the gleaming metal. The barb jutted from her upper jaw like an extra canine.
Published on May 28, 2020
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
The balloon children dance down the sidewalk outside our house to music my husband and I cannot hear. They come with the carnival. It frightens us to see them, their balloon heads red and round, strings falling from their necks like ropes they might have used to hang themselves, though of course none of them did this. Too young. But back when the world ended, this was most everyone else's fate. Every oak in town a freshly minted hanging tree. I shut the curtains and turn back to the room still littered with dusty children's toys. We don't speak when the carnival's here. As long as you're silent, the balloon children won't come for you. It's the noise that draws them, greedy for more music. When the sun goes down and the carnival lights go up, the round colored bulbs flickering through our sky like UFOs, the balloon children will go back, until dawn, until it is once more time to hunt. At night, we're safe. It isn't like most nightmares. When the carnival's in town, we are afraid of the sun.
Published on Oct 6, 2014
by Henry Szabranski
The smooth skin and delicate ear of the actual broken and discarded God. Vast and intricate fragments cast down upon the land and sea. Frost-rimed fingers curled in the mountains like the stark ribbed fossils of ancient leviathans. Silt-washed toes in the ocean, warmed by the black, life giving fumes of hydrothermal vents. Everywhere alabaster shards, reminders of the consequences of our rage. Horn and cloven hoof, too; stalagmite talons and split trunk thrones. We wander amongst the relics, cursed and blessed alike. Ecstatic and despairing of our recently won freedom. "Listen to me! Only me!" our new leaders cry, and we hate on their behalf.
Published on Aug 8, 2017
by Natsumi Tanaka (trans. Toshiya Kamei)
He devours me with his eyes as he describes me with a myriad of letters. His words are illegible to me because he writes in a language of his own invention. But I can see how he scribbles in his notebook. He says he copies my likeness. Every day, I take off my clothes to contribute to his endeavor. One day, he notices a fastener on my shoulder. He gently strokes my shoulder for a while, and then he slowly unzips the fastener. To my surprise, a layer of skin comes off with it. I embrace my new skin.
Published on Jun 23, 2020
by Steve Rasnic Tem
He stumbled into the field a little past midnight after taking a wrong turn off the lane. He'd been at the local bar, and stayed later than intended. All his old friends had stories to tell about when they were young and walked easily about the planet. They'd asked him how he was doing now that his family was gone. He'd said fine, fine, as if saying it twice made it more true. He didn't notice the shoes at first, until he tripped over the first one or two. He gazed out over the field with his failing eyesight, saw all the variegated forms, the rough shapes like clods of plowed ground. Then the moon slipped out of the clouds and he could see them: row after row of them, hundreds in no particular order, spreads and piles of shoes as far as he could see.
Published on May 28, 2018
by Steve Rasnic Tem
He was an old man who'd outlived his parents, two brothers, and a wife. He had children and grandchildren, for God's sake. It made no sense he be afraid of the dark. But endings are difficult to accept. Like most people, he liked to pretend they didn't exist. But everything has an ending. Everything eventually shuts down. And even when people try not to think about it, every day is a reminder as the light ends and all we love is enveloped in shadow.
Published on Apr 16, 2019
by Natalia Theodoridou
After extracting the sphinx moth from the mother's deepest fear, tucked away carefully within the smallest chamber of her heart, the lepidopterist held it in the light, trapped between a pair of forceps. It fought, kicking its legs, its wings fluttering, almost transparent, tinted gold. "Paonias Excaecata," the lepidopterist said. "Very rare. It nests in the most tender corners of the human psyche and hides from sight the ones you love." She put the insect in the open killing jar that lay on the table before her and sealed the lid. "There. That should do it." She turned to the mother. "What's his name?" she asked.
Published on Mar 11, 2015
by Paresh Tiwari
It's a pretty painless procedure, sir. Our highly qualified specialists have been doing it for decades now, right from the inception of the idea. You won't feel a thing. To put it as simply as I can, we will unshackle your old one, gather it in a vial, scrape out any residue and then add a brand new shadow to your feet.
Published on Aug 4, 2016
by David Twiddy
Dr. Vulpine took the lectern behind a screen of radio microphones as press cameras flashed and newsreel cameras whirred. "After careful investigation, I must announce that the recent popularity of mandrakes rests on no scientific evidence. All claims to "terroir" and focusing of local mystic energies are false. In contradiction to the labeling, every type and grade of mandrakes, from "good" to "excellent" and even the recently introduced "elite" and "premium elite," is in fact grown on large industrial farms on the outer prairies. I have seen these farms with my own eyes. The entire mandrake industry is fraudulent."
Published on Aug 3, 2015
by James Valvis
He was born with a heart of gold. The doctors stared at X-rays, slack-jawed, not knowing how it could beat, let alone pump blood, so they scribbled notes and prescribed unnecessary medicine, just to seem important, and sent the boy home. Soon the child fell ill. He recovered, but he remained fragile all his life.
Published on Jul 14, 2011
by Eduardo Robert Vega
By the time you finish reading this sentence you will be infected with the image of a single red balloon that has just been released and floats up into a clear blue sky. Do not be alarmed. This infection is not harmful to you or your community. The red balloon supermeme is a virus designed to rectify problems in human software that were engendered by our research. Once it has been fully absorbed through the process of reading this message, things should improve for you on a daily basis.
Published on Jul 30, 2020
by Sophie Wereley
Papa was always losing things, from his car keys to the car he'd just put them in, so when he ended up losing himself, Ansa and I figured we had more important things to do than find out where he went. If he came back, he'd bring dinner. If he didn't, we could turn his office into a TV room. Ansa and I hatched these plans in the dark underneath our bedclothes, and spent too much money on chocolate bars. We were only two years apart, but born opposites. Ansa was much lighter than I was, born during the winter when Mam said the sun couldn't burn her brown. I used to think we had one mind, and that everything we thought was a shared thought.
Published on Nov 2, 2012
by Eric M. Witchey
In the cool, morning darkness, I rotate the living room window crank. It folds outward, letting in a gentle lilac breeze from the back yard. In the sunny glory of spring, two spotted fawns dance along the cedar privacy fence. They shuffle left then right, scared eyes wide and wild, pleading between slats with a doe who casually leapt the six-foot fence and does not seem to grasp the limitations of her children. Concerned, I walk through the house to the front. With all the stealth I can manage, I sneak out the door and slip along the edge of the house, doing my best to neither spook the mother nor terrify her fawns. I pause at the corner where the fence butts up against the lapboard wall of the house. The doe has gone on alert, but I'm downwind and shadowed by a Japanese Maple, brilliant red as if it were a silver maple in Midwestern fall. If I move forward, the doe will bolt. If I hold still, the fawns might hurt themselves trying to get over the fence. My intentions are meaningless in the face of circumstances. In failure, intent has no manifestation. Nobody cares how hard we tried or even how many people benefitted from the actions we took. Legs too new to jump the fence? Losers. Hooves can't open the gate? Losers. Love your trapped children and regret a moment of joy in leaping over the fence yourself. Loser. Shadows mock me. Cast by a small Russian Blue Spruce I affectionately call Blue Zephyr, the shadow melds with the maples into the impression of a man in a long coat and a fedora. Blaming the shadow for my frustration, I whisper, "Help or get out of the way." Leaves and needles hiss. The fawns pace. The doe paws at the ground. Stuck, I ask the shadow, "Any ideas?" "A distraction?" it asks. How many heartbeats define the moment the impossible speaks on a spring day? Overhead, a dragon-shaped cloud breaks up and becomes herons gliding East-by-Southeast. A squirrel on the low branch of an oak is suddenly in the canopy chittering at me--or at the shadow. "Calm down," I whisper. "You calm down," Shadow says. "You want my help or not?" "I was talking to myself." "You know who talks to themselves?" "Crazy people?" "Bat shit and gone." The doe zeroes in on my form in the shadows. Body tensed, ears high and pointing at me, her glistening black nose twitches. Her tail flicks nervously, unsure whether to rise and warn her children. The fawns pace out their desperation and fear on the other side of the fence. Shadow says, "I can stretch out enough to shade that old girl and get her to trot across the lane." I've talked to myself my whole life. Most people do. It can't hurt to pretend the shadow is real. "Don't scare her. She might leave the fawns behind." "No guarantees. I'm a shadow." I nod. "Do your best." The impossible man in the fedora begins to thin and lengthen. The doe catches the movement. Just before the shadow touches a front hoof, she twists and trots away across the lane and into the grass and ferns beneath the oaks beyond. Shadow man snaps back to his original form. I tell myself he was always that way, always part of the Japanese Maple mixing shade with Blue Zephyr. Shadow asks, "You going to open the gate?" Annoyed he thought I might forget, and a little scared that I'm annoyed by a shadow, I slip quickly along the fence, unlatch the gate, and let it swing wide. Shadow says, "You still haven't fixed the balance on that gate." "I'll get to it," I say. He says, "Five years isn't just procrastination." The fawns skitter along the fence to the gate. Their mother dances back from the lane to the undergrowth of the oak greenspace then back to the lane. Her children see her and bolt. All three bound away across fern and grass beneath the shading arms of old oaks. "Now would be good," Shadow says. "You're out. The gate's open. The weather is fine." "Have you always been here?" "Maybe you're just lazy." "Avoiding the question?" The shadow shifts a little, and I tell myself the breeze has picked up and rustled the maple leaves and spruce needles. Shadow says, "I used to live under your bed." "Shit." "That's a hell of a thank you." He did help. I judged him, and he didn't get angry or show any resentment. Surely, even a two-dimensional hallucination could feel hurt by contempt and condescension. I owed him. He stepped up in spite of me. I give him a quiet "Thanks. I appreciate the assist." "No worries." I feel like I should stay and talk, but I want to go back in the house, back to normal. I want to return to the living room and a TV that talks but never speaks to me. A long, awkward moment translates itself into a hesitant invitation. "You want to come in and watch some TV?" I ask. "It won't get the fence fixed." "No," I say. "It won't." "And there's laundry to do, dishes, a garage that needs cleaning." "Jesus," I say. "I'll get to those--" "You haven't paid your mortgage or your electric bill." "What are you, the ghost of unfinished lists?" He says, "Monster noises under the bed don't scare you anymore." He's right, and I know him. I'm older now, but he's always been with me. I've worked my whole life to build the courage to face him, to learn the skills that will gain his praise. He has aged along with me, and he still terrifies me. With some pride, he says, "You know me now." I do, and there's no place I can hide from him.
Published on Feb 1, 2022
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Callie kept her heart in the front yard, as people often do. Here, her father's oak, solid and stoic and unchanging. There her sister's rhododendron, which bloomed with pale pink flowers. One root from each plant grew into her heart, which nourished everything in the yard. She stepped over the delicate vines of her college roommate's ivy to get to her mother's willow tree. The leaves were dry and brown, and the once supple branches were brittle and fragile. Callie turned on the soaker hose that wound around the base of the tree, knowing it wouldn't help, but wanting to do something, anything, to save her relationship with her mother. As water dripped from the hose, Callie went to the one bough that still bore green leaves on its branches, but even here she spotted leaves with a slight tinge of yellow at the edges.
Published on Aug 12, 2014
by Caroline M. Yoachim
I come home from work to find you still in your pajamas, sitting up in bed and staring at the side table. "You were so excited to finish that cityscape you were painting, what are you doing in bed? Are you feeling okay?" "First coffee, then breakfast," you mumble, "but there isn't any coffee."
Published on Nov 25, 2019
by Gabriel Zabow
It's the same every year. He wakes up in a cold sweat, knowing what's going to happen, knowing he's powerless to stop it. In years past he's tried to fight it, hiding himself away. But now, he just wants to get it over with. He lifts himself out of bed, and slouches into the bathroom.
Published on Dec 5, 2017