No Gods Here

Pale water rose and fell against the hull of my boat. The lonely ocean longed for color; all was gray, from the sky to the cold sea. Though my destination was said to be only two miles from the coast, fog wrapped around my solitary vessel—I had the sensation of getting nowhere but lost. If not for my compass, and faith that this land mass existed against the advice of all maps, I would have been.

I was glad to have left the company of the native tribe. The way their eyes stared, the knowing in them—too harsh for my subconscious to ignore. Though I knew they only followed lore and superstition, second guessing the risk of going where no one else would clouded my enthusiasm.

A dark mass appeared in the haze. It seemed my money and troubles had been worthwhile. This tiny rock in the sea was before me. I was there.

Jagged volcanic rock populated the landscape. No signs of life, plant or otherwise. The great chapel didn’t take long to find. Its oversized entrance was built tall enough for the gods to walk through unhindered. Inside, its vaulted ceiling reached into darkness above. Faint illumination entered the structure, no glass saints adorned its design. Only a stone block altar featured any symbolism of worship. A great triangle hung in thin air. No chains suspended it, nothing rested beneath to hold its weight. Magic, I’d heard. But I knew better.

Dust clouded around my boots as I approached. Each footfall shortened my journey, brought me closer to the mystifying object. My palms moistened. After all the knowledge I’d gained throughout my hunt, I still had no revelation as to its purpose. I reached out and put my hand against it. Unlike its cold stone surroundings, it radiated heat. My lips curled in anticipation of discovering its function.

Then a strange feeling arrested my entire body. Both feet lifted from the floor and I rose, weightless, hovered in the air alongside the object. Elation inspired endless possibilities, countless prospects. What power I would have.

White light brighter than the sun beamed from above. Even with both eyes closed, it relentlessly entered my retinas. The air around me boiled. I barely heard my own screams over the hiss of burning flesh.

Before life escaped my meaty shell, darkness returned to the chamber. My wrecked frame dropped to the floor. No longer alone, I looked up to the beings who emerged from the dark. As my limbs twitched with pain beyond pain, I understood the legends and rumors, the fears of the island natives. It all made sense. But these were not gods.

∼ Lee Andrew Forman

© Copyright Lee Andrew Forman. All Rights Reserved.

The Scent of Home

That deep rich stink of fried meat always lingered in the apartment, coating the walls, hiding in the corners. It filled my childhood, wafted the taste of home into my brain, and I waited for that smell every time I opened the door. That and the sound of my mother grumbling in the kitchen.

Now the stench of death overpowered it all. And Mother lay on the floor, a knife sticking out of her chest.

Why did I do it? My hand on the knife, her screaming at me, and then…

No planning involved, no premeditation, unless you counted the years of wishing she was dead. The years of dreaming a car would hit her, or her shrivelled heart would give out. I suppose my patience gave out first.

Stabbing her was odd, though. No last accusations, no gasping for breath. A gurgle and some blood, but not as much as I thought. In the movies I watched, knife wounds had more blood. She laid there on the worn tiles, eyes still open and a stain on her blouse, a look of surprise on her face as if she never imagined I’d kill her.

I suppose I never imagined it, either. But it’s done and I can’t take it back.

Not that I’d wanted to.

Calling the police was out of the question; I wouldn’t go to jail for her. I needed an excuse for her absence. The neighbours hated her, with little chance they would question her absence if I told the right story. I was her only family, so no worries there. What to say if anyone asked? Maybe… maybe she just moved into a retirement home? She’d been complaining about getting old, about how hard it was to live alone. That might work. Tell people I moved Mother into a home and pack up her things.

What about the body?

The freezer maybe? Hide her under all that meat? Or better yet, make her part of that meat. How hard would it be to cut up a body? I smiled at the meat cleaver hanging on the wall, next to all of my late dad’s butcher tools. It’d be apt, considering she drove him to an early grave.

Let’s see how rusty I am at the old trade.

Several hours of work and frustration later, I had Mother packaged nicely, pieces of her neatly wrapped in brown freezer paper and stored under the hamburger and the pork chops. I scrubbed down the kitchen and the bathroom, and tidied myself up, before noticing a parcel of Mother still sitting on the counter.

How did I miss that one?

I stared at the slab of Mother for a moment and then grinned. Why not? It seemed fitting. 

So I got out the frying pan and the butter, and once more the deep rich stink of fried meat filled the apartment.

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2021 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

The Beauty Within

I can make you beautiful.

It was an enticing phrase. Ellen saw it in the Chronicle in a small, unassuming advertisement. There were no images, no flourishes, no embellishments. Just that phrase, and beneath it, more words:

For those who dedicate their lives to beauty. Serious inquiries only. Please write with preferred appointment time and place to The Beauty Within at the address below.

 Ellen considered the advertisement for a while. Even after she had put the newspaper aside, those words still followed her throughout her day.

For those who dedicate their lives to beauty.

Surely that was her. She was known throughout London as the most desirable young lady. It was a point of highest pride with her father, who went to great lengths to have her seen in only the finest fabrics, the best jewels. There was no one who would deny her beauty.

Serious inquiries only.

That line seemed almost to beckon her, to challenge her. Did she take her beauty seriously? Oh, yes indeed. Then why had she not already written? What was holding her back? What was there to explain this cold, twisted fear in her stomach?

Silliness, she thought.

She sat at her writing desk and pulled out her quill and paper.


“Who are you?”

I am the one you invited—the one to make you beautiful.

Ellen considered him doubtfully. He had no hair to style, no lips to redden, not even skin to powder. He was bones and nothing more.

“What can you know of beauty?”

More than you can even see.

She did not understand.

Look at yourself. What do you see?

She turned to the mirror, paused. “Dark hair, fair skin, powder, jewels.”



Illusions—all of them. Not one is true beauty.

She frowned, not certain of his meaning. He had no facial features to decipher. She could not know if he meant to offend.

“Who are you?”

I am Beauty.

She almost laughed. “You are bones.”

I am.

“Then what am I?”

You are flesh. But you could be so much more.


Yes. You are flesh, yet you are bones. The beauty within.

“My bones?”

Yes, your beautiful bones. You hide them beneath fat, skin, hair. You must be less to be more.


You must rid yourself of your wretched flesh. Be slender. Be thin. Let the sharp, beautiful angles of your bones be seen.

“But I do. I try. I eat like a lady; I lace my stays.”

But less. Tighter.

“I try, I try.”

I can help you.

“You can?”

Yes. Let me lace you. You will be smaller. You will be beautiful.

“But they are so tight already.”

But they can be tighter still, if you only know how.

“You would do that?”

I would. For you. For your beautiful bones.

“Yes. Please.”

You must hold still.

“Oh! Oh, that hurts!”


“How are you so strong? Oh!”

I am that which is strongest.


I am Death.

“Oh! Oh!”

Death is Beauty.


And soon. . .


. . .you will be beautiful.

~ Miriam H. Harrison

© Copyright Miriam H. Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

The Price of Revenge

“Mr. Roger DeMontfort-Jones?”

The voice startled DeMontfort-Jones out of his reverie. He had been engrossed in the latest share index prices. He looked up to see two men standing at the entrance to his office. One was tall, the other small, bent and twisted.

“How can I help you, gentlemen?”

“It is we who have come to help you. We are here to offer you an unusual and highly unique service.”

Salesmen. DeMontfort-Jones waved his hand dismissively.

“Just leave your brochure with my assistant down the corridor.”

“Our service is not one that has any accompanying literature. It can only be offered to those who have been specially selected. It requires an ability to provide adequate recompense.”

“You mean, whatever you’re selling is expensive.”

“Quite. You see, very few people are ever allowed to join our club. The service we offer has certain expenses. Therefore, the membership fee must reflect that.”

“Okay, gentlemen. Let’s hear what you’ve got to offer.”

“Reflect on the words I am about to say. Reflect carefully. These words describe our unique service. The words are ‘unpunished crimes’.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Think about it. Think about all those times when a driver has hogged the road, refusing to pull over. Remember when somebody’s dog defecated on your lawn and they refused to pick it up. Think of all those rude shop assistants and bank-tellers, the sloppy waiters who can’t be bothered to be polite. These are all unpunished crimes. Not recognized in law, but enough to drive any normal man to desperation. Remember the annoyance you felt, the unrequited fury. But there was nothing you could do about it.”

“Until now,” said the other man, then continued.

“You have been selected to join our club. For a very reasonable fee you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing these crimes punished. We will eliminate five of these unpunished criminals for you. You choose which ones. All you do is make one phone call and then leave the rest to us. Imagine the satisfaction, knowing that the moron behind the counter will never bother a decent citizen like yourself again. Or the driver who lifts his middle finger to you will never sit behind the wheel again. Imagine the pleasure you will get from knowing that.”

DeMontfort-Jones understood exactly what they were saying. He had spent years getting to the top, crushing careers and swinging massive deals. He was the most respected and feared financial broker in the city, but he was still affected by such annoyances. He felt the pleasure of revenge already. It was a wonderful feeling.

“I’ll buy it, gentlemen. I’ll buy your service.”

“Excellent, welcome to our club. Now, all you have to do is provide us with one million pounds. A banker’s draft, if you please. And please consider, the quicker we get the money the quicker you can start choosing.”

DeMontfort-Jones practically ran out the office. It only took him thirty minutes to get the money. His private bank asked no questions. The two men were waiting patiently in his office when he got back. Both were still standing. After the money had been exchanged, the small man handed him a piece of paper.

“That is the number you call. You only have five. Use them wisely. You will never see us again. Good hunting.”

The two men left. DeMontfort-Jones slumped into his seat. He began to convince himself that he had been ripped-off, that it was a con. Had he just pissed away a million pounds? He was tempted to call the number to see what happened, but a voice in the back of his mind reminded him ‘only five calls’. He didn’t call. Instead he smiled. Imagine if it wasn’t a con. That doorman would be first. The one at his apartment building. The stuck-up little sod. Then it would be the guy next door. That prick insisted on playing movies at three a.m. with the volume turned up. He could easily think of at least a dozen people who deserved to be ‘punished’. His paranoia vanished and he decided he might have to renew his subscription to this club.

He sat for half an hour, debating who, out of his list of candidates, to choose. There was a knock at his door.

“Come in.”

The tall man and the small man walked in again.

“Mr. DeMontfort-Jones?”

“What the hell? I thought you said I would never see you again.”

The two men looked at each other. The small one spoke.

“Ah. I see you are one of our members. It’s always a pity to have to make a visit to one of our own, but business is business.”

DeMontfort-Jones stared at the pair, noticing slight variations between them and his first visitors. These two weren’t the same pair. Close, but not the same. They were probably chosen that way. The tall man spoke.

“I’m afraid you have been selected by one of your fellow members for punishment.”

“What did I do?” he squeaked, realizing the implications of the tall man’s words.

“I’m afraid to say you carried out an unspeakable crime. Not more than one hour ago you cut in front of our member and stole his parking space. Our member was most annoyed, but luckily not so distracted that he omitted to note your car registration.”

“But I was in a rush. I was rushing to get my membership fee. I was rushing to get your damn money!”

“I’m sorry. No excuse is accepted. We do have our rules you know.”

DeMontfort-Jones saw the gun in the same instant the small man fired. He died with the small consolation it definitely hadn’t been a con.

~ RJ Meldrum

© Copyright RJ Meldrum. All Rights Reserved.

The Sidewalk Artist

The city is my canvas. The city sidewalk in particular.

I live in a high rise, on the twelfth floor in a tiny studio condo that my parents had purchased for me. This arrangement was made so that I could remain true to my calling.

I had been stuck in a creative draught until I experienced an accident, an accident so infinitesimal that only a true artist could conceive of its significance.

I had been leaning on my windowsill, letting my condensed breath mingle with the exhaust ascending from the cars so many feet below. A large spider—he would have been more at home amongst jungle palms than on some slab of cement—unwittingly, or purposefully (one never knows with spiders), tickled the back of my hand with one of his eight legs. I swatted and he fell, turning and twisting in the air until I lost sight of him. His fall, while shorter lived than an arachnid’s already abbreviated life, was more elegant and coordinated than a professional Paso Doble: the building’s wall being his final dancing partner. Now this was art!

I dashed down the back stairwell in the hopes of finding some representation of this performance on the street below. As I bent to examine concrete, not only did I realize that any number of common stains could belong to my spider, I also noticed that no one, not one single person, had witnessed the elaborate fall and subsequent squish of the spider. I had run down twelve dizzying flights for nothing. That could not happen again.

I have always been the type to dabble in an assortment of mediums. While the large spider had been satisfying, the body mass was not adequate for the expected performance. I knew that I needed something larger, something I could watch the entire way to the bottom. The resolution is often the most important part of a performance. I also needed something that would attract attention…and fans. I needed a rat.

The performance of the rat was much greater than that of the spider. First and foremost, sidewalk voyeurs notice falling and splattering rats. It surprised me that some should simply step aside and keep walking when I provided them with such a fascinating tableau. I experimented with sending two or three rats at a time. The result was brown/yellow/red tie-dyed concrete: masterful! Yet, the pedestrians most often failed to assume their role as voyeurs and I was, as always, disappointed.

It never ceases to amaze me, what garners attention in this age. It is a mystery that billboards filled with overpaid newscasters or carcinogenic soft drinks are more eye-catching than art. TikTok videos of super mommies dancing is considered entertainment. People spend more time looking at fuzzy conspiracy shots on the internet than in museums. Consumers are starving, yet unaware that they are creatively malnourished.

I spent months with mice and rats. Snow was always a disappointment. The body shape melts, shifts, or is partially obscured before the elevator can deposit me on the street; and there is never as much blood. Sidewalk voyeurs had their vision blocked by umbrellas and hats and scarves. Like horses wearing blinders, they sloshed right through my art in their unrelenting hurry. No one ever bothered to look up and I grew bored with rodents; and, honestly, I grew lonely. What was the purpose of a creation if no one takes notice of the creator?  I had a captive audience, but they refused to assume position. I needed to shake things up.

Thankfully, true artists always experience evolution. I was no exception to this cosmic rule.

Cities are full of starving and pathetic animals. As a picture is worth a thousand words, I simply cannot begin to describe the various scenes I painted on the sidewalk so many stories below. I can confirm that, at that height, it no longer matters that cats always land on their feet.

Yet, no one noticed.

I still was not a famous artist in this big city. I have seen the most depraved things pass as art: photographs of swollen private parts, pedestrian performance art of the most vulgar sorts, mimes. It is true that we no longer appreciate great culture, our taste buds have de-evolved and man is a mindless critic. But, like any virtuoso, my compulsion to create propelled me. I would rise above the desperation of the unsatisfying blood stains, the disappointment, the lack of art.

I realized that I need a showstopper, something so large it could not be ignored. Not large in the sense of elephants and killer whales; big in terms of psychological splash. I am talking about a sacrifice so high up on the evolutionary scale that the loss will resound and be on the lips of everyone.

It has taken me months to reach this point. I produced countless experiments with dogs, cats, raccoons, gophers (I had to travel considerable distances to accumulate some of these materials), but all to no great effect. Even the law ignored me. I contemplated shoving my sun worshiping neighbor, who bakes on her patio the floor above me, but she could hardly be called a prime specimen. Years of drinking and sunbathing have taken their toll and, as an artist, I must consider all aspects of the medium involved. I wanted a powerful obituary piece to accompany the art, not a shriveled shell of a specimen. I had been relatively selective with the animals, so I must be entirely selective about the human.

There was the obvious choice. I would finally have my name in the papers and on the internet. I would be noticed; I would receive the recognition I deserved. I will plan the jump according to the proper weather, the proper velocity, most importantly, the proper passerby beneath me. I will land on one (hopefully more than one) and the voyeurs will no longer be able to pass blindly. If my trajectory proves perfect, I may even be able to land on a car driving below, thereby causing gridlock. Radios will announce the accident as will the television stations.

While my manifesto (another piece of art!) will not be read until after the act, I feel obliged to warn in retrospect. If I had been noticed, lives would not have been lost. In the meantime, I will make the most of those living or working in the city who keep their eyes down. I will take advantage of those distracted drivers, focusing on cell phones and food and applying makeup instead of being at the ready to apply foot to brake. I will exploit (for artistic purposes) those walking the sidewalks who walk briskly but not alertly.

The title of this final masterpiece: “Look up!”

∼ Elaine Pascale

© Copyright Elaine Pascale. All Rights Reserved.