Sea Burial

The priest-like movement of the waves did not soothe Edith. The darkness is an honest friend, the black sea, too. It did not soothe her though the waters are calm and ripples are an echo of itself. The urn in her hands was not only shaken by the movement of the boat. Guilt made her hands tremble. It had come to this.

The moon and torchlight shed the darkness on the lids of the night; it was just her and the boat they’d once rowed together, fishing, swimming naked, living—a singular task, a secret ministry to scatter his ashes at his request. She received a short letter a month ago asking for this one thing. Before that, he wrote all the time. In one long letter, he said at long last that Geoffrey’s mother had forgiven him, and he felt something close to joy after atoning for ‘their sin’ for the first time since his crime. She didn’t reply, not once. ‘Their sin?’ Then she couldn’t bring herself to read his desperate and demented letters saying he would starve himself to death unless she wrote or visited. Her patience had run out. It made no sense to her why he raked over what happened years ago. It was a broken sternum healed to a misshapen cage.

All those years Herman had served in prison, Alice had been in exile too. The local people of Bicton said she was a heartless witch who put a curse on men. Herman’s jealous rage turned his handsome face into a rapid mask. He bit and tore, punched and kicked another man to death. Poor Geoffrey, a gentle lover, she thought blithely. Could love make men mad?

She hadn’t loved him well, nor deep like the ocean. He was a strong man with a big heart. She had not loved him these years, for she only knew his absence and her own changed, quiet life, keeping out of sight of fingers and whispers. Watched by the sleepless stars, it was right to admit this now. There was no peace here, either. Out at sea, she was no more and no less isolated than she was in her humble cottage.

Tomorrow, she thought, the church bells would ring in the morning, the vicar would come and go, and families would send their children to school. And Edith would be alone again. The smoking blueness of the sky and the bitter-sweet smell of the infinite ocean reminded her of this.

Was she selfish to contemplate her suffering? She clutches the urn, rocked by the cradle of the boat. If only she had a child for company. No man would come near her—the chance of a slippered quiet or contented happiness again was snuffed out forever. Yes, she was an inmate, too, and her sentence was not over. Her twin is in the waters. She thinks that solitude has withered her like a prisoner as she touches her beautiful hair. Day and night were all one. Yes, her furnished cottage was quite comfortable with a fire lit and simple stew to eat, but who would act on her dying wishes?

“Herman was spared. Blessed to die in prison,” she said, peering into the waking black waves, though he died just before he had almost served his sentence.

She resolved then there was no need to pray, having not prepared anything, and nothing came to mind amidst so much blackness; just her and the sea, inhaling and exhaling—a sea which never sleeps.

Then there was a slight movement in the air, a strengthening of the wind, a sound like the crumpling of paper. The ocean swelled ominously, and the wind whistled sharply around her neck as it lifted her long dark locks off her back and shoulders before dropping them down again. She clutched the urn to her chest as she lost her balance in the swaying boat. Herman used to say to peer into the depths of the sea is to peer into a mirror, into one’s conscience. Vapours rose from the waters and a door opened in the waves. She studied the perilous gloom illuminated by the unquiet moon. Glass bottles containing a handwritten letter bobbed to the surface—one after the other.

“What?” she stammered. “Is this —?’

Not hesitating a moment later, Edith shuffled to the edge of the boat, clutching the urn with one hand to her chest while using the other hand to hold onto the wooden seat to inch forward, gazing fixedly at the open door. Situated at the most northern part of the boat, she removed the lid from the urn and slowly rose to her feet, wobbling as the waves became restless and ever boisterous. The door in the waves was still open—a trapdoor, Alice thought, where the evil mortals go. So, in her outstretched hand, she turned the urn upside down.

Nothing came out.

Not a speck.

From the gloom came a satanic cry, and a black power appeared like a thunderbolt. An enormous bird with blinking plutonium eyes perched on the boat and burned its eyes into Alice’s lovely face.

“Oh! Help!” she called, “take it!” she said, offering the urn out to the evil-looking bird.

But the eager creature—a giant cormorant—winked, then began pecking and tearing at Edith’s pretty face with persistent rapture. Her arms waved, the urn fell into the boat, rolling under the seat, and with every cry and scream, another black bird appeared from the ominous sky, dressing every inch of her in black plumes. A cacophony of fluttering wings and restless waves made demented music damp with her tears and spit-soaked shrieks in the air. The boat ceased to rock violently. One satisfied bird carried the urn away to its nest to nestle beside ink-spotted eggs. In the wind, the sounds of sobbing and grieving rained into her ear. Herman’s voice twisted the sinews in her shrunken heart, cleaving her like another hungry bird. At last, she listened and heard.

“Edith.Edith.Edith.”

Into the shadowy water she fell, down and down deep below the waves so deep nobody knows.

~ Louise Worthington, Guest Author

© Copyright Loiuse Worthington All Rights Reserved.

Friend of Mine

Andy could never stand being indoors. He could walk for miles. He was the explorer of his family. His father worked for the local bank, a career that his dad hoped he would follow. His mother worked part-time in the local dentist as a receptionist. His older sister was just finishing high school, she dreamed of being a model. Her parents worried about this; Andy was just bemused by it. He thought her an ugly pig.

Andy, well Andy just liked to explore. He was never happier than when he was on his own, in his own adventure.

It was a particularly balmy day. The sun beamed down on the fields and trees causing the early morning dew to evaporate. It hung in the air like the kind of mist one would usually only see when running a hot shower. His neck was hot and sweaty so he decided to seek shelter from the solar onslaught by walking through the woods. It was the path less traveled by even the most ardent rambler and therefore the going was slow. He edged his way forward over fallen branches whilst trying to avoid the patches of brambles and nettles.

He mused to himself that this was the farthest he’d ventured into this part of the woods in all of his thirteen years. As he marveled at his surroundings there was a creaking sound beneath his feet and the floor open up below him. Then all went dark.

He groaned and shook his head to try and wake his senses. He found himself laying at the bottom of a long shaft. Way above him was a small spot of light, no doubt the opening that he had fallen through. He slowly got to his feet, evidently nothing broken except his pride which was as bruised as his backside.

There was a long tunnel that disappeared into darkness in one direction. In the other was a slight glimmer of light. That was the direction he decided to go. Eventually, the tunnel opened out into a large chamber. He sat on a large stone in its center and took in his surroundings. It was quite bright here as there were many flaming torches lining the walls. On the ground lay discarded clothes. He reached down and lifted one such item to closer inspect it. It looks like one of those old redcoats that he had seen in movies. It was dirty but other than that it was in remarkable condition. He tried it on and as he did so he heard a jingling sound from its pockets. Reaching into one he pulled out a handful of coins. They appeared to be gold and this made him smile broadly.

“So, is that what you desire?” the gravelly voice from a dark side recess enquired.

Andy stood bolt upright. His legs began to tremble as a large bulky shape came into view. It dragged itself along the ground with two very large forearms. The sounds of its movements were accompanied by the metallic clanging of large chains which were attached to a metal collar around its neck. As it entered the chamber the torchlight illuminated the hulk of the creature. Its head was wide, like a bullfrog. But as it continued talking, he could see that its mouth was full of dark, broken, and decaying teeth; each one the size of two house bricks. Its skin was slimy, pale green and covered in warts the size of acorns. “Is it you wish to be rich Beyond your wildest dreams?”

He could do nothing more than slowly shake his head in pure terror. He heard the coins slip from his hand onto the stony surface of the floor.

“Well?” The creature asked again. “Cat got your tongue? You know it is considered rude not to reply when being spoken to.”

Andy couldn’t comprehend what was speaking to him. It was the size of a small RV. It pulled itself closer to him on muscly arms. Its hind legs, if it had any, were not visible. As it approached it continued speaking. With each syllable, the stench of decay invaded Andy’s nostrils. It was all he could do to not vomit.

“Who am I addressing?” It asked.

“I’m An-An-Andy,” he stuttered in way of reply.

“Pleased to meet you, Andy. Please, sit back down and make yourself comfortable. We have much to discuss, so you’ll no doubt be here for a while.”

It smiled as Andy sat back down. A movement that went against every instinct in his body which screamed ‘run’. But he was too enthralled by the ‘thing’ which now sat only a couple of feet from him.

“Sadly, I have no name,” it continued. “If I ever had one, I’ve long since forgotten it.”

“What are you?” Andy blurted out. His mother had warned that his inquisitive nature would be the death of him. But he has so many questions. “Who put those chains on you? How long have you been down here?”

In way of reply it gave out a belly laugh, then added “One question at a time. I was imprisoned down here so very long ago. By who? I cannot remember. Why? I guess my dashing good looks made them jealous,” he burst into laughter again. “Or maybe they just wanted to keep me to myself for my special gift”, he teased.

Andy found himself starting to relax in the company of his new friend. He was intrigued by this strange creature. He wanted to know more.

“What do you eat down here?” he inquired. As he did so, his eyes were once more drawn to the cavern floor. As well as the red coat that he was now wearing, there were clothes of many different styles and eras strewn about the place. He made an audible gasp and turned to his companion.

“Ah, yes well, I must admit my diet does tend to lean towards fresh meat. Never been much of a salad kind of guy. But don’t worry. I rarely need sustenance and I’m not feeling hungry at the moment. You have my word on that, and for all my faults I never lie.”

“Is that what you told ‘them’?” Andy retorted, pointing to the piles of clothing.

“Oh, them. Well, you see they sought me out seeking a deal. Riches for their lives. They didn’t die of greed, they died of stupidity. I gave them what they wanted and took from them what they promised. The deal was fair. I kept my word. They just didn’t think about the finer details of the deal they made. They never really thought it through.”

“I want gold,” he demanded. “If you can grant wishes, then I want gold and lots of it.”

“And in return, I want something,” it said in reply. “I’m going to need a good meal at some stage.”

“OK then,” agreed Andy. “I want as much gold as I can carry, and then you can eat me. But only when I’ve had time to enjoy my riches. On my word, I will return,” he promised.

“Then we have a deal,” the creature said with a smile.

“When I am 100,” Andy added.

“WHAT?” it bellowed. “When you’re how old?”

“Yes, when I am 100. If you truly have gifts, you’ll give me until the age of 100 to fulfill the bargain. And that’s 100 years of good health. Then, when my time has come, you can feast on me. I think it’s only fair that I have time to enjoy being rich. I’m not going to make the mistake the others made.”

The smile disappeared from the fat face of the monster that sat just a few feet from Andy. It grumbled to itself.

“You possess guile beyond your years,” it complained. If shifted its weight from one side to the other and mulled this new caveat to their contract. “OK then. It’s a deal,” it conceded. “I can wait.”

This time it was Andy who bore a smug grin. As he sat, he felt a glow of self-satisfaction flow through his body. He had outsmarted the overconfident blob. It had underestimated his negotiation skills. The creature slid off and returned with a chest of gold and jewels. Small enough for Andy to carry, but large enough to keep him and his family in comfort for the rest of their lives.

Andy moved to collect his prize.

“Not so fast,” the beast commanded. “You think you have the strength to lift that box?”

Andy shrugged off its comments and reached for the handle. He was stronger than he looked. As he tried to claim what was rightfully his, his back gave out with a crunching sound. He sat back down in agony. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead and he wiped them away with his hands. His palms felt rough and his fingers hurt from that simple movement. He stared at them through the gloom of his failing eyesight. Through the dust, flickering firelight and poor vision, he could still see his hands looked bony and the skin wrinkly.

“What have you done to me?” he asked in a panicked, croaky voice.

“Me? Nothing. Mother nature has done that to you, not I. You see time doesn’t pass the same in my company as it does elsewhere. That is one of my special gifts. I’d say that you’ve been here for 80 or 90 years. Which…” he chortled, “would make you at least 100 by now, maybe a bit more. But you can have those extra few on me.”

It moved towards him with a greater speed than his bulk seemed capable of.

“Now for your end of the bargain, my dear friend,” it said in a sinister tone.

Its mouth opened wide. The smell of decay from its mouth once again assaulted Andy’s senses.

As it lifted Andy high into the air and down towards its cavernous orifice, it stopped briefly to add, “I’m afraid my teeth aren’t what they used to be. Not as sharp as they once were. I may have to chomp and chew on your body for quite a while before I can ingest you. So, this is going to hurt. This is going to hurt a lot.”

∼ Ian Sputnik

© Copyright Ian Sputnik. All Rights Reserved.

Soul Unturned

Entwined beneath an afternoon sun, two lovers work in a tiny graveyard in an orchard gone to seed. Sweat pearls their limbs and beads their hair. Their voices moan and echo. The moment passes. As evening shadows begin to sing, they kiss and sigh.

“You sure you want this?” Dean asks. “No changing minds later.”
“I want to be young and in love forever.” Leandra replies

Dean nods, kisses the hollow of her throat. Her blue veins shed warmth. Her life beats there. He can drink it when the time comes. Already they’ve been drawing each other’s blood with needles and sharing it to deepen their bond.

Dean lies back on a grave, drawing Leandra down beside him. They wait, holding hands as their last sunset comes creeping. Shadows stretch. On the horizon, earth colors of red and yellow give way to metallic purples and pulsing blacks. Darkness caresses daylight into oblivion.

Leandra sits up. “You hear it?”
Dean joins her. “Yes. They’re coming!”

A humming seeps from the air. The night sky blossoms, as if god has set off fireworks meant only for them. Brilliant scarlets and muted maroons build a backdrop against which gold and white droplets spray. An image of a great raptor appears, striking from ebony space.

Dean closes his eyes against the glory. “The Angel!” he shouts.
Leandra says nothing. Her eyes are open; they bleed crystal tears with razor edges.

The angel lands with a snap of crimson pinions. It is legion; its eyes are moonlets.

“No,” Dean pleads.
“We seek forever,” Leandra counters.

The angel wraps its wings around the lovers, containing them within its umbra. From a spider’s mouth of chelicerae, the being extrudes a single fang upon which gleams a venom-pearl. Leandra licks the pearl. It bursts on her tongue into oily rivulets of purple, blue and green. Dean will not open his eyes but she shares the venom through a kiss. Spasms strike them both. They jerk and writhe, convulse and scream. Limbs twist; bones snap. From human, they are reborn. Into nothing human.

Leandra recovers first. Her eyes are wider now. They see the electromagnetic spectrum in infinite shades. Her ears are opened. They hear the beat of hearts across miles, the scurry of beetles under her feet, the twisting of worms beneath the earth.

“Thank you,” she says.

The angel holds out a tentacle and pulls her to her feet. She feels a weight at her shoulders, the fast-growing wings that will give her the sky. Laughing, she turns to her lover. Dean lies still, as if with exhaustion. She calls his name. He opens his eyes; they are ruins of rot. She cries out and drops to her knees, touching his face. He mewls from a mouth of blackened tongues and the stumps of broken teeth.

With tears, Leandra looks up at the angel. “What happened?” she pleads. “Help him!”

“The venom did not take,” the angel replies. “This is as far as he goes. We’ll have to leave him for the beast.”

“No!” Leandra protests. “It was supposed to be both of us. Together. Forever.”

No mercy in the angel’s voice as it speaks again. “You’ll find better lovers where we’re going. Come. Or stay. Your choice.”

Leandra glances at Dean. He doesn’t seem to recognize her. He grunts like a toad as his broken limbs scratch in the soil as if to burrow. Leandra stands. Her tears are of sorrow, and of joy, as the angel and the once-a-woman rise and arrow toward the portals of heaven. Behind them in the dirt, Dean digs his slow way to Hell.

∼ Charles Gramlich

© Copyright Charles Gramlich. All Rights Reserved.

Ripper’s Street

Softly settles East End fog, thick with industry’s residue. It leaves an oily coat on the skin,

plays games with the vision. Forms appear and vanish in the mist, the stink of piss and rotten meat, slimy creatures of dark alleyways. These streets, the Ripper’s playground.

Me being young, and with no binding ties, I once went slumming with the lads. Begging favors of Miss Mary, we taking turns with her to satisfy our bursting loins. And that she did with competence, such was her service for our coins. When we were done, we bade good night and off she went into that dense Whitechapel fog.

Years passed, and I’m a doctor now, with a different take on whores. They’re still corrupting honest men, giving them most dreadful maladies. I should know, being one among them on that certain night. Now I walk these midnight streets alone, carrying my own assorted tools. There’s many a strumpet up ahead, for a trained man skillful with the blade.

∼ Marge Simon

© Copyright Marge Simon. All Rights Reserved.

Pieces of Me

It began with a finger. I relished the pain from the first slice. Warm blood ran down my palm as I pushed the blade deeper. Soon the digit left my body. I watched it fall with a pulsing vision of loss through waves of pain. But it invigorated me. Inspired me. I had to keep going.

Each additional cut gave me strength to endure the agony until it became pleasure. What I identified as a compulsion quickly became addiction. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to.

With few fingers and toes left, I went for more non-vital parts. The feeling of sawing through the cartilage of my nose roused heavenly sensation. Both ears undone felt divine. With each new loss of flesh, I felt more free, more alive. With each peel of the surface from my limbs, a burden was lifted.

It took time and effort, but eventually I severed one foot. As I started on its counterpart, the front door opened and in walked my wife. She wasn’t due home until late. I thought surprise would have been our matched reactions. But my eyes looked to hers, and hers to mine. We spoke no words—none were necessary.

She gently took the razor-sharp tool from my hand and began to work on herself.

∼ Lee Andrew Forman

© Copyright Lee Andrew Forman. All Rights Reserved.

Live While You Can

Sarah sat at the reception desk. She was on night duty and was alone. The night was hot, stuffy and the air conditioning was barely functioning. The breeze from the open window was very welcome.

The area was called ‘the one-way ward’ by some of the staff. It was the wing of the oncology department where the hopeless cases received palliative care to ease their last days. The name wasn’t meant to be cruel; it was an attempt to inject some gallows humor, to lift the somber atmosphere.

There were eight private and semi-private rooms in the area, all within easy access of the main desk. It was an easy job. The patients were drugged to the eyeballs, heavily sedated. They slept away their last few hours.

Sarah’s eyes closed without her even being aware she was falling asleep. The book she was reading slipped from her fingers and landed with a soft bump on the desk.

She woke with a start. Glancing at the computer on the desk, she realized fifteen minutes had passed. She checked the monitor. No alerts.

A man walked out of one of the semi-private rooms. Sarah knew there were two teenage girls in that room. Her hand flashed to the security call button.

“Don’t,” he said.

Her hand froze. All she could do was stare at the man.

“Come with me.”

She rose and walked towards him. Her mind was screaming; this was insanity, he was going to kill her and do terrible, unspeakable things to the helpless patients. She couldn’t stop herself, some external force was driving her legs. She stood beside him, unwillingly compliant.

“Walk with me.”

He headed into the next room. She followed, still trying to force her legs to move towards the reception desk and safety.

The two patients were both men in their forties. Yellow skin was stretched over cadaverous faces. They lay, eyes closed, on their death beds, surrounded by technology that was unable to save them. The drugs kept them pain free, that was all. The chemotherapy, the radiotherapy hadn’t worked for them. Modern medicine was making huge inroads into treating cancer, but there were still people for whom no treatment had worked.

The man walked up to the nearest bed. He stroked the forehead of the patient.

“Dream, my brother.”

The man in the bed, still unconscious, suddenly smiled. His eyelids flickered and his mouth twitched.

The man moved to the next patient and did the same. The patient responded in the same way.

“Follow me.”

Sarah followed.

Her companion moved from room to room, touching each patient on the forehead speaking the same words. Each time the patient responded in the same way.

They returned to the reception area. Sarah felt herself released from whatever hold he’d had over her. She felt weak, her muscles ached.

“You are now free to call security.”

Sarah didn’t.

“Who are you? What did you do to those patients?”

“Gave them life.”

“Life? They’re dying.”

“The life they would have lived, had they not been here. In their minds, they are living, falling in love, having children…working, travelling, laughing, crying. Everything they are going to miss.”

Sarah believed him. She had seen the patients’ faces.

“Who are you?”

“I’m cursed. I’m blessed. This is my life, my part to play.”

Sarah, a believer, whispered.

“Are you an angel?”

The man smiled.

“Angel or demon, it does not matter. I am here. That is all that matters.”

He walked out the doors of the ward.

“See to your patients.”

Sarah did as she was told, moving between the rooms, checking each patient carefully. They were still now, but it wasn’t the stillness of sedation. It was the stillness of death. Each one, every single one had died. Sarah supposed in their dream state they had lived full, rich lives and died, surrounded by family and friends. Her unknown visitor had given them quite a gift, but he’d also given her quite the problem. How was she going to explain how the entire ward of patients had died all at exactly the same time?

∼ RJ Meldrum

© Copyright RJ Meldrum. All Rights Reserved.

Pain Relief

“You think you know about pain? I know about pain.”

He held up his palms. They were lined with dirt and chapped. His nails were framed in flakes of dead skin, ending in black crescents.

“You have dirty hands, but that isn’t the same thing as pain. Just take a bath. You don’t need my help for that.” I took my time unscrewing the cap off the bottle and let it drop to the ground. His mouth twisted as he sucked his bottom lip, thinking. 

“It’s because of it. People who don’t know pain don’t be dirty like this.” 

I didn’t respond and took a drink from the bottle. His hands dropped back to his lap.

“Why do you want to know about my pain anyways? You ain’t gonna do anything about it.” His eyes fixated on the Jack and I let the light catch it so it shone amber.

“I can’t help you if I don’t believe you.” I tipped the bottle again, letting a trickle run down my chin. I liked the desperate look in his eyes as his world narrowed and licked my lips before wiping the drops away with the back of my hand. “Good stuff.”

He licked his own lips in subconscious pantomime and pushed layers of a tattered sleeve up, exposing a forearm latticed in scars. The skin was less grimy there.

“Here’s some pain for you. Everytime I lose something, I keep the memory in my flesh. I cut myself,” he said. “That’s a lot of memories.” He ran his fingers across one of the bigger lines.

“Lots of people cut themselves. It doesn’t mean your pain is worse.” I pulled my phone out and checked the time. “What do you cut yourself with?”

“I got a knife. You gotta have a knife ‘round here. I’ll show you.” He pawed at his neck with stiff fingers and pulled at a string tied at his neck. A decent sized hunting knife in a worn black sheath was dangling at the end of it. I held my hand out, letting the liquid slosh against the glass as I did.

“Can I see it?” 

He sucked his lip in again, thinking, before he pulled the string over his head and placed it in my hand. 

“Now you give me the bottle like you said.”

“I didn’t say I was giving you anything. I said I would help you with your pain.”

“A drink sure goes a long way to help. I got arthritis from the cold nights and a good drink is all that makes it go.”

I cradled the Jack in the crook of my arm and slid the knife free. The blade was hash marked with scratches. The tip was snapped off.

“So what did you lose to make so many scars?”

“Everything! I lost everything I ever had. Shitty parents, shitty wife took the kids, shitty friends… I tried to make something with my life but I got backstabbed every time. Nothing left to do but cut reminders and try to get on.”

Sitting on the greasy back step of a restaurant and smelling like piss, he didn’t look like he was getting on.

“And cutting yourself helps?” 

He looked at the blade in my hand.

“Not like the booze does.”

I held the bottle out and swished the contents before I handed it over to him.

“I knew you weren’t gonna just tease me. I knew you were gonna help.” He took a deep swig, sloshing it around in his mouth before swallowing it. 

I dropped the sheath and it landed at his feet, the string spreading serpentine on the stained pavement. He took another swig and bent over to pick it up. I bent over too, above him, close enough for his body stink to invade my nose. 

The knife pushed in to the small hollow that hid where his shoulder and neck connected. It slid in, already familiar with this flesh–a final memory that would never scar. He fell forward on one knee, propped up by the bottle, before he collapsed. Blood and booze mingled into the cracks beneath him.

“You were doing it wrong,” I said.

~ Angela Yuriko Smith

© Copyright Angela Yuriko Smith. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Reading

She gently traced the lines on his hand with her thumb. “I see deceit and malice,” she said accusingly, looking into his eyes with her unseeing, milky white ones. She then  added, “And a disregard for others.”


The palm reader, Alice May, then rose and gingerly made her way to the cupboard on the far side of the room. She gently cast her hands over the trinkets that adorned the old, oak surface. Some were merely ornamental, decorative pieces that she had acquired over many years of her life. Some were more precious to her, and much more valuable.
She sighed, put her hand to her heart and then returned to the reading.


“When you first came to me, I felt something in your lines that confused me. Each time you returned, everything became clearer,” she continued as a tear ran down her cheek.
All Peter could do was look wide eyed with a muffled scream back at the old lady.


He’d been coming for readings for weeks. Each time he’d helped himself to a bit of jewellery. This time he’d sat in the chair in her dusty old den, drank the usual cup of tea that she always offered, but this time had fallen into a deep sleep.


“I don’t think you have a good bone in your body,” she continued, as she felt each line, each intersection on his palm. “I fear you may be a lost cause.”


She stood again and threw the severed appendage into the open fire. Peter tried to scream. His mouth was sealed tight with crude stitching, his legs tied tightly to those of the chair. His wrists were nailed to thick wooden tabletop that he had sat at for the last few weeks of his visits to this mystic witch.


“On the other hand, maybe you’re not all that bad. Maybe you deserve another chance,” she said.


She fumbled for the hacksaw beside the chair, felt her way up to his other arm and started to grind through skin, flesh, muscle and finally bone.


His eyes rolled in his head, his pupils widened in pure, electrifying agony as she began to remove the other hand.
After some effort it detached from his wrist. She then sat down, turned it over, and began to give him a second reading for free. Deep within her, she hoped to find a line that would give her reason to spare him. But, even as she began reading it, she shook her head, solemnly.  All Peter could do was shake his head violently from one side to the other. His muffled pleas for forgiveness went unheard by Alice.

~ Ian Sputnik

© Copyright Ian Sputnik. All Rights Reserved.

Wizard and Waif

Passing through the woods one dark and dreary day, an old wizard found a shivering waif sitting dejectedly beneath a tree alongside the road.

“Child,” the old man said. “Where are your parents?”

“Gone, Sir,” replied the waif, who appeared to be no more than ten or eleven.

“Gone where?”

The youth shrugged. “They sent me to gather wood for our campfire, but when I came back they were gone. I don’t know where.”

“Well, perhaps we can find them,” the wizard said, though he did not really believe it likely. This forest was infamous as a place where unwanted children were abandoned.

The wizard held out his hand. “Come with me, Lad. I’ll help you.”

Without hesitation, the waif rose and took the man’s hand. His grip was strong, and he was smiling. The wizard smiled back.

Knowing it would be dark soon, the wizard did not lead the waif far before stopping to camp.

“Do you want me to get wood?” the boy asked in a frightened voice.

The wizard smiled again. “Not at all, lad. You merely need to sit and watch.”

And as the boy watched, the wizard conjured up a swirling emerald campfire out of nothing but some glittering dust scattered on the ground. The fake fire crackled and spat like true flame. It gave off needed heat. The boy scooted close and held his hands out gratefully.

“It’s wonderful,” he told the wizard.

“Yes,” the wizard replied as he took a bundle off his back and drew out a packet of dried meat. He offered some to the boy and ate a few bites himself. He’d elected to start his fire near where a large, square stone rose from the soil. With a few groans and the crick/crack of old bones, he seated himself with his back to this stone. When he was comfortable, he found the waif looking at him.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“I…I was…wondering. I’ve heard…stories about this wood. People say bad things live here.”

The wizard chuckled. “No need to worry.” He lifted his hands and waved them about while murmuring strange words. The air around the little campsite began to glow a faint green. The color deepened until the two sat within a sphere of glittering light.

“There. Evil cannot cross that barrier. We’re perfectly safe in here.”

“No monsters?” the waif asked.

“Nope.”

“Not even werewolves and vampires?”

“Not even them.”

The youth sighed and relaxed. He finished his dried meat, then shivered and scooted even closer to the fire.

“Cold, small one?” the Wizard asked.

“A little.”

The wizard smiled and patted the earth beside him. “Come sit close to me and we can share our warmth.”

The boy hesitated a long moment, but then rose and moved to sit next to the wizard. The old man put an arm around the boy’s shoulders and drew him close. The lad rested his head on the wizard’s chest.

As the old man idly rubbed the youth’s back, the lad looked up at him. “I just have one more question,” he said.

“Yes?”

The waif smiled: “What if the evil is already inside the sphere?”

~ Charles Gramlich

© Copyright Charles Gramlich. All Rights Reserved.

The Castrato’s Parade

The eunuchs parade for rights, today. Legions of dour men marching in clipped unison on a cold November afternoon with neither bands nor majorettes, nor clowns in little wagons. Their leader is out in front astride a white ox.

You turn to me, a question in your eyes, but I put a finger on your lips. Silently, we watch them proceed down Broadway until they diminish from view. Onlookers unify in a mighty sigh and return to go about their business.

Later we discuss this in bed, my arms embracing your shoulders, your legs twined in mine.

“Was it to make a statement, to gain recognition, acceptance?”

“I suppose it was,” I reply. “We started all this, didn’t we, Flora, decades ago? Why do you frown?”

“I guess they expect equal rights, too. It won’t happen in our lifetime, love!” I say, pulling your hands to encircle my breasts. We kiss with tenderness as only women do.

I lie awake, afraid to fall asleep. When we ascended to world leadership, we agreed males must be irrevocably controlled. But even so, those austere faces continue to invade my dreams with the force of their neutered dissent.

~ Marge Simon

© Copyright Marge Simon. All Rights Reserved.