“And they lived happily ever after.” She closes the book. They’re asleep now, sweet and innocent again. Safe from their father’s wrath, looking like the angels she knows they are. Yesterday, the youngest asked if happily ever after ever really happened. “Of course,” was her unbelieving reply. Now she knows it does. She goes to the den, where he’s sprawled, drunk. She eyes his gun. Considers. Reconsiders. Instead, she grabs the bottle from her pocket, fingering the poison warning lovingly. Quickly, she opens it and swallows hard. The vial brought her angels their happy ending. She prays it will work again.
The ground was groaning beneath our feet, the field of long grass, dead and gold under the splintered sky, swaying in an exhale of surrender from the heavens. We were rooted, no place to run fast enough, far enough, eyes reflecting a horizon swelling with light, clouds boiling red like open wounds from the west, as if the sun were setting into our Earth itself.
In a way, it was.
I reached out for a hand I could not comprehend enough to see, fingers interlocking, flesh against flesh for the last time as gravity began to pull our shuddering world apart.
By Eléa Romæra
“How are you?” you always ask when I come through your line at the grocery store. My heart skips a beat, and I usually mumble or say, “I’m good. How are you?”
Today, though, I had to open my big stupid mouth and ask if you wanted to get coffee sometime at that little coffee shop at the other end of the shopping center. Obviously I didn’t think this through very well, because once you looked surprised and said “No,” I suddenly realized I was going to have to find a new grocery store.
Too bad today wasn’t your day off.
By Dan Slaten
Toes barely move anymore. I keep trying to twitch them with little result, but at least it helps keep me awake while I wait. Awake is so important. The darkness threatens, leaning in, seeming to breathe around me.
I’ve lost a lot of blood. Never believed I’d die on a job.
The gun is cold, dead weight in my lap. I flex my hand around it, making certain my grip is still secure. Sweat-slick, or is that my blood? Someone else’s. Only one of them had time to scream… God, I couldn’t leave him like that.
Please, come home soon.
By Helevica Fox
She put her heart up for sale on Ebay, struggled with the description. “Mildly sentimental. Relies too much on others. Contains scars from several wounds but still beats with hope.”
She checked hourly at first, then daily.
The responses were slow in coming. There was an offer to trade, another to meet clandestinely. Several watchers lurked in the background. When time ran out, she debated whether to drop the price or give her heart a second chance, but had no feelings either way.
That’s when she realized that somewhere in the process, completely unnoticed, it had lurked away in the dark.
The boy chases after the Packard, rain falling from graying clouds. If he’s fast enough, he can stop Mother before she leaves him at Deerfield Academy. He doesn’t know anyone. Back home he was “piano boy”, writing about moonlight phantoms and lonely swans. It was hardly a compliment, but he knew where he fit.
He had Mother. He remembers the way she beamed, smiling, when he wrote his first composition. Rocked him to sleep after nightmares about dung beetles.
He stumbles suddenly and sees the Packard fade into a pebble-sized speck. He cries into flickering shadows, in the rainy, wind-swept street.
By Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Hot wind slices the afternoon into jagged shards of heat and sand, ripping unprotected flesh. Jesus stands unnoticed and silent, observing and wondering what has happened to his dream.
Soldiers walk in pairs, guarding the grounds he once graced, armed with machine guns instead of swords and spears. Vendors argue with customers, bartering over produce and souvenirs. A young couple strolls hand in hand, her head leaning into his shoulder.
They pause. Embrace. Lips touch.
Jesus closes his eyes and remembers similar moments he enjoyed with his Apostle Mary. He turns away and begins the walk back from whence he came.
By Jeff Switt