Thursday, August 31, 2006

Readers' Choice Award Voting is Closed

That's it, friends! Readers' Choice Award voting is now closed. Thank you everyone who voted for their favorites.

The stage is set. The orchestra is warming up. Tune in tomorrow midday for the contest results!!

Have a great night.

--Jason Evans & Anne Frasier

A Peek at Anne Frasier's Pale Immortal

He grabbed the handles of his giant backpack, opened the passenger door, and tumbled out, slamming the door behind him. From somewhere a dog barked. It was a hollow, distant cry, given with only half a heart and coming from another world.

Before she could come after him, he walked down the sidewalk in the direction of the house.

Behind him the car was thrown into gear, the gas pedal tromped to the floor.

A slow turn of the head; then he was watching the ancient Oldsmobile chug away from the curb, watching it lumber down the street. Red brake lights appeared as the car squealed around the corner and disappeared from view.

--Graham is abandoned by his mother, from PALE IMMORTAL.


Evan Stroud lives his life at night, because he must. His body cannot endure the touch of the sun. The allergic condition has a medical name you won't remember. Nobody in the town of Tuonela cares to remember it either. They just know he lives in the shadows. Their shadows. Evan's life is a comfortable isolation, a soothing loneliness.

But no more. Graham, a teenaged boy claiming to be his son, drops onto his doorstep in the middle of the night. It's not a cheerful homecoming, and Evan learns quickly that Graham is hounded by his own frightful demons:

In one swift motion the kid lunged and pushed Evan backward, then just as quickly jumped away.

It took Evan a second to realize the boy had his gun. And that he was raising it.

To his own temple.

Evan saw the bleak determination in the kid's eyes; he had every intention of pulling the trigger.

Time slowed.

Tick, tick, tick.

And that gunshot would not be the only disturbance in the town of Tuonela during the night. A murder is committed, and the victim is drained of blood. Bizarre, except the town once knew a killer who did the same, a killer who was put to death more than a hundred years ago. That killer was also known as the Pale Immortal, and Evan Stroud is a local historian with a particular interest in him.

That's why Rachel Burton, the new medical examiner, decides to visit Evan, despite avoiding him ever since her return to Tuonela. She grew up with Evan, and after so many years, part of her still loves him:

Up the walk, up the wooden steps.

Had the doorbell ever been fixed?

In the dark she ran her hand across the molding that surrounded the door, feeling for a button. Just as she found it, words came out of the darkness from the corner of the porch, causing her to jump.

"Enfant terrible."

Recognizing the voice even after so many years, she swung around, heart pounding, barely able to make out the undefined shape of Evan Stroud. She heard a creak and realized he was sitting in the porch swing that hung from the ceiling by chains. How many times had she sat there herself?

The three of them, Evan, Rachel, and Graham, each a victim, and each an unlikely hero. Evil is not dead in the old streets. It once again stalks the quiet families of Tuonela, and soon it will reach out. Anne Frasier is going to take you on a journey. The roads are dark and the valleys deep. But beware. You might find a little of yourself in those shadows.

A little of the Pale Immortal just might live in you.


**Anne has posted sample chapters!! Click HERE for Chapter 1 and HERE for Chapter 2.**


PALE IMMORTAL
Onyx Books and Penguin/NAL
September 5, 2006

Look for the sequel October, 2007

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Lonely Moon" Short Fiction Contest (Featuring Anne Frasier, Author of Pale Immortal)



**THE CONTEST IS CLOSED**

Click HERE for the winners announcement.

Click HERE for the contest announcement, information, and rules.

Be sure to stop by and say hello to Anne Frasier at her blog, Static.


Index of Entries

Abbot, Nicholas, Howl (#45) **Honorable Mention**
Alcoholic Poet, Sober Moons (#40) Honorable Mention**
Allan, Stephen, The Tree Doesn’t Fall Far From the Apple (#62) **THIRD PLACE**
Anderson, Peter, Quit These Hills, Exeunt (#10)
Angel, No More (#92)
Another Government Employee, Trahlyta (#46)
Antonova, Natalia, Opal Moon (#76)
Ball, Robert, The Bus Stop Encounter (#17)
Barr, Susan, Peter's Story (#57)
Berdahl, Myron, A Dark Horse Runs at Night (#36)
Berg, Jack, The Dark Room (#5)
Bexte, Martina, Aura (#86)
Bofire, Creature of the Night (#22)
Callahan, Nancy, The Threshold of Faith (#65)
Cehovet, Bonnie, Maiden, Mother, Crone (#12)
Chemical Billy, Best Ever (#81)
Cole, M.J., Entry #73
Cunha, Miriam, Johnny’s Hidden Fear (#8)
Dafath, Grey (#29)
Dreadmouse, Entry #88
Dufresne, Jerilyn, Footprints (#18)
Ellis, J. Scott, The Other Side (#13)
Ensaff. Najoud, The First Day (#54)
Erre, Anne, Entry #60
Farmer, Addy, Seeing the Dark (#72)
Flood, Robbed (#44) **READERS' CHOICE AWARD**
Forgottenmachine, Heads or Tales (#66)
Fort-Bolton, Linda, In the Light of the Moon (#20)
Friend, Tami, Hunted (#19)
Fringes, Two Months at the Lake with Strangers and Old Friends (#38)
Ghosh, Bhaswati, The Crater Doesn't Move (#34)
Gilbert,K. Lawson, Lamentation (#32)
Hardway, Jack, Man In The Moon (#100)
Haring, Bev, Buttermilk and Bisquits (#99)
Harris, Bernita, From the Minor Annals (#87)
Haws, Joni, Losin’ Pa (#14)
Hendricks, Rebecca, Runaway (#55) **FOURTH PLACE**
Hollandbeck, Andy, The Last Night (#93)
Hood, Anna, Macho-Man (#16)
Horne, Brandon, Cleansed (#84)
Hurd, Barry, Angels on the Battlefield (#59)
James, Erik Ivan, Bastard Moon (#35)
Johnson, Kerry, One Shot Left (#26)
Jones, Derec, I am the Moon (#28)
Karg, Suzanne Smith, Lonely Girl (#94)
Klein, Anita, The Last Kiss (#71)
Krahn, B., Entry #1
Kramer, Al, The Good Samaritan (#68)
LaGrandeur, Diana, The Call of the Nightingale (#77)
Lane, Peter, Butchers (#83)
Lashinski, Christine, Prom Date (#80)
Lee, Hana K., Waning Moon (#3)
Lesatele, Ella, Someone Else's Night (#6) Honorable Mention**
Liadis, Paul, Hungry like the Wolf (#90) Honorable Mention**
Little Puddle, The Moon Creature (#56)
Luke, Hell on Earth (#85)
Magle, Margaret Ann, Surviving the Night (#50)
Marroquin, Ben, Night Falls (#23)
Mary Anne, Overtaken (#53)
Maser, Jill, Lunar Cycle (#89)
McAuley, John, It Ends In Valdosta (#61)
McDonough, Richard, The Old Man and the Moon (#30)
Mercail, Moon Time (#42)
Minx, Perfume of Night (#49)
Mishra, Sanjaya, Blame it on the Moon (#82)
Moore, Tyler, Here and Now (#25)
Morgan, Rus, Twins (#4)
Motin, Amin, Maybe this Time (#95)
Neal, Jeff, In The Moonlight (#48)
Noemi, Moonlighting (#64)
Nolte, Roberta, Helena (#27)
Parocha, Helen, The Sun Has Not Set (#51)
Piper, Fran, Out of Darkness (#96)
Pliskin, Irv, The Beacon (WC 245) (#91)
Puch, Cesar, The Other Side (#74)
Rand, Lex Ham, Entry #63
Randall, R. W., Under a Puzzled Sky (#39)
Randick, Jasmin, Saigon (#43) **FIFTH PLACE, 1st Runner-Up Readers' Choice**
Rapoza, R.R., Mom Knows Best (#58)
Rohloff, Robert, Tornado Lillian (#7)
Roy, Entry #97 **SECOND PLACE**
Sato, Aleah, The Meek Inherit (#15)
Schmidt, Nicky, Moon’s Shadow (#47)
Schprock, Mr., Pete’s Moon (#9)
Seamans, Sandra, And the Moon Will Tell (#67)
Snowden, Rebecca, The Man in the Moon (#41) **FIRST PLACE, 2nd Runner-Up Readers' Choice**
Stitzel, Anna, The Journey to the End (#52)
Stitzel, Jim, Eternal Sleeper (#2)
Strand, Mary E., Chances (#33)
Tyler, David A., The Man In The Moon (#69)
Verstraete, C. A., In the Light of the Moon (#78)
Wandering Author, Moonstruck (#75)
Welch, E., Entry #31
Wells, Jaye, I Can Dig It (#21) Honorable Mention**
Wright, Samuel, The Turning Point (#11)
Young, M., Laluna (#70)
Zafiro, Frank, The Sign of the Burning Moon (#79)
Ziadeh, Liza, Stomach Pains (#24)
Zizoso, One Last Time (#98)

Entry #100

Man In The Moon
by Jack Hardway


The moonlight hit him full in the face through the window. Onny squinted, opened his eyes, looked up and out at it. Big, hulking, cloud-framed moon that looked as if it would fall out of the sky under its own weight and crush him, end-of-the-world moon.

He sat on the bed and lit a cigarette, smoked it down fast. She was still on the couch, the syringe was still beside her. Sleeping or dead, couldn't tell.

He walked through the two-room flat to the fridge. The salisbury steak dinners were still in the freezer. He pulled them out, shoved them in the oven, cranked up the gas, smashed a roach, wiped his hand on his shirt. They were celebration dinner for the big score, but they had gone through the snow fast and passed out, him on the bed. He went back to the window and sat. The man in the moon looked back at him, smiling or laughing, hard to say.

He wasn't hungry anymore. He put another smoke in his mouth, brought up the Zippo. Smelled the rotten eggs, the gas. Goddam pilot light out again.

Your steak dinner'll never cook that way, the man in the moon said inside his head. Smug bastard.

That's all right. Onny felt good, clean, just fine. He thumbed open the lid of the Zippo. You can call it whatever you want to, Onny Slovik knows it's hamburger.

Entry #99

Buttermilk and Bisquits
by Bev Haring


“I telled ya it was not a good day ta come ta dis thing” she said as she hitched her bag back over her
shoulder, “now that it quit rainin its just too humid ta breathe.”

Her companion rolled his eyes and sighed to himself, wondering how he got himself involved with these women. Maybe he should stay out of bars, he thought as he followed her down the path.

Walking behind her was like watching two little kids fighting under a blanket as her bulk jiggled and
swayed down the uneven turf in the park between the craft booths.

She looked more dressed than she was, the colorful tattoos on each shoulder gave the impression of much more clothing that the skimpy straps of the tank top she wore.

“Its gettin on dark” she informed him as if he couldn’t see that for himself. She reached up to adjust her glasses on her sweat shiny face, exposing an armpit that had never seen a razor blade.

“Moon’s up” he offered.

She paused to look up through the clouds at the moon.

“Sky’s makin me hungry with that look” she told him.

“Let’s go back ta my place, an I’ll cook us up a batch.”

“A batch of what?”

“Of what?” she snorted, “well, what the sky looks like a course. Bisquits! An I got a fresh bottle a
buttermilk.”

Entry #98

One Last Time
by Zizoso


Kent walked through the quiet woods, drawn by a force he didn't completely understand. Something was not as it should be.

Suddenly, the ground gave way. He fell, skidding to a halt on a riverbank, nettles stinging his arms and legs. Gaining his bearings, Kent could barely make out the embankment above him. Gradually, he became aware of another presence – large, ominous.

Not twenty feet beyond, the brave creature was bemired to its hips in the murky waters. Nostrils flared with effort, flanks heaved, as it thrashed desperately. Eyes wide, the animal regarded Kent with a wild glance. Kent began to make his way to the steed – dimly thinking that this must have been the call that drew him out this evening.

As Kent made his way into deeper waters, the current swept him to the struggling stallion. Wrapping his arms about the stout neck, the creature quieted slightly. Kent looked for a way to freedom, but it
was simply too dark.

Suddenly, the moon sprang out from the thick night haze, revealing the wizard standing on the bank, wand held high. "You've opposed me for the last time. Now I shall have you," he cried, thrusting his wand at Kent. Instantly, the waters raged. The Stallion rose up, fighting, feet scraping the water-worn rocks. Kent clung to him, realizing too late the brave steed was merely bait. The wizard's laughter ringing in their ears, the pair were swept over the falls.

Only the moon above marked their watery graves.

Entry #97

Entry #97
by Roy


I can't remember how I died. I see the moon is in the trees, rising slowly out of the branches and I get up and walk towards it, through the woods and to the empty highway. On the other side I see my house with the livingroom lights on. There in the yard, sitting by the swing set, is my dog. I dare not call him.

I see the full moon peeking at me through the treetops, and I know that behind me the sun has set, because that's how it works, but I never remember the day. I also know the moon shouldn't be full every night. Not every night. Not like this. This isn't the real way the moon comes.

I go back to the highway, but I cannot cross it. I am not allowed to. Once I tried riding across on the back of a deer, but she didn't like the open space of the highway, and ran back into the woods.

The moon is slow. It goes way over the highway, moving with infinite slowness, high up over my head as I stand and watch from a safe distance on the shoulder. Yesterday I remembered tidal forces from a book I read in school. When the moon was overhead I stood very still, with my shoes off, and raised my arms toward her and wished she would pull me up and carry me across, because I don't think I weigh hardly anything.

And she did.

Entry #96

Out of Darkness
by Fran Piper


“Schoolteacher!” The man I call the Butcher steps out from the trees, tosses me an AK47. Clouds obscure the moon and my last hope. The Butcher has the darkness he needs.

He came to the school, the brave rebel leader, recruiting my students.

“No,” I said. “They are too young.”

The Butcher sneered. “Why listen to your schoolteacher, when he will not fight for you?”

“All right,” I said. “I will go tonight, if you leave the children alone.”

But the Butcher has already won. Killing, even at gunpoint, I would be no better than him—so I will refuse, and he will leave my body piled with the other corpses. Then he will have the children anyway. Some of the Butcher’s troops are former students of mine. They hang their heads as they greet me; they know why I am here.

We follow the Butcher into darkness. I trip over roots, am lassoed by creepers. But when I fall, someone catches me.

We leave the trees. A miracle—the cloud is breaking up; we stand in the spotlight of the full moon. The Butcher is enraged. He turns on me and raises his gun, but his men step forward. The Butcher looks at them; they stare back, hard-eyed. For a moment he is still. Then he strides back into the forest, and we follow.

Just for tonight I win; the children are safe. As the trees swallow us, I turn and salute the moon.

Entry #95

Maybe this Time
by Amin Motin


Surrounded by trees on high mountain ridges, I knew that I couldn’t travel far that night. The moon was full and I must have been visible for miles. I was weary and frightened. By now, they must have realised that I’d gone. They’d soon be looking for me with the dogs, rabid beasts used to terrorise us and tame us into submission.

I was one of the lucky ones. I’d escaped the ovens and now I’d escaped the camp. God willing I’d escape with my life this time. I pressed on, unsure really where I was headed and whether it was to safety, or suffering. Floating gently upon the breeze came the sound of yapping, barking, shouting. So, it had begun.

I ran as fast as my emaciated legs could carry me, but I was no longer the athlete I once was. Years of starvation had seen to it that I was little more than skin and bones – a bag of mostly water, in fact. For a brief moment I thought I heard my pursuers change direction, but that was never meant to be. Inexorably they closed in on me, hunting me down like a dog. That’s what I was – a dog. My purpose in life now to be hunted.

When they caught me the Major looked at me with contempt.

“This one is too old to play the quarry anymore. There’s no challenge left. Shoot him.”

They were the final words I ever heard. My death sentence.

Entry #94

Lonely Girl
by Suzanne Smith Karg


Alone, finally alone in her silent house…Ah, sweet relief! This demure adolescent prefers solitude. Her mind is terribly burdened, and this will give her opportunity to think, to consider…

It was just the other evening when her whole perspective changed. Up until then, life had made sense. She and her parents enjoy a good relationship, and they’re in agreement about her upcoming marriage. Her fiancé is a little older; but she perceives him to be loving, kind, and wise.

“Oh, how I pray he’ll understand!” she barely whispers.

On that night of nights, the moon was high, and its brilliance pierced the thick blanket of darkened clouds. As it poured through the window above her bed, it created a shaft of ultra-golden light. Its ethereal beauty was startling, and in its midst manifested an angelic apparition.

“You have been chosen to perform a unique assignment…” began the messenger divine.

Utterly astonished, she could scarcely comprehend any of what he said! She remembers she agreed to complete her part, but now the recollection of the entire experience is surreal…

Of course, her parents and her fiancé must be told, and very soon—but how? With what words can she possibly express such an incredible occurrence? Tears spill over, as her hands gently touch her abdomen. How can she explain the Baby?


[Suzanne lives on part of her family’s farm in Northeast Pennsylvania. She is retired from the Bell Telephone System and is now employed as a teacher’s aide.]

Entry #93

The Last Night
by Andy Hollandbeck


Johnny lay in a clearing, damp, uncut grass around his head, staring at the night sky. At this moment, Johnny had everything he had every wished for for the last twenty-three years.

To be outside. . . to be alone . . . to be free.

Johnny knew he couldn’t enjoy it for long; one of the guards had taken care of that. Even now, he could hear the search dogs yowling their way toward him.

But it didn’t matter. He could feel his warmth quickly draining from the hole in his side. But still, he thought, this is a natural coolness, not the conditioned, recirculated, artificial coolness of my prison cell.

He studied the patchwork clouds illumined by the full moon, trying to pick out shapes like he had done as a child.

Every cloud looked like a key.

The dogs were getting closer. Johnny could hear the jingle-jangle of their collars and tags, the grunts of their handlers.

But they wouldn’t find him in time. Even now, the clouds dimmed, the dazzling moon fading into a hazy tunnel. Johnny knew that soon, very soon, he would be in a place without locks, without cages.

The authorities would eventually find his body. Will they be disappointed, wondered Johnny, to find a smile on my face? To know that I had died happy? To know that I had died a free man?

With that thought, a door unlocked and opened, and Johnny stepped through.


[Andy Hollandbeck is a copy editor from Indianapolis.]

Entry #92

No More
by Angel


It was heartbreaking.

As beautiful as it was, Deena didn't think she'd never seen the sky so empty.

Gold was restless under her saddle, and she knew he was tired. They'd ridden hard that day and it was getting dark quickly. Deena was dusty and hungry, and Gold almost certainly was too. He was always game for their regular "dragon hunting” jaunts; it was almost as if he understood her when she spoke to him while saddling him.

It had been four days since the last dragon had been sighted, and she had spent that time looking for it in the foothills near her hometown. Anecdotal evidence said it was a female and it was a youngster. Deena was convinced that if she could find the youngster- she could find its siblings. She knew in her heart of hearts that there were still dragons on the planet; she just needed to find them. It was her aim to return the population to its former glory- and on night like tonight it seemed even the moon made fun of her.

For tonight, she turned Gold’s head towards home, knowing she'd be the laughing stock of the town again. And knowing at the same time that in a couple of days she and Gold would be out looking for the dragons again.

Entry #91

The Beacon (WC 245)
by Irv Pliskin


With the outboard right engine feathered, the B-17 lumbered slowly across the North Atlantic.

The plane, tail number 7461, had left Labrador at 7 PM, and was headed to Iceland then England and combat. The ferry crew, ten young men were, ready to lay heir lives down for their country.

Just beyond the point of no return--the point at which they could no longer turn back to Labrador for safety, the right outboard engine began to sputter and cough.

The pilot caught by surprise, checked the instruments...they were going wild. He killed the engine and feathered the prop. With one engine down, things were getting iffy. The overcast was thick and solid. The water fluorescence gave no help.

The navigator had made a star fix an hour earlier, but that was before the clouds closed in and obscured the stars and just rising moon. If the navigator’s dead reckoning was off, they would soon be swimming.

They had been flying at 5000 feet, but now the cloud cover was lowering. If they went much lower, the pilots decided they might be forced to ditch. They had to climb above it, if they could. They climbed, laboriously and slowly through thick black clouds.

At 9000 feet they broke into the clear. There was the bright full moon well above the horizon.

A perfect star shot for the navigator: a brilliant beacon they could use to take them to a landing field and safety.


[Irv Pliskin is a retired advertisin agency executive. He is a veteran of WW11, and an Ex Prisoner of War of the Germans. He flew combat over Germany. He has been happily married for 59 yeas, has three children and four grandchildren. He aspires to be the Grandpa Irv of flash fiction.]

Entry #90

Hungry like the Wolf
by Paul Liadis


“I’m so lame,” Scott thought to himself as he stood staring at the sky, noticing the moon as it peeked through the clouds. It had been months since Scott started attending the werewolf “mixers”, and in that time he had yet to even talk to a member of the opposite sex. Suppressing the urge to howl, so cliché, he continued down the lonely path in the woods to the old wooden cabin.

Waiting for him outside the party was his best friend Ron. Ron had been a werewolf much longer than Scott and always seemed to know what to say. Ron’s advice to Scott regarding women was to “be confident”, but Scott could not for the life of him see what he was to be confident about.

“Excellent! Two chicks for every guy,” said Ron as the two friends entered the cabin, which smelled a combination of hair, smoke and alcohol. Basically, if a drunken dog caught on fire and wound up at the party, no one would have batted an eye.

Scanning the room, Scott caught the eye of a particularly curvy brunette. “Go get ‘er,” said Ron, nudging Scott not-so-subtly in the back.

For what seemed like the longest walk of his life, Scott approached the brunette hoping desperately his walk wasn’t as awkward as it seemed.

“Hello,” offered the young lady in a voice that surpassed her looks and suggested to Scott more than chit-chat.

“Nice beard,” mumbled Scott, realizing it would again be a lonely night.

Entry #89

Lunar Cycle
by Jill Maser


Damn you, Luna, and the curse with which you bind me!

What is my sin that you torture me so?

I ache. Deep inside the pain begins and forms a stone as dark and as heavy as you. That stone weighs upon me. It stiffens my spine. It pulls at my womb.

You taunt me from your place behind the clouds, burning bright, laughing at my plight.

I lay in my lair, curled in agony.

Dare I walk upon this earth?

What havoc shall I wreak?

Whom might I kill?

Oh, the pain, the pain!

I must go forth.

There is only one solution—chocolate.

“Honey! I’ve got wicked PMS. I’m going to the Seven-Eleven.”

Entry #88

Entry #88
by Dreadmouse


Hissing through her teeth against the pain from her bruised thighs, she dragged her legs up and swung them over the guardrail. Time for a rest.

Panting, she sat gingerly atop the narrow handrail and leaned her head against the iron lamppost she had held tight to as she pulled herself up and over.

The water below was quiet and still, a perfect mirror of the sky above.

She looked down through a lens of tears at the silver and grey kaleidoscope the scudding clouds cast across the reflected moon. Jerkily, she swiped the back of a hand across her eyes.

She imagined jumping. The stillness of the air would give way to teasing whispers of wind in her hair as she rushed towards the water. When she broke through, the mirror would shatter for a time and thousands upon thousands of silver-bright moons would dance under the one above.

Perhaps somebody would walk by and wonder at the glistening ballet below.

She turned her head to watch the stillness of the campus beyond the lake.

Nothing moved. It seemed nobody was going to see the moons' dance after all.

Hot tears rushed anew. She knew the cloying stickiness between her legs could never be washed away, knew beyond any doubt that she could never face anyone with confidence, or pride, again.

Agreeing to play backgammon in a friend's dorm room had ruined everything.

The moon shone unchanged despite men's careless footprints. Her hand wouldn't let go of the rail.

Entry #87

From the Minor Annals
by Bernita Harris


That year brought plague and pestilence and a desperate hunger.

And fear.

The night skies were like ichor and the clouds like the poisoned spume that clung to the rocks of the shrinking river.

That year the maidens of the clan were sacrificed one by one to the new priest's unsated god.

That year I stood on the stony hillside with the others, our faces washed to bloody bone in the streaming torchlight.

When the moon curved above the clouds like a knife I watched the priest raise his arms in incantation.

I saw the sigil of the goddess written in the sky above her veiled face and I knew he lied.

When he led me forth his eyes gleamed red. My mother moaned, and the clan rustled like a hot wind through dry leaves.

I waited until we reached the stinking altar before I struck.

I let them tear him to pieces among the stones.

There were no more sacrifices that year.

That year, or thereafter.

Entry #86

Aura
by Martina Bexte


When the lights hiding under the fractured clouds first appeared, Dimity and the whole town rushed outside to watch.

“Just the full moon,” old man Peabody said.

“Aurora Borealis,” Shirley Wilson, the science teacher, maintained.

“Not this far south,” her husband Myron pointed out.

“It’s the end of the world…end of the world!” a child cried with glee, and everyone laughed.

Dimity tried looking away; such flickering brightness often triggered migraines. But she was hypnotized. Within moments, the pain began burrowing behind her right eye and she cringed, waiting for the aura, or blind spot, to come next.

Two days she lay in bed, blinds drawn, blankets over her head and her family tiptoeing around her. Another appointment with the specialist would tell her why she was getting worse and why certain flickering lights sometimes induced a catatonic state. Her husband wanted to drive her but Dimity told him to stay and help his dad bring in his crops.

Dimity was driving back from the city late after shopping and dinner with her sister when the lights returned. They flickered behind the pines, invaded her fractured brain, shutting it down. Hours later, she struggled from her stalled car and began walking the narrow ribbon of highway toward home. She ignored her throbbing head as utter darkness and eerie stillness tightened its cloak around her as she remembered a child’s voice crying… “end of the world…end of the world....”

Entry #85

Hell on Earth
by Luke


This was to have been an elegant assimilation. I was entrusted to make a tangible difference, a real impact on the continuance of human evolution.

But not at this cost!

I'd been here less than one Earth hour when the first seizure came.

At first imperceptible, it built into a steady swell, until the crescendo of pain exploded through every cell in this inappropriate human form, this carcass of dying cells.

And so the torture continued every 12 hours and 25 minutes, regular and precise. Up and down; rise and fall; wax and wane; over and over and over

How could I have not been prepared for the unbearable agony, the insanity yet to come?

It was unfortunate but the witnesses had to be silenced.

And now I stumble across grey concrete flooring and wrap my already bulging digits around the cold steel bars. I look out for the last time upon the shrouded face of my tormentor, my destroyer; with its Spring tides and silver malevolence.

It is laughable that in another hour, I am to be prepared for death by lethal injection. Too little. Too late.

I almost feel sorry for them and the sight of my remains - blood, bone and cartilage, scattered over these four walls.

They will have no other choice but to believe then.

It cannot come soon enough.

Entry #84

Cleansed
by Brandon Horne


From the top he didn’t hear the shouting anymore. The raucous drivers below couldn’t see him, so none of their unwanted jeers were directed his way. That didn’t mean the same were true in the other direction. Leaning on his right leg, he placed the flyer underneath his left as padding from the bolt head digging into his skin. His hands were raw from the climb, and his feet burned still from the asphalt below. The summer heat made it difficult to walk barefoot on the black surface until a couple of hours after sunset. At least the river had provided relief. His clothes lay on the banks, waiting, stinking from the putrid water and weeks of sour body odor. His pills were there too, the ones he stopped taking two days ago. There was no reason to take them if he were still going to live this way, wandering the shadows, horrified of his own mind. The flyer said it didn’t have to be that way anymore. It said he could be a new man; if only he cleansed himself, he would be reborn. Stroking his matted beard he knew he’d been unsuccessful. Shining upward the spotlight reflected from his ass giving company to the lonely pockmarked face hovering in the sky. The bullhorn screeched as the blue clad man coaxed him from his perch. Beginning his moonlit descent he clung tightly to the paper, hoping that the cop could tell him how it worked, how to be cleansed.

Entry #83

Butchers
by Peter Lane


On the first day of the first ever Victor St. Claire Writer's Workshop held within the loose confines of the virtual campus of St. Claire College itself, the keynote presenter signed off with an open invitation for all participants to spend some time over the next few days composing a piece of flash fiction inspired by a photograph depicting a certain ominous nighttime sky.

As the submissions began to pour in, each accorded its customary share of encouraging comments, one began to stand out both for its audacious brevity and conspicuous lack of commentary. It read simply:

In Pittsburgh Pennsylvania there lived a teenage girl born into blindness who spent her days writing haikus rooted in an invisible world. Where others saw an intricate pattern of clouds framed by the dark fractals in treetops she imagined the meaning of the clear sky left in their relief. Where others saw a glowing moon on the horizon she imagined the last days of a dying star regarding its reflection on the surface of a black hole.

The last haiku she ever wrote before disappearing from her home never to be seen again read simply:


Camera shutters
Blades for butchers in our time
Slicing up the truth

Entry #82

Blame it on the Moon
by Sanjaya Mishra


The jolly moon and the twinkling stars, engaged in playing hide and seek with the floating clouds, laugh at you. The free end of your saree and the long untied hair conspires with the unruly wind to cover your face.

Gently, he slides them aside with his hand.

“See, the moon hides itself behind the clouds – afraid to compete with your beauty.” He says.

Half asleep, you gaze at the covered moon and he gazes at you.

“You know the moon has blemishes, but you have none.”

“It is cold but you are so…”

“If you laugh, even the stars will pale into insignificance by your sparkling teeth and be anxious to hide...”

You only smile.


You wake up with a jerk at the familiar cry of the owl on the banyan tree, your face covered with beads of sweat.

It is business time; the customers must have filed in downstairs.

You look at your face in the mirror - cavernous and haggard, attesting the ravages of bad times, and through the window at the moon - still smiling or may be sneering but surely radiating.

A nauseating smell of country liquor along with the howls of laughter waves in from downstairs. Putting on your welcome smile, you go downstairs.

As the moon covers itself behind a bunch of dry clouds, you prepare to uncover yourself; your body now full of blemishes, wishing your soul to be up there in the moon wrapped in the free end of your saree.

Entry #81

Best Ever
by Chemical Billy


Jen passed the joint to Stu, peeling paper from her lip. Stu shifted, jostling her against the gearshift.

“Hey,” said Jen.

Stu nosed up against her neck and breathed out, curling smoke down her blouse. She felt like she’d come from someplace far away, a whole other dimension.

Jen laughed out loud.

“What’re you laughing at?” Matt leaned back against the driver’s side door.

“I’m soooo high,” said Jen, taking her time with each word, “I just now realized it.”

Jen felt Stu’s laughter rumble around inside him. He put both arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder.

“Look,” said Stu, pointing his chin out the window.

They could see the whole valley. Moonset over the lake on the far side of town, lighting up the clouds from behind, like a chiffon lampshade.

This is the best night of my life, thought Jen.

“Jen,” said Matt, from way over on the other side of the car, “When did you have to be back?”

“Oh, shit.”

Jen fell out of the car a block from home, a kiss for Stu, then innocent walk to her door.

All the lights were on. Jen’s dad and brother sat at the table, faces hanging off them like stones.

She was in deep shit.

“It’s Mom,” said Jared, voice coming from an unmoving face, “an aneurysm. She’s gone.”

Jen looked toward her mother’s room, light spilling into the hallway.

That’s what I get, thought Jen. Best night of my life.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Entry #80

Prom Date
by Christine Lashinski


Callie awoke suddenly, with none of the usual fuzziness. She escaped from her tangled sheets. Moonlight shone through cracks in the rumpled storm clouds, as the empty branches of an oak tree clawed at her bedroom window. Outside, her golden retriever paced. Rusty was afraid of storms.

She stretched out her legs as far from the darkness under her bed as possible. She crept across her room and into the hall. When she reached the stairs she discovered she wasn’t alone. A shadow elongated. As it spread up the staircase, the dark shape snuffed out the moonlight previously streaming through the glass pane of the front door.

“Woohoohoo.”

Callie’s throat seized up, trapping her scream. Her hands fisted at her sides. “I hate it when you do that.”

The form shrank to human size as the ghost shook with laughter. She took the binder out of her hair and shot it at him. It passed harmlessly through him and landed in the entryway.

“That was almost worth dying for.”

“Stop trying to scare me.” She walked around the cold space surrounding him. “I’m getting my dog.”

“I make animals nervous. If you bring Rusty in, then I’ll have to leave.”

“And the downside of that would be?” She opened the door and walked into windblown rain.

“That’s cold.” He hovered above the door. “Find a date for the prom yet?”

Her teeth squeaked as she ground them together. “Yes, but something keeps scaring them away.”

Entry #79

The Sign of the Burning Moon
by Frank Zafiro


"Hell of a sight," Jess said. He gazed from the front porch at the rising moon. Grey clouds filled the sky like dirty cotton.

Darryl took a pull of his Coors and grunted.

“Looks like the moon is on fire,” Jess said. “All them clouds is smoke rolling off the flames.”

“Ain’t you just the poet,” said Darryl. He chuckled into his beer bottle. “An Indian poet.”

Jess ignored the jibe. Darryl was mean, but mostly just ignorant. If it didn’t involve a woman, a truck or beer, Darryl couldn’t find the beauty in anything. And nothing made him feel guilty.

Jess saw the beauty in almost everything and correspondingly, pretty much everything wracked him with guilt.

“Moonrise like that,” Jess whispered, “it’s like God trying to tell the world something.”

“Hell with the world. God wants to tell me something, start with the lottery numbers.”

Jess took a sip of his beer and wondered why he drank the foul stuff. Why he hung out with Darryl. Why he never told Darryl no, not even that night when they’d passed that girl hitch-hiking, and Darryl flashed his trademark grin at Jess and picked her up.

“Maybe it is a sign,” Jess whispered.

Darryl heard him. “A sign I need another beer,” he said, hurling his empty out into the yard.

“I’ll get one.” Jess walked inside the trailer. He passed by the scarred white fridge and lifted the phone. His hands did not shake as he dialed 911.

Entry #78

In the Light of the Moon
by C. A. Verstraete


The floor creaked as she shuffled to the window. Eyes narrowed, she peered at the night sky in anticipation.

His dark eyes gazed back at hers in silent mockery. That bothered Henrietta, a woman whose name had been washed away by the Moon Man's pale glow.

Such a demanding suitor, he. He called at night, his eerie light piercing, and then banishing, her sleep. Yet she basked in his attention, soaking up his rays, listening to lunar litanies that went unheard by others.

Days and nights passed as she covered the wall calendar with giant red X's. The mewling cries in the shadows grew softer.

The room was hushed as she marked off the last box on the calendar. She went to the window and leaned on the sill, her tattered nightgown making a soft swish against her legs. She looked up, her face awash in his reflection, his face aglow with an inner light.

Again, he called to her; again, she listened.

Moonbeams glistened off the knife's silver blade as she plunged it deep into her breast. With her final breath, she pulled the small basket closer and stared at the tiny, misshapen child within. In the moon's blue light, the face that she saw in the babe's skeletal face was his.


[Christine Verstraete has had short fiction published in Futures Mysterious Anthology, Orchard Press Mysteries, Flashshot and coming in Mouth Full of Bullets and Welcome to Devil's Gulch.]

Entry #77

The Call of the Nightingale
by Diana LaGrandeur


The clouds were sailing past the moon as Sabine peered intently from her window. Throwing a glance over her shoulder at the door, she knew she hadn’t much time.

Climbing from the window, she could hear the nightingale’s song and sensed it was fast approaching midnight. Taking in the sky, with its soft stepping clouds that spread across the vault of heaven, she felt almost protected, as if covered by them as celestial light haloed round the moon.

Not wearing her robes, she could feel the chill of the midnight North summer air through her nightgown and she shivered. Nevertheless, vowing to keep her promise, she sprinted toward the silhouette of the trees; her fist closed tight, the haunting song of the nightingale beckoning.

Entering the clearing in the woods, her eyes were bright. He was waiting beneath the nightingale’s tree. Her heart pounded as his eyes held hers with a gravity of understanding, for he knew what she had done and what it meant.

"Sabine I –"

Standing on tiptoe, Sabine silenced him with a kiss as she placed the sacred relic in his hand. "Quickly! You must go. If you are to rescue him, this is the only way."

She only hoped the nuns would not miss the gold chain cross he hid inside his coat as he leaned down to return her kiss with a fired intensity before melting into the night shadows cast by the traveling moon.

Entry #76

Opal Moon
by Natalia Antonova


On nights like these I miss Opal. Her name, old-fashioned, alien in a family full of Suzies and Jacks, a round and soft, Oh-pahl, belongs in a poem to be read by this sort of moonlight.

She was seven years my senior, and not an “aunt” at all, with her girlish posture and fairy stories. Uncle Jack and Opal had been married for six months when Jack drove his car into a tree. She made a good widow, despite her fondness for the color white.

Everyone thought that Opal never married again because death was not a sufficient reason to let Jack go, but Opal simply couldn’t stand the idea of another well-meaning drunk with hairy arms. She was through with men. Her father used to beat her. Her mother grew fairy wings and fluttered away into the night, and did not leave a forwarding address. Years later, Opal would do the same, but I didn’t know it as I hugged my knees and listened to her spin her tales. The night, it seemed, would last forever. So would Opal. And my youth.

I am twice as old now as Opal was then. I leave the window open, letting the night wind ruffle my hair with trembling fingers, the way Opal did

Opal like a flower, in heaven’s… But I’m no poet. Just a receptacle of memory, a well at the bottom of the night, wherein the moonlight flows freely, polishing these gems in an eternal undertow of time.

Entry #75

Moonstruck
by the Wandering Author


Selene stared at the sky, transfixed.

A glowing crystal ball hung there, a faceless grey being with masses of hair bending over it, huge paws clutching. Such an eerie sight must have meaning. Perhaps it was a sign or portent. She struggled to understand, until clouds broke apart in her mind, and light shone through.

It was only the moon, piercing the overcast from today’s storm. She must have wandered onto the balcony outside her room, still feverish, and been captivated by its intense, pure light. She’d stood there a long time; the cool air had washed away the unnatural heat within.

She laughed softly to herself. The experience had been strange, but wonderful.

Selene couldn’t resist trying over and over again to view the world in that way, seeing it as if for the first time. She tried to explain her vision to her friends, who laughed and christened her “Moonstruck”.

She struggled to learn, to express what she saw and felt, but they only avoided her. Lonely, she couldn’t put her new gift aside, even to keep her friends. Solitude drove her on, spurring her to reach out to others with words. After a long, long time she succeeded.

Moonlight through her study window illuminated the row of books she’d written, the awards she’d received. Selene, her hair in the shadows pale silver, sat quietly. She recalled that distant night and smiled. Perhaps it was a portent after all, marking the night a poet and writer was born.

Entry #74

The Other Side
by Cesar Puch


It’s so cold out here, more than I ever expected. I should have grabbed a sweater on my way out.

I look up at the sky and hear the quiet around me, and I remember when I got out of the car, thinking how peaceful this place was.

“You’ll like it at the cabin,” he’d said.

I came for a weekend. I’ve been here for two weeks.

I hold myself as the wind hits me. I really should go back inside. Maybe I could grab his coat.

No. He’s asleep. I must not wake him up.

I look up at the sky, at that cluster of jigsaw-shaped clouds. To me they look like a crust that’s beginning to crack. I look at them in their endless drift, and I look at the moon, so bright in the distance. I wonder what is beyond that light. I want to be on the other side.

Oh God. He’s awake now. I can hear him calling; he’s in a foul mood. Any second now he’ll know I’m not there, and then…

Oh dear God let me get away this time. I can take it no more.

I start running. I should have looked for some shoes too. The dirt is digging into my feet.

Please God, don’t let him come out. Give me some time.

His bellow makes the ground tremble. He knows.

I look up. The moon is there, watching, so bright.

If only I can reach it this time.

Entry #73

Entry #73
by M.J. Cole


I am awake, I cannot sleep. My heart is pounding probably from the caffeine I had at dinner or from the two glasses of dry wine I did not want or need. I am on the 40th floor of a high-rise. It is cold, modern and stark. Thankfully, I am only here temporarily as the man in bed and the owner of the condominium is a total waste of my time. "He" does not know it yet, but I am moving out someday. I don't need this.

The moon is so lonely, maybe even lonelier than I am. I am sitting by the frosted window not too close because "he" might awaken and throw me through the glass. I won't jump though, I am in charge.

"His" snoring reassures me that "he" is still asleep, I need that sound.

This high-rise glass is cold and uncaring. But, it is doing it's job of protecting me from other creatures like "him."

Soon it will be daybreak and I will go through the routine and rituals with "him" then we will separate and go to our places of employment where I will be hung over and wired from adrenaline and no sleep. Meeting after meeting, I will prop myself up and pretend to be listening, working, earning my keep until it is time to go. Night after night, day after day nothing changes except the light of the moon. Someday, it will be my turn to shine.

Entry #72

Seeing the Dark
by Addy Farmer


‘Too light,’ grumbled Papa. ‘Hold the telescope straight, Angel!’

Angel, small and pale, gripped the instrument with slippery fearful fingers.

‘Can you see it yet, Papa?’ but the breeze carried her whisper away through the sentinel firs.

She looked up. Even now she hoped the dark might return and nothing else would be needed. But the light remained, a stubborn silver stain, creeping across the moon and the stars and the sun. Weeks of seeing the light and longing for the dark. Just like Papa had predicted. Papa the great man. On this awful night, he told the believers, it would come, unless Papa stopped it.

But Angel dreaded the return of the dark.

Without taking his eye from the telescope he demanded. ‘Are they here yet?’

Angel glanced behind. ‘Yes,’ she croaked.

They stood, the tall black forest at their backs, the fat blonde slab of rock at their feet. Angel bit her fist. She wanted to laugh at them as they chanted and swayed; their hair all at sleepy angles, their cloaks and gowns disordered from hasty awakening.

‘IT IS TIME!’ roared Papa.

He dragged at Angel’s thin arm. He pulled her roughly down the stony path. She trembled violently in her thin white shift.

‘NO, Papa, please!’

The brightlit crowd hastened forward to the altar slab. The comet’s fierce light glinted on the sacrificial knife.

‘NO PAPA!’

Papa’s bright red blood flowed over the stone. He twitched. Grey eyes closed and the comet still came.

Entry #71

The Last Kiss
by Anita Klein


Eric fluttered trembling fingers against Anneliese's cheek then wrapped a velvet curl of her hair around his index finger, inhaling the scent of her hair. The beeping and blinking of the machines surrounding her hospital bed added a harsh note to the tender moment. He could smell the soap in her freshly laundered hospital gown. He gently placed his forefinger against her bottom lip and watched as the skin slowly unfolded. Her face lit up by the lonely moon skittering by the window, he was transported back in time to the first time he kissed her.

The first time he and Anneliese made love they were laying on the mass of white feathers of his feather quilt. The Giovanni Bellini and the Joshua Reynolds hanging over his bed faded into insignificance as they lay on the mass of white feathers. The inside of her mouth had tasted sweet and soft like cotton candy.

He bent over the railing of Anneliese's hospital bed and pressed his lips to her forehead, his heart becoming heavy. He stood straight, nodded to the nurse and left the room.

Entry #70

Laluna
M. Young


Yeah, I get fired tonight.”

I am standing completely still, I even begin to take shallow breaths afraid that any movement would impair my hearing. It’s hard enough understanding him face to face. I couldn’t risk loud lungs impeding my understanding. Is it wrong to admit that, I am surprised yet eternally grateful that he would have such a seemingly private conversation on the front porch.

“Nah, I do everyting wah dem tell me do, an dey still say I do it wrang. What dey tink I is? Supaman ar Jesus ar somptin? Lef dem wid dem job.”

Oooh, this is good. I usually hear about his maladies from our landlord, but tonight the moon has smiled upon me! I get to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Tink me on drugs an all”.

Hot damn, when the sky is like this, all the secrets come out, go on work your magic moon!

“Me nah understand dees people yuh kno, now lanlard goin quarrel wid me that she rent late. Meh na care, Me leaving dis place, soon, soon, too many damn nosey people in dis place.

What is he talking about- nosey? Some nerve. If he weren’t so anti social maybe he would understand neighborly banter!

“Like one now, she dumb like sheep, she peep down pon me and listening hard, hard a wha me say, bright moon a shine down light up har face, she too busy pick me mout to see.

Oh Shit!

Damn moon!

Entry #69

The Man In The Moon
by David A. Tyler


I'm standing in the middle of a car on the N-train. The guy sitting in front of me is clipping his fingernails and they are flying haphazardly in various directions. Lovely.

I get off at my usual stop; grab a bagel (a schmear), some coffee, and head towards the office. I fumble with the snap-back-sip-n-save lid and the cup slips out of my hands, hits the pavement, and splashes scalding liquid up my side.

I bend over to clean the mess and I'm speckled with street-sludge residue compliments of a passing delivery van.

I'm now very dirty, coffee-less, and have no desire to go to work.

So I don't.

I walk up the street to Central Park, grab a bench, and lay down to take a nap. Trees and sun slide to the outskirts of my vision, and my entire world seems to collapse. I do the same thing every day, and I do it so I can afford to live for the next.

Today is different.

I nap. I get up. I eat. I get the paper. I go back to my bench. I read the paper. I nap. I get up. I'm hungry again. It's getting late.

Life has defining moments. My defining moment was over a hot-sausage and mustard in Central Park. The moon is full tonight, sends light over the entire horizon. Seems there is a whole other world out there, and the man in the moon is laughing at me... calling my name.

Entry #68

The Good Samaritan
by Al Kramer


I looked up and saw it all – murky clouds giving way to brilliant light. Perpetual flooding. Everyone seemed so startled. Not me. I knew it was coming, and the world would never be the same.

Twenty years ago, in Jersey Park, a man pulled out a Colt forty-five and pointed it at a pregnant
woman. Tears dribbled down her face; shaky hands encircled her belly.

I leaped in front of the man, just as the gun fired. The bullet burned through my chest. In agony, I
lunged for him, screamed at the woman, "Go." As she sped away, the shooter, confused, stumbled in the opposite direction.

I slumped onto the dewy grass and the world faded.

A moment later, I felt air-born as if I grew wings. I knew where I'd be heading. After all, I had
saved two lives.

When I finally landed on solid ground, I opened my eyes, jumped up. For a moment, I stood transfixed by the feral beast before me. My body quivered.

"Welcome."

"Where am I?"

"Where do you think?"

I glanced around and saw nothing but black rock. Sweat began to trickle into my eyes. I now knew
my home. But why? My act had been selfless.

As if reading my thoughts, the beast said, "It is I who impregnated the woman. Angels dispatched a human to destroy my child. You saved his life. In twenty years, he and I will enslave the world. Thank you for being a Good Samaritan."

Entry #67

And the Moon Will Tell
by Sandra Seamans


Blood dripped from his knife as Bubba Lange pulled it from the girl's body. Her white-blond hair glowed in the soft moonlight and he almost regretted his actions. Almost.

Bubba looked around, spooked by the sudden hush of the woods as the moon slipped behind a cloud. The girl’s whispered words lingered in his ears. He tried to shrug away the feeling of panic, but the leaves of the towering Oaks whispered Bubba's sins on the cold breath of the night breeze, as the moon once again split the clouds. He held his knife in front of him as the shadows moved in to surround him.

His Granny had warned him about the night folks who inhabited the woods, but he’d brushed it off as silly superstition. Now he wondered if Granny's fairy tales had a smidgeon of truth in them. Fear pounded his heart.

He dropped his knife, falling to the ground as the moon glinted off gun barrels. He'd been caught out. Impaled by the white light of the full moon. Sweat poured from his body as he prayed for mercy from the night and its creatures.

The girl was bathed in the rosy glow of dawn when the search party entered the clearing. She was barely alive, kept from bleeding out by the cold depth of the night.

Bubba Lange was dead, killed by his own guilt.

"I told him, the moon would tell," she whispered as they loaded her into the ambulance.

Entry #66

Heads or Tales
by forgottenmachine


It began with the toss of a coin. Not just any coin, but a silver dollar that hung for what seemed an age at its arc, and lit by the lanterned streets glistened as big as the moon in a moonless sky. All things revert to their true nature, and so the dollar tumbled back into a gloved palm.

"Heads."

It should be impossible to guess at the decision made, but the lilting voice and roguish appearance suggested tomfoolery was the essence of it.

Hours later, Hellion stood in the alley behind the hotel bar, warmed by three brandies, none of which seemed to take the edge off. A few yards away, a gun was supported in midair by the arm of a man. Anonymous, because his name has no relevance to this tale, only that his ears still rang with the laughter of his fellow dipsomaniacs, his embarrassment still flushed pale cheeks. He'd feel much improved as soon as he lodged a bullet into the forehead of this trickster. Trigger clicked, physics performed its role with aplomb, yet the satisfying trickle of blood he was hoping for was, disastrously, missing.

Hellion stepped over the now crumpled figure, and felt a tingle as his body absorbed the lead in his skull. If they'd told him that after millennia, immortality was only useful for the occasional cheap thrill, he’d not have been so eager.

He drew his coat tighter around him, whilst in its pocket, two silver faces broke into grins.


[One might guess that impending fatherhood might have affected forgottenmachine's penchant for the darkly funny side of life, but this does not seem to be the case. He blames the birthing videos in antenatal class for this.]

Entry #65

The Threshold of Faith
by Nancy Callahan


Our entire congregation--286 souls strong--knelt atop the hill, watched the sun rise, and awaited salvation.

We'd spent weeks repenting. We'd unburdened ourselves of all our earthly belongings (land & livestock, tools & clothes). We were now as ready as ever to enter the Kingdom.

As the warm, windless day elapsed, sweat budded like holy water on our skin. We caught our breath at every sudden gust, every distant noise. We slowly, imperceptibly pivoted--as flowers do--to face the sun as it slid through the sky.

Yet the day died, and there was no indication that the Almighty had arrived.

It drizzled all night, and we huddled and prayed for a sign.

The next day was overcast: the hill seemed wounded, wrapped in gauze. Our clothes were soaked. Our joints ached.

In the afternoon, the first deserters--complaining of thirst, hunger--snuck away. We begged them to stay, for the sake of their souls; it did no good.

We spent the night conversing--quietly, piously--to ward off sleep, delirium, doubt. But we couldn't stop others from stealing off under the cover of darkness.

The third day, the sun was brutal. Sweat stung our eyes. Our shadows, tethered to swollen knees, circled us as if we were no more than sundials.

As the impassive sun sank from view, we gave up. We walked on unsteady legs down the hill, toward town.

Our only company, diffused through an airy quilt of clouds, was the moonlight: cold, pale, pure.

Entry #64

Moonlighting
by Noemi


Ananya awoke to the sound of the telephone blaring in her ear. She'd fallen asleep on the hand which was gripping the phone. The light of the moon streamed onto her bed, and diagonally across her body.

It seemed as if she was cut, by light, in two. She winced at the irony.

Her eyes sought the clock glowing red on the bureau sitting across from the bed-

3:28am

"I knew he would call back". Thank God, she whispered to herself.

She pressed the "talk" button and the words began to spill out of her mouth as if the button was a remote control, and she was an electronic device.

"Michael, I'm so sorry- please forgive me, you know I love you, it's just that I get so wound up and stressed out sometimes I cannot control my tongue. Sweetheart, please don't hold it against me. We'll work it out. I feel that this time I have the courage-"

Michael?

Are you there?

"Nani darling, the connection here is very poor, so just listen ok, I might get cut off. My plane comes in at 5. Please don't be late, also, if you could bring my grey suit-"

The line went dead, she hadn't uttered a word.

Ananya looked through her window at the mottled moon. You know how I feel, don't you?

As Ananya hung up the phone, and whispered once again "Thank God".

For she realized that her husband, Surit, hadn't heard one word she said.

Entry #63

Entry #63
by Lex Ham Rand


Will saw Nicole take the trash out, late, after the kids were in bed. The blue light flickers on the window of the den told him that Jerry was watching the game.

Will turned and looked at his empty kitchen, his empty life. Three months without Karen, since the crunch of gravel and the red tail-lights ended four years of marriage.

Nicole was busy with Jerry and her kids. But Nicole would talk to him. Will grabbed the trash bag and headed out the back door.

“Nice night,” Will said to Nicole.

“Hey, Will,” Nicole answered, letting the lid drop loudly on her big trash barrel. Jerry dropped his shriveled trash bag into his smaller container. Microwave meals and paper towels, mostly.

They both wheeled their trash bins down the driveway, Will in his t-shirt and flip-flops, rolling his smaller container. Nicole in bare feet and a shirt with a v-neck that showed off her tan, her breasts, her toned arms.

When they reached the street, Nicole looked at Will and smiled.

“You doing okay?” she asked. “I worry about you sometimes.” She smiled at Will. Even after all she did for Jerry and the kids she still had enough left over to care a little bit about Will, too.

Will felt a little guilty about lusting after his neighbor’s wife, but Nicole’s sincere interest in his welfare gave Will a tiny thrill, a moment of peace, and enough resolve to walk back up the driveway to his silent house.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Entry #62

The Tree Doesn’t Fall Far From the Apple
by Stephen Allan


Ma, look at the clouds.

Clowns?

Are you deaf? The clouds.

Oh, yeah, what about ‘em?

They look weird with that moon.

You called me out for this?

Ain’t it pretty?

It’s okay.

Just okay?

They’re other things on my mind.

I met Angie on a night like this.

Christ. We’re going to get into this now?

What’s your problem?

We need to finish before sunrise.

We got time.

Says you.

Her eyes were so beautiful.

You’re like your goddamn father.

Ain’t like that piece of garbage.

Says you.

I kissed her that night.

Jesus, you’re an idiot. Are you forgetting what they did to us?

No.

Well, give me a hand. She’s not the lightest whore.

You shouldn’t call your son an idiot.

What?

You called me an idiot.

Well, you’re an idiot to get mixed up with this hussy.

You married Dad.

I didn’t say I haven’t made mistakes.

I’ll say.

You got blood on that shirt. Take it off and wrap it in the plastic with your father.

You think this is Dad’s?

The shirt?

No, the blood.

Who knows? We messed them up pretty good.

I wish we hadn’t.

You’re the one started this. You’re the one with the knife.

I only stuck Dad. You’re the one that went after Angie.

That couldn’t be helped. The slut deserved every cut.

Well, I wish we hadn’t done it is all.

Never mind. Just put the bodies in the trunk and go inside. Momma’ll make you some pancakes.


[Stephen Allan lives in Maine. You can read his random thoughts at Noir Writer.]

Entry #61

It Ends In Valdosta
by John McAuley


Gunsmoke darkened the full moon that had followed me for two nights and two thousand miles.

Halfway to Georgia my car started wheezing louder than my lungs, so I stole a Mustang from a Ford dealership in Houston; on a Saturday night nobody'd miss it until after I'd righted a wrong from over a hundred years ago.

That's when all the men in my family started dying before they reached fifty. I'm forty-nine. I have untreatable tuberculosis.

All I'll miss in this damn world is my son. He went to mechanic's school and has his own shop now. I'm proud of him and he ain't ashamed of me. He visited me regularly when I was in Arizona State Prison.

That's where I heard something interesting about Valdosta, Georgia--and figured out how to give my boy a chance.

I was shaky hungry, so my first stop in Valdosta was at a diner.

The waitress's name was Kate. She asked if I was a real cowboy. Must've been the hat. I didn't mention the ancient Colt .45 out in the Mustang.

Kate liked talking. Especially about Doc Holliday growing up here. "Heck, his daddy was even the mayor. And the last of the Holliday men still lives in town," she said.

"I know."

When I left a five dollar tip Kate smiled and said, "Well, thanks sweetie. What's your name?"

"I'm Michael Clanton. Friends call me Ike."

Then I put on my hat and went to do a killing.

Entry #60

Entry #60
by Anne Erre


As soon as he came to, Rafe started screaming for help. He yelled until his throat was raw, until his voice cracked, until he had no voice left. Fear was making him sick.

How long had he been out? How late was it?

He knew he'd hurt his leg when he'd fallen down the hole, but he didn't dare reach down to find out how bad - as long as he couldn't feel anything from the knee down, then he couldn't feel the pain either, and that suited him fine.

He tried to sit up, but it felt like his bone was tearing his leg open and the pain was suddenly blinding, so horrible that he couldn't remember hurting so bad, ever. He screamed and sobbed for his parents, his voice miraculously brought back by the sudden need for his mom's warm touch, for his dad's stern talking-to. How many times had they warned him not to wander out after sunset, and never behind the barn where the ground was known to be treacherous?

How could he have been stupid enough to do it on the one evening his parents were out? Would they ever forgive him?

Please God, please. Please let my parents come back and find me. Please God. I'll never do it again.

Please God. I'll be good. Please God.

Still sobbing, he looked up through the opening, willing the clouds to move away from the moon.

Surely, that would make it easier for God to hear.

Entry #59

Angels on the Battlefield
by Barry Hurd


Dear god, I couldn’t believe this was my ending. The pain in my side was sharp, yet I could only feel a bliss tranquility enveloping my mind. I didn’t want to go easily. I tried to speak, attempted to call for help; but my voice was merely a whisper. The sky was frozen above me with perfect clouds touching each other like angels holding hands waiting for me to shed my doubt and join them. I wasn’t ready to go just yet.

My wife, my children… they needed me to hold on. Yet they couldn’t see how peaceful I was, having reached this point in life and found myself helpless. Their names rolled off my tongue as I slowly took my last breath to say ‘I love you”. The sky grew dark, I felt consumed, I was at a loss beyond anything I could have imagined. Everything faded to black.

My eyes opened again. I could hear the voice of an angel, beautiful and inspiring; she said I would be okay. I saw the bright light on the horizon fading away and I knew that I wasn’t going anywhere, that someone had either given me the strength to hold on or that I just had more to do with my life. A medic looked at me with a perplexed expression on her face and I simply said “Thank you. I don’t know who you are, but you are my angel”.

Entry #58

Mom Knows Best
by R.R. Rapoza


It's over, it's finally over.

Mothers are always right.

"You wouldn't like it if someone did that to you!" She would always say.

I stood outside stunned at the contrasting scene before me. The sky was filled with beautiful clouds and the moon appeared on the verge of peaking through. I found it very hard to reconcile that sky with the destruction I was seeing. Tree limbs, roofing shingles, garbage cans, and even a large picnic table were scattered everywhere in our yard. I wondered who it belonged to and if they would ever have another picnic. A huge oak tree lay sprawled across the road stopping less than ten feet from our front door.

I recalled how scared I had been when the wind was at its worst. The trailer shook so violently, I thought the whole thing would be lifted up and carried away. It was as if a giant were outside and this time I was the hamster. Our trailer, my cage. I prayed for his mother to come along and stop him. Hearing the loud crash outside even mom had lost her cool for a second.

"We're going to die," she'd muttered.

Recalling those words now, chilled me to the bone. I looked skyward, and promised to never shake my hamster's cage again.

It's over, it's finally over.

"Get your ass back in here!" dragged me from my thoughts.

"What is it mom?"

"This is just the eye!"

Mothers (gulp), always right.


[When not writing R.R. Rapoza consistently shows he is not brilliant on his far from serious blog, Brilliant Donkey.]

Entry #57

Peter's Story
by Susan Barr


He really didn't like being out on a night like this because he might be seen. He preferred moonless and cloudy. The best nights were ruined now, though - people seemed to be drawing their curtains earlier. Damn it.

He enjoys looking in windows, catching snapshots of lives. They seem oblivious, even now. Must choose quickly because soon someone will remember and dart to the side of the window to hastily close him out.

A car is moving slowly down the street toward him. They'd increased patrols, hadn't they?

"Getting something of a name for myself" he thought smugly.

Peter put his case down before they got close enough to focus on him. There were two, each scanning a different side of the street. Cocky looking bastards. He nodded at the driver and tried to look friendly and curious. He'd discovered that worked.

They didn't stop - hadn't spotted his case. Relief.

As the car rounded the corner he hastened on. He really had to hurry now because they'll come round again. Choose quickly. A room with one dim side lamp and a television flickering in the corner. A woman, head down, reading, husband watching tv. Boring. He moved on. There! Perfect! It was 'just so'. Two men and two women seated at the table.

He took his rifle out of its case and adjusted the scope. Nice. Flowers on the table too. He wished he could stay to savour it all. The host raised his glass.

"Cheers, you bald bastard!"

Entry #56

The Moon Creature
by Little Puddle


I lay there in a pool of my own blood. My arm and neck stung as though I was attacked by thousands of bees. Having been laying there for so long, I tried to get up. My body leaned against the stair railing. I took a step up the first stair, then the second. I stopped for a break. I sat on the cold, hard cement. Again, I slowly pulled myself up using the railing. I fell back hitting my head on a stair, three steps behind me.

More blood flowed down the stairs. I had to get to the main office. I once more pulled my tired body up. One, two, three steps. Only five more. Slowly, I was able to pull my drained arms and legs up the last few steps. At the top of the stairwell, the wall was the only thing holding me up.

"Please, Police! Help me, please! I was attacked by a werewolf. I know it sounds crazy, but please help me!" Everyone was running.With my arm raised, I slowly chased after the people to get help. I turned a corner, facing a mirror. What I saw was hideous. As I looked closer, I realised that my bite was more than an attack. I was now a creature of the night, a killer. I turned and followed my footsteps. I had to get revenge. The moon would be my guide.

Entry #55

Runaway
by Rebecca Hendricks


The tire goes, and I pull to the side and stop, clutch in neutral, pull the hand brake with its click click click set, high-beam clarity dropping into blackness. Crickets. The tinny purr of the little engine. My heart, pounding. I feel your eyes on me as you straighten from loading your bags into the van, starched camouflage, polished boots, wry smile, I gotta go, you’ll be fine. I will call.

I take a slow, deep breath. I’m shaking. How long have I been sitting here? I turn the key, the engine stops. I kill the lights. Tick, ping, tick, the engine cools. My eyes adjust to a bright moon, my white hands on the wheel. For a moment, I feel the touch of yours, fingers curling into my hair, thumb tracing ear lobe, face against face, it’s okay, you’re okay. I love you.

Out of the car now, rear hatch up. Where’s the flashlight? Don’t look toward the dark rustle, creak, shhhh of the swamp. The spare is underneath a pile of vacation junk I don’t want. I couldn’t keep waiting for your call, I had to get away, and now I can feel your arms wrapped around me, holding me close, salt tears on starched shoulder. Bye.

I’m back in the car. Doors locked, a blanket, moonlight on the empty seat beside me. You’ve been missing for twenty-seven days. What’s one more before I get to a phone and call the base again?

I know what they’ll say.


[Rebecca Hendricks has worked as a noodle-maker, audio editor, film grip, and secretary. She is currently working on both a GED and a Master's degree, and hopes someday to learn how to cook. She plans to win the lottery. "Runaway" is her second attempt at short fiction because, as the title of her blog reminds her daily, "how hard can it be?"]

Entry #54

The First Day
by Najoud Ensaff


May had never seen the sun.

‘It disappeared after the first explosion,’ her grandmother said. ‘A huge mushroom cloud grew above us; its dust fell down from the sky one piece at a time.’ She cast her eyes down. ‘To this day, I can still see it- that blanket of dust. I was indoors, the heat so intense my face blistered as sure as if my skin had been fried.’

May looked up at her grandmother; the scarred skin and vacant eyes stared ahead.

‘That blast took the light away.’

She nodded and stroked her grandmother’s hair. ‘Took more than that,’ May said.

‘That it did. Why your Grandpa, he was a fine man. Head and shoulders above any other. That man was all heart, and your ma…’

A tear traced its way down her cheek.

‘Out of doors when it happened-he and your ma getting into that rust bucket. I’d just waved ‘em off and, you, you were just a baby in my arms.’

She sighed. ‘Forty years, May. It’s been forty years- of darkness and cold, and now this.’

She smiled serenely.

‘I can feel the warmth again May, and God willing, now, your darkness will end.’

‘Ah Grandma, I wish you could see it,’ May said taking hold of her grandmother’s hand, but just as she did, it slipped from hers, and those vacant eyes slid shut.

May looked at the light in the sky, and back at her grandmother. ‘Now our darkness has ended,’ she said.

Entry #53

Overtaken
by Mary Anne


His torch illuminated the otherworldly form. "Halan!" he called, "I've found it." Richard held the torch higher, observing the spread of the thing as it crept up the wall. A photo of it would resemble a mould that you might find on a neglected peach. A still image though wouldn't capture the unnatural movement of the thing: it bubbled and pulsed and shadows seemed to pass over its surface. He had finally found it - he should be enthralled. Instead a feeling of dread suddenly seized him.

"Halan!"

Shuffling sounds from the next room chilled him. He took one more look and then headed towards the noise. Standing at the door he called his friend's name once more, this time in a whisper.

Now Richard could hear a pained moaning. He shone his torch in the direction of the sounds and what he saw confirmed his worst fears: the old ones were right – the thing was a replicator. It had covered most of Halan's body and was already producing hundreds of spores that would each be a perfect replica of his friend complete with his mind and memories, though the bodies would be controlled entirely by this creature. He could see Halan's eyes pleading for help. He turned to run instead but fell to his knees as though paralyzed. He screamed.

His dropped torch had rolled a short distance away and was pointing towards his hand which was alive with grey-green and a small, perfect copy of his face.

Entry #52

The Journey to the End
by Anna Stitzel


Looking up at the sky, the woman sees the moon is still hidden. Good. The roaring of the ocean below sounds in the quiet of the night.

So lonely...so lost...like me. A single tear slips down her cheek. With a dirty hand, she swipes it away, smearing grime on her face. She then bends down and burdensomely picks up her satchel and on unsteady legs the woman again starts the trek to the cliff as thoughts bombard for her attention...

You’re a worthless piece of trash!

You don’t belong here, you don’t belong anywhere.

You’re not human, you’re nothing.


People and voices flood the woman and she shakes her head furiously to get rid of them. So much pain, so much she needs to extinguish...

With another furious shake, the woman continues walking with her left leg dragging behind her. With her right arm permanently tucked up against her bosom, her left arm clenches the satchel. Inside laid the solution. All she has to do is make it to the cliff before the moon appears. Then she will be able to release the affliction that has held her captive.

Suddenly, the night sky grows in brilliance.

“Nooooooo!” screams the woman. “You have to stay hidden! He said so!” Running as fast as her disfigured leg would allow, she races to the cliff.

Abruptly, the man with the warning steps into her path.

“So you came. You stupid fool.”

Then with horror, the woman watches as her worst nightmare comes true.


[Breanna (Anna for short) Stitzel is in college majoring in Communications in Drama and minoring in Missions at a small Christian college in Pa. She likes to write stories on the side and write in her blog (link above).]

Entry #51

The Sun Has Not Set
by Helen Parocha


Maureen picked up the parcel with shaky hands. It was that anti-ageing cream she had ordered. She stared at herself in the mirror, saw her haystack hair, her bloodshot eyes. What a joke. That the cream should arrive today, the day Geoffrey had left her.

She slapped the gunk onto her face. Oh, she had tried beauty products, whatever the magazines recommended, but each day she looked more wrung out. No wonder Geoffrey had gone.

The fan whirred above her. Midsummer night and the city was neon. She would never get used to Geoffrey’s town. As a girl she had lived on an island, so far north that the night stayed light at midsummer. The sun sank to the horizon, the sky curdling with clouds as if someone had cracked an egg across the heavens. Her oily tears trickled under her collar. She would give anything to be a child again.

She must have fallen asleep. Her head throbbed as she opened her eyes. Odd light filled the room. She stumbled to the mirror. Her hair was mousy. Her teeth had that gap between them. I’m eleven. Her legs weakened. She saw the posters on the walls, the school books on the desk. Outside, the moon rose over the sun-soaked horizon.

I’m eleven, Maureen thought, and I’m ugly. She always had been. But this was before Geoffrey. She put her hand on the books. The sun had not set on her. She could start again.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Entry #50

Surviving the Night
by Margaret Ann Magle


They come for me in the night
shrouded in darkness,
hidden behind ribbons of clouds,
waiting in the shadows of trees.

Nightmares and memories
carried in on the wind.
They echo in the night air,
barn owls and frogs giving them voice.

I shiver against past evils.
I quicken my step,
and my breath.
I pray for redemption,
for mercy,
for release.

I scream at the blackness,
“You’ve collected your dues.
captured my innocence.
You’ve given me scars that show
and left even more unseen.
What else do you demand?
How much more must I give?”

The moon peers out
from its veil of clouds,
breaking the darkness,
scattering the gloom.
In her blanket of light
I am safe,
I am whole.
In the glow of the moon,
I once again embrace hope.


[Margaret has been writing since 13 but seriously for the past few years. She prefers short fiction and poetry over non fiction. She has had several pieces published over the past two years. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband David and a houseful of pets. When not writing she enjoys reading, making jewelry, working jigsaw puzzles, and music.]

Entry #49

Perfume of Night
by Minx


The smell of innocence lingered in the air, its tangible taste cutting through the night air like the faint call of a ready queen.

The neighbourhood had been quiet of late, bereft of this particular candy. It had been replaced with the scream of sirens and lights, scattering feet, bitter odours that drove excitement away and kept night things in the deeper shadows.

The cat lifted its head, casting about for the perfume that appealed to its darker self. The tang of the waning moon only heightened the thin stream of bliss that floated past the eager nostrils. The cruel mouth gaped a little, taking the sweetness deep into its lungs, savouring the cloying flavour. The smell had once been familiar here, a lure that drew many of his kind to this street. He had been drawn tonight by this delicious memory and anticipation left small beads of saliva caught on the short fur. Innocence was only the appetizer; the main course would be along shortly.

Shadows rippled in the doorway as the feet came nearer. Soon the prize would give itself to that perfect moment when innocence drowns in a flood of brief and glorious fear.

The feet had second thoughts. They slowed, hesitated, turned, and then made for the light. The cat shivered, cleaned the moist whiskers, and then curled itself into a ball. The winds of the night would fail to intrude upon its sleep and innocence would have to keep itself busy elsewhere.


[Minx is a writer from Cornwall, the ‘toe’ of England. No point in living here unless you like pasties, surfing, and a life that is mostly cut off from the rest of society! She writes science fantasy novels, short stories, flash fiction, and weird poetry.]

Entry #48

In The Moonlight
by Jeff Neale


Water lapped against the side of the dock. Clouds drifted across the face of the moon casting light and shadow on the surface of the lake.

Katherine turned at the sound of Brent's footsteps approaching along the wooden planks.

"I thought you might be out here," he said. She gave him a weak smile taking the glass of wine he offered.

"Did you enjoy the picnic? You seemed kind of quiet."

"Brent, we need to talk," she said, softly. "I've been thinking about things since the accident. Today as I watched you playing in the water with your family, I made a decision. I'm giving you an out."

"What?"

"No hard feelings. No regrets."

"Katherine, you think just because you are not able to . . ."

"Face it, Brent. I'm CRIPPLED! I'm only half a woman in this wheelchair." She threw her glass over the dock railing.

Before she could say another word, he picked her up and jumped into the water.

"Oh my God, Brent!"

"Shhhh! Just hold tight to me." He carefully wrapped her legs around his waist as she clung tightly to his neck. Turning in a slow circle he whispered, "Listen to me, the accident changed nothing. You are the only woman I love, and the only woman I will ever want."

"I love you so much," she said, eyes filling with tears.

"Enough to marry me?"

"More than enough."

Clouds parted, moonlight shining on a kiss that was long, passionate, and full of promises.

Entry #47

Moon’s Shadow
by Nicky Schmidt


Edmond stretched, lifting himself to the sky. The sight of the moon and the clouds intoxicated him, left him alive yet filled with wanting. He pushed aside old memories and focussed his gaze on the path.

It wound through the churchyard passing pitted, moss-covered headstones. He read the names as he passed. He remembered some of them. Long gone, mostly forgotten, but not by him. He was like that, he remembered people, especially those who had mattered to him.

A bat skittered down and hovered before him. He brushed at it, chasing it away.

The clouds parted allowing moonlight to brighten the path. The night came alive.

Edmond trembled. He should not have come out.

Then he saw her, crouched at an ancient tombstone, laying a bunch of scented lilies. Her dark hair fell across her face, hiding her features. Sensing him, she glanced up.

He moved towards her, smiling. She was so beautiful.

“It’s peaceful here at night, isn’t it,” he said.

She nodded, a nervous half-smile on her face.

She moved to get up. Edmond extended a hand. She took it.

The clouds drifted over the face of the moon.

Edmond sighed as he watched the shadows flit across her face. Yearning rose within him.

Yes, he should have stayed at home. He knew he couldn’t resist his instincts, especially not at full moon. He licked away the last traces of blood from his lips, kissed the girl’s still-warm neck and laid her against the tombstone.


[Nicky is an unpublished author and freelance writer. She writes lifestyle feature articles for magazines and newspapers and fiction (fantasy) for children and young adults.]

Entry #46

Trahlyta
by Another Government Employee


In the Yahoola, there stands a grave. It is at the crossroads of two trading trails. Many say to place a stone on the grave is to bring good luck on a man’s travels.

On a dark, satiny night I come down the rill. There is a mist rising from the spring to my right. The stacked stones of the grave stand in front. There is a small sign at the grave. “Trahlyta met her fate here with a traveler. Traveler, won’t you remember her?” I ignore the sign and go on, not knowing what was ahead.

A short way further down the rill, the mist thickens and a form is visible ahead. A small voice rises amongst the babble of the water. “Traveler, you forget? It is I who makes safe your way.” And with that, a storm came up. A crack of lightning and everything went dark. I awoke to a stack of stones on my chest and a sign at my feet. “Trahlyta found her revenge. She is at peace.”