Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Draftsman" and "Anniversary Gift"

Please give a warm round of applause for our debut novelist and co-host Stephen Parrish!

*clapping surges and holds steady*

Excellent! He really does deserve our congratulations. And now, Stephen has cracked his knuckles and whipped out TWO interpretations of the "Uncovered" photo. You go man! And without further ado...

The Draftsman
by Stephen Parrish

Dinner was almost ready, so she peeked into his shop. He was leaning over the work bench, as usual. Toying with compass and protractor. Doodling. She leaned over his shoulder and saw geometric figures he had sketched, objects with faces, edges, and terminating points.

"Designing Christmas ornaments?" she asked.

"They're crystals. Inorganic compounds whose molecules stack in patterns."

"And each one is unique?"

"No, not this time. Not like living things. Crystals dogmatically follow the same thirty-two forms."

She studied his notes and diagrams. The objects varied in color as well as symmetry. They were alluring, they attracted attention. People would covet them.

"You realize," she said, "this constitutes evidence. Alligators and butterflies appear on Earth, but nowhere else. These things," she tapped the drawing, "show up anywhere in the cosmos where there are sufficient inorganic compounds, opportunity for them to get together, and room for a matrix to grow."

He nodded. "That's the idea."

"Think they'll figure it out?"

"One of them will."

She kissed him on the cheek. "Hungry? I've got blueberry pie for desert."

"Blueberries?" He straightened up and glanced across the workbench. "Have I drafted blueberries?"

"If not, you'd better hurry. Dinner's in ten."


Anniversary Gift
by Stephen Parrish

"And she won't know the difference?" Mr. Wallace looked up at my father with soft, trusting eyes.

"She won't have a clue."

My father was right, it took experience. In the case of cubic zirconia, you looked for small orange flashes in the stone. He showed Mr. Wallace a two carat ring. Big enough to impress his wife, but not so big that she'd be suspicious. We would need a day to size it.

Mr. Wallace held the ring up to the light. "What if she has it appraised?"

"Oh, come now, Peter, when has Maria ever had one of your gifts appraised?"

The next day I came by after school in time to see Mr. Wallace pick up the ring. Again the moist eyes, the trusting look. The eyebrows raised hopefully.

"If you can't tell," my father assured him, "neither can she."

After Mr. Wallace shuffled out my father said, "It's sad his grocery store is losing customers. He gave me my first job. Twenty-five years ago."

"Wish there were something we could do," I said.

"He's a proud man. He'd turn down any offer of help. Or gratitude."

Later, as we were closing the store, I noticed a loose transparent gemstone sitting on the bench.

"Shouldn't we lock that up?" I asked.

My father shook his head. "Don't bother."

I turned off the overheads and only the security lights remained on. As I walked out I looked back at the gemstone and saw a tiny orange flash.

On a Walk by the Ocean

And now for yours truly--

On a Walk by the Ocean
by Jason Evans

She lifted the water pitcher, but the cup by the hospital bed was still full.

"Are pain?" she said.

The machines blinked. He didn't answer. The question finally drifted away.

She began smoothing the sheets.

"I need to tell you something," he said.

His voice was so thin.


"You know the story of the Fates?" he said. "Greek mythology? When you're born, three women spin, measure, and cut the thread of your life. Your fate."

He was her closest friend. Her only friend.

Why didn't she ever tell him how much more she felt?

"But it's not true," he said, leaning forward. "They string necklaces."

She froze.

He nodded. "Gems, all colors and sizes. They determine everything you are."

She wiped sweat from her palms.

"I'm serious," he said.

Maybe she should go.

Intensity returned to his eyes. "I know you see them now."

He needed rest.

"Because I saw them."

Yes, go.

"Until yesterday."

His strength withered again.

Yesterday, they were walking on the beach. He stopped, so upset. He reached down, and....

"Wait!" she said, horrified.

His words, so simple. "Yours. Broke."

She never told him about her headaches. Avoiding the doctor.

Now, he had the aneurysm.

"What did you do?!" she said.

He looked so tired.

"I couldn't...."

She clutched at the strange jewels around her throat, but her fingers passed through.

His neck was bare.

She shook her head. No, no, no.

But he just smiled, almost asleep. "I gave mine. To you."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Readers' Choice Voting ("Uncovered")

The finalists are final! 74 great stories are in the running.

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award is now open!

This portion of the contest is open to everyone who submitted an entry and received a Night Owl Number. Here are the rules:

  1. Contest participants are invited to vote for their top 5 favorite entries by emailing their votes to jevanswriter at yahoo dot com.
  2. Please vote by finalist number and list your votes from 1 to 5 with 1 being your top vote.
  3. I will award 5 points for your 1st vote, 4 points for your 2nd vote, 3 points for your 3rd, 2 points for your 4th, and 1 point for your 5th. If you submit fewer than 5 votes, I'll award the least number of votes possible for each choice (for example, if you vote for only 2 entries, I'll award 2 and 1 points, respectively).
  4. You may not vote for your own entry. Please specify your Night Owl Number at the beginning of your email.
  5. At the close of Readers' Choice Award voting, I will tally the points. The winner will be the entry with the most points.
  6. I reserve the right to award additional Readers' Choice Awards with or without prizes.

As you read, please keep the comments coming. Feedback and appreciation is the fuel along the lonely road of writing. If you find folks whose writing moves you, please visit their blogs or ask where you can find more. Enjoy your own judging, and above all, have fun!

Cast your votes before Monday, August 2nd, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S.). At that time, I will let you know when the winners will be announced.


Check back tomorrow, when Stephen Parrish and I will take a crack at the "Uncovered" photo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Uncovered" Short Fiction Contest


Click HERE for the Winners Announcement

Click HERE for Contest Rules and Announcement

Forties Club Finalists

Aerin Rose, Heirloom (#72) 2nd Place & Readers' Choice Runner-up
Angela A, Waiting (#40)
Ansari, Sameera, Today (#56)
Argyle, Michelle Davidson, Silent (#52)
Bea, Kimberly, Toads And Diamonds (#33)
Blackwater, Jade Leone, For Laure-Alda, from Francis (#22)
Carlucci, John Donald, Honor Amongst Thieves (#35)
Cormier, Sandra, Sparklies (#34)
Cox, Elliott, Grandpa’s Laugh (#42)
Davidson, Peter, Locked Away (#32)
Dhanke, Prashant, Unborn (#25)
Dickson, Donna, Eau de Fear (#41)
Dudley, Peter, Smoldering (#17) Honorable Mention
Eaton, Loren, Chthonic (#4) 5th Place
Ellie, Among the Weeds (#10)
Evans, Jason, On a Walk by the Ocean Your Host
Faulk, LynnCee, The Fairy's Gift (#38)
Fox, Gef, The Waiting Game (#67)
Fritz, Aidan, Tavernier Dimensions (#45)
Grace, February, Wish Trip (#63) Honorable Mention
Green, Lisa Gail, Eureka (#21)
Green, Rachel, Family Jewels (#20)
Hamilton, Matthew A., Home Early (#14)
Harar, Beth, Siren (#16)
Haws, Joni, Anniversary Dinner (#62) Honorable Mention
Hendricks, Rebecca, Shine (#73)
Hickman, Andrea, Disappointment (#59)
Hill, Stephen, Bigfoot and Wild Boy (#74)
JaneyV, Ryanstones (#69)
Johnson, Grey, The Sky Rained Shoes (#7)
Jones, Lissy, Three Lives (#46)
Jones, Samuel I., Haina Baraka (#68) Honorable Mention
Kale, Vincent, Beloved (#61)
Kovaks, Lazlo, Desert Treasure (#48)
Laine, Aimee, Life’s Treasure (#3)
Langridge, Gina, Treasures (#58)
Lapham, Bill, With Nonchalant Flair (#8)
Larson, C. Sonberg, Adorn (#51)
Lena, Goodbye (#13)
Lortz, Kelley, Killing Time (#5)
Mansfield, Rebecca, The Jewels of Life (#18)
McMurry, Michelle, The Caged Bird (#60)
Morgan, J. Elis, Synesthesia (#28) 3rd Place & Readers' Choice 2nd Runner-up
Morse, Michael, Useless (#11)
Mukherjee, Mithun, The Maker (#66)
Nagel, B., Fifths (#44) Honorable Mention
Parrish, Stephen, The Draftsman & Anniversary Gift Your Co-Host
Peters, Lewis J., Death Row (#65)
Pino, Ann M., Like Broken Glass (#36)
Posol'stvo, Easy Chair (#29) 4th Place
Precie, Child’s Play (#12) Honorable Mention
Price, Darryl, Finalist #23
Remp, Timothy P., The Maker (#39)
Riddle, T.M., Early Riser (#27)
Robertshaw, Hilary, The Search (#55)
Rowlands, John, Friendship (#15)
Scott, Craig, Fairytale Endings (#2)
Seiffertt, Kiki, Family Jewels (#1)
Sharma, Mayur, The Amethyst (#70) Honorable Mention
Smythe, Deborah, Broken Shores (#19) Honorable Mention
Snowden, Shona, Value (#43) Honorable Mention
Stevens, Hadley, Past Transgressions (#49)
Sullivan, Meghan, Seaside Promises (#71)
Tanay, Karla, Four Brothers (#6)
Taylor, Dottie, The Vacation of a Lifetime (#54)
Tomlinson, James R., Stratagems: Polonium-210 (#57)
Tomlinson, Katherine, Finders Keepers (#30)
Tricia S., The Cold Hard Truth (#64) Honorable Mention
Vibert, Catherine, Uncovered Again (#24)
Villarreal, Lori, The Jock (#37)
Vogt, Josh, The Care and Feeding of Angels (#9) 1st Place & Readers' Choice
Wilson, Aaron M., The Wish (#31)
Whirlochre, The Skullmash Mountains Open (#53)
Whittle, Margaret D., Jewels of Pain (#26)
Wuff Al, Uncovered (#47)
Zapata, Angel, Diamond in the Rough (#50)

Forties Club Finalist #74

Bigfoot and Wild Boy
by Stephen Hill

Already splintered by treetops, the last of the sunshine vanished behind a funnel cloud. It didn’t matter. Lenny could still see, and for a moment he forgot the sweat rolling like gravy down his back, and the sputtering whine of mosquitoes in his ears.

Cloaked in shadows and seen from behind, Bigfoot looked just as Lenny had always pictured — fighting the river’s rapids with brute strength, his back sprouting hair as thick as the living room carpet. Rapids broke across his waist, foaming and spitting, enraged they couldn’t drag him down.

This is the shot, Lenny thought, clutching his camera. This is perfect.

“The locals say Bigfoot has wandered the woods around here for years,” Uncle Reg had said one night, the dark jewels of his eyes glittering with customary contempt. “I tell you what Lenny — if I ever saw one shred of real evidence, I’d blow the cat.”

In the midst of all the terrible things Uncle Reg was, he was a man of his word, and Mr. Tinkles was an old tom that drew blood just for stepping in his path. The damage dished out from someone licking his balls, thought Lenny, had to be epic.

Lenny’s camera flash blazed, and Bigfoot slipped and stumbled, twisting its neck until his eyes found Lenny’s.

Even in the shadow, Lenny recognized a familiar contemptuous glitter before the current hurled the beast into the water, his fishing pole into the air, and rolled Uncle Reg downstream and out of sight.

Forties Club Finalist #73

by Rebecca Hendricks

Aunt Geri wasn’t actually related to us. She had a place north of the city, and I’d get shipped off there in the summer. We made apple butter, which was mostly apple, and peanut butter, which somehow involved margarine. She made me go to church, which I hated. She made me do chores. She was practical. She had a tractor. And two of her fingers were missing, cut off at the knuckle.

I stopped going. Years went by. Then she died, and my cousins and I went to the funeral, and they played her favorite song. Onward Christian soldier, marching off to war…

Later, an envelope arrived in the mail, with a note from Jane. Jane was Aunt Geri’s old friend and roommate. Jane had been Aunt Geri’s student when they were younger. Jane had been something more, also.

The note said, “Geri would want you to have these things.” The little jewelry pieces glittered in the folded paper. We each picked something. I held mine pressed into my palm and cried.

So now I’m here, standing naked in the doorway, looking at you in all your glory leaning against the scratched-up kitchen counter. The place still smells like sex, tinged with licorice from our slow shots of ice-cold ouzo, celebrating our… everything. Opa! And I hold out Aunt Geri’s slender gold ring with the single gem that is, I’d discovered, a diamond. I ask if you will marry me.

Surprised, you grin. Your eyes sparkle. And you say yes.

Forties Club Finalist #72

by Aerin Rose


“No, it’s me, Kate.” She pulled the lavender nightgown over the old woman’s head.

“You’re leaving.”

“Yes, remember? That I’m going back to college?”

“What about my violets?”

“Don’t you worry, I wrote everything down. I marked the watering can at just the right amount.”

“The garden?”

“A walk in the gardens at 2PM, the new girl knows that, too.”

“The blinds?”

“Yes, I’ll tell her to close the blinds at bedtime.”

“Audrey. The necklace.”

“No, ma’am, I’m Kate.” She ran a brush gently through the sparse hair. “Which necklace?”

“I wore white to the ball, of course. Debutantes. Virginal my ass. But to Casino Night, I wore emerald silk, cut low. I had the bosoms for it then. A dyed ostrich feather in my hair. Daddy wanted a deal with the Carruthers. Bought me a 23 carat green tourmaline surrounded with diamonds. Believe you me, Jack Carruthers noticed. I’m pretty sure your mother was conceived that night. She had Jack’s eyes.”

Kate said quietly, “I’m not Audrey.”

“Your mother burns through money like marijuana.”

“She’s not my—What’s this?” Kate frowned at the little envelope that the older woman pushed into her hand.

“The key. For the safe deposit box. I put the necklace away, oh, years ago. Figure it’s worth ninety, a hundred thousand.”

“Mrs. Carruthers, I’m not…”

“She stuck me in this nursing home. Where they don’t even serve Rocky Road. Sell the necklace, dear. To pay for school.”

Forties Club Finalist #71

Seaside Promises
by Meghan Sullivan

“You promised me diamonds.”

“Be quiet.” The earl scooped up the kelp-laced sand, the coarse flecks sliding between his fingers.

“You said I’d be rich.”

“I said be quiet, you fool!”

Culver’s glower was visible even in the thickening fog. He was hunch-backed and stupid, but he understood avarice.

“Ain’t no diamonds, is there? Jus’ these worthless jewels she’s wearin’. That ain’t no proper reward for a bloke like me. Why we ‘ave to kill ‘er, anyway?”

Because some secrets are more precious than diamonds, The earl thought as they covered the broken body with sand. He had promised her diamonds, too. She had been such an innocent beauty, and he had promised her diamonds and sapphires and rubies if she would agree to keep his secrets. She had tried to flee instead.

“We could ‘ave at least used shovels like proper criminals,” the coachman complained as he threw another armful of sand over the body. “I know it ‘appened sorta fast and all, but this ‘ere is ‘ard work.”

“I promise you that when we are through you shall get all that you deserve.”

“You promised me diamonds.”

“Diamonds and sapphires and rubies.”

The coachmen gave a crooked smile. “You always was a good man to serve. Not the most sane or most honest, but certainly the richest.”

The earl returned the smile. Burying Culver by himself would be difficult, but the seaside estate was large, and he already knew the grave would be.

Forties Club Finalist #70

The Amethyst
by Mayur Sharma

‘A1 quality madam, best price in all of Zaveri Bazaar,’ he beamed at us.

‘Show me some colorful trinkets,’ my mother smiled politely.

‘Yes yes, of course madamji. This way,’ he pointed towards a section that seemed to contain all colors of the universe in harmony.

‘We have rose quartz, lapis lazuli, jasper, ruby, sapphire, emeralds.. ’

‘That one, can I see it?’ mother said pointing at an amethyst.

I stared blankly at the painting behind him.

Her hesitant fingers hover over the stone. Experienced eyes peer closely to determine the luster, cut and clarity.

The shopkeeper grabbed his opportunity.

‘What taste madamji. Classy. Elegant. Would look very beautiful on you.’

Mother seemed impervious to it.

‘It’s for her actually,’ she said pointing towards me.

My eyes lit up.

‘How much’, she asked quietly.

‘4600 rupees only, madamji,’ he said with a twang.

Mother gasped.

Something sunk into the bottom of my stomach. Even the jeweler began to realize.

‘You can have it for 4500, best price madamji.’

My mother smiled a grateful smile, but shook her head in the negative.

‘Too expensive.’

That’s when it struck me – the heavy downpour had turned into a drizzle outside.

The jeweler smiled a knowing smile.

‘I’m hungry. Let’s go eat somewhere - my treat!’ she continued as we started to walk out.

‘Yeah. Let’s go some where classy. Elegant. But not THAT expensive,’ I pointed backwards.

We burst into laughter.

Just another fun way to deal with incessant rains in Mumbai.

Forties Club Finalist #69

by JaneyV

“Do you have any concerns or shall we just go ahead?”

“You said there’d be some discomfort. Like what? A grazed knee or breakin’ your leg?”

“Jesus Brandon you want pain? Try givin’ birth natural, like you made me do!”

“Take it easy Gems. I’m just preparin’ y’know – mentally. I saw how havin’ the kids was sore for you. I was there for all five.”

“Sore? I’ll give you fuckin’ sore? Doc, gimme a brick I’ll fix him right here!”

“Mr. Ryan it’ll be nothing like breaking your leg or, as you wife’s pointed out so … loudly … giving birth. A few anti-inflammatory painkillers are all you’ll need. And really - you will heal very quickly.”

“Hear that Brandon? You get to heal quickly. No weeks of bleedin’ through your cock for you. This’ll be a piece a cake.”

“But what if my junk don’t work so good after?”

“Sweetie, your junk ain’t nothin’ special now! But I promise you this – you get rid of your swimmers – and I will like it a whole lot more. Snip-snip or no more boom-boom.”

“OK Doc let’s do it.”

“I have all the paperwork ready to go ahead as planned on the 13th. Just one more thing; I need the details of next of kin.”

“I guess that would be me, Gemma Ruby Sapphire Ryan.”

“You’re quite the treasure Mrs. Ryan!”

“That’s right! And after next Friday, I better be the only family jewels that’s still workin’!”

Forties Club Finalist #68

Haina Baraka
by Samuel I. Jones

Kiletu Mbemba crouched on the edge of a rocky bluff. Like the gnarled acacias his black frame marked the flaxen grasslands, punctuated by huge grey rocks poking out like bones.

He stared awestruck into a large nest, at stones which threw color and light. Stones with clean, geometric shapes. Stones of incomprehensible worth.

His mind departed across alien possibilities. He could finally afford the dowry to marry Thilela. His family could buy enough food to grow fat even through the dry season; perhaps an automobile.

His heart was slow and careful as he considered, and was swiftly overwhelmed by hurdles. If he made it to the city, could he get a fair price? Would they believe a poor black villager found them in a raven’s nest? Would he be beaten or killed as a thief? They would tell him they are only glass, and then follow and murder him. Perhaps they would believe, then a company of men would come to his village, raping the women and land in search of more.

It seemed impossible this concentration of wealth could bring more joy than suffering. “Such as these,” he concluded, “would bring trouble on the head of even a white man.”

As his figure faded towards the village, goats ambling behind to his whistled tune, a large rough-plumed raven landed on the edge of the nest. Like a priest with its white-collar it laid to rest on the gemstones a white man’s identity: a passport sullied with blood.

(Samuel is an artist, programmer, and daydreamer in Tidewater Virginia.)

Forties Club Finalist #67

The Waiting Game
by Gef Fox

I hate dogs. I never liked them before, but tonight it's official: I f---ing hate dogs.

He isn't even mine. Some kind of bulldog--ugly as s--- too--that Marty won at a card game. Marty should out here walking this thing up and down the beach. But no, I've gotta do it.

Why Marty even kept it after he won it, I'll never know. He's never owned a dog before. Hell, he can barely take care of himself. If he wasn't so good with locks, Chaz and I wouldn't even need him.

Why the hell didn't Chaz put his foot down and tell him to leave the dog when we picked Marty up? We're just lucky it didn't start barking up a storm when he hit that old man's house.

This wouldn't even be an issue if they hadn't gone back in to grab that damned flatscreen. They dump the loot in the backseat and say they'll be right back, meanwhile I'm sweating bullets behind the wheel just waiting for the cops to roll by.

And since when does a dog eat jewelry? Did he think it was puppy chow?

I didn't even know a dog did that kind of thing. And the balls on Marty to say I pocketed the jewels while they went back inside. Now, just to prove myself, I have to--God, I hate dogs!

How long does it take for a dog to s--- twenty grand worth of diamonds anyway?

Forties Club Finalist #66

The Maker
by Mithun Mukherjee

Make it shine…

Light bouncing off the million faces, sunshine is a sliver of broken glass meant to cut through your defenses. Shimmery, radiant. Let it slice through the barriers of your psyche, like melted butter. You must. You will.

Every single one screams.

I block it; it’s my job. Bawling, screaming, a pile of thrusting limbs, a growing confusion. Material. Raw. I create their Nirvana, I design their enlightenment. I am blocking every single emotion trying to clutch at me, as I work on them, one at a time. The rest continue screaming, a desperate mass, but I ignore them. I am paid for this.

They look me right in the eye before going.

I am a preserver; I have never killed. I separated what you did not want; would never have wanted. You will never see those eyes; all you would see are the colors and a respiring brilliance. ”No stone”, you said…”something real!” I only delivered what you asked for. I turned the mundane into a masterpiece. The ones that go are never missed; they really don’t go now, do they?

Turn, turn, turn. Shine. It’s nothing but a stone now. It won’t scream anymore. Won’t look you in the eye. Won’t question your purpose. Glitter. You never need to know what it was; all you see is what I turned it into. I did it for you. Stones never have a heart, unless it’s a heart of stone.

Forget your useless jewels now; wear a soul...

Forties Club Finalist #65

Death Row
by Lewis J Peters

Yesterday they came and told me it would be today. Finally.

Endlessly, I had imagined what it would be like to wake the last time. Now it was here.

The scene played out in my mind once more.

“Magnificent, truly magnificent.”

“Thank you. Yes, I believe the collection is unmatched.”

“I am flattered that you should let me see the stones. You are so generous.”

“I will confess to a certain pleasure...”

Then the violence. It was swift. A single blow.

Vivid in my head but I had not been there.

The DNA, the description. I still didn't get it, even now. I wasn't there.

Twenty years in a cell, pondering. Still it had brought Mom and I close. After all that not speaking. She'll see me one last time today.


I had wanted to control myself. For her. The tears flowed freely.

“I can't believe it's finally here, son.”

“I know.”

“There's something I need to tell you. A terrible thing I did. I can't let you go without knowing.”

“What Mom?”

“Oh God, it was hard then and it's hard now. I knew in the hospital I couldn't cope with you both, not on my own.”

“What do you mean?”

“I had to give him up.”

“Who, Mom, who did you give up?”

“Your twin.”

Forties Club Finalist #64

The Cold Hard Truth
by Tricia S.

Oh my God. He’s dumping me.

“You don’t think deeply about things,” I hear him say. My body temperature plummets.

Wait. Did he just call me shallow?

I watch Derek’s gorgeous mouth form the horrible words. “You’re simple, Reese. Uncomplicated.” Yes, he did just call me shallow. Three times. “It’s like you have an unexamined mind.” Okay, four times. And did he just misquote Socrates to me? “And you’re not a good listener.”

Oh. My. God. This is beyond terrible. Didn’t anyone teach him the “it’s not you, it’s me” break-up speech?

I tune back in to hear him say, “I hope we can still be friends.” His lips finally stop moving. Soft, full lips I’ll never kiss again. Air. I need air. I clutch at the pendent pressing against my throat. The thin gold chain snaps free.

What should I say? Screw you, you pompous ass. Just because you got into Princeton, you think you can insult and dump me? Or how about, Shallow? You’re calling me shallow, you water polo playing bobble-head? Or maybe, Friends? With simple, uncomplicated me? Wow, how big of you. Dickface. Of course, I say none of these things. I nod and say, “Uh, sure. Great.”

Truth is, I’m afraid he might be right.

I stand up tall, take Derek’s hand, and press the broken necklace into his palm.

“Keep it,” he says.

I curl his fingers around the cool metal. “No. Thank you.”

And for once, I mean what I say.

(Tricia likes: books, ChapStick, and The Black Eyed Peas; dislikes: soft mattresses, wet hair, and wind chimes; and can take or leave: ice cream, hot tubs, and convertible cars.)

Forties Club Finalist #63

Wish Trip
by February Grace

Hayden’s small body conforms to my own as I fumble with the lock. The door releases, revealing a room too fancy for someone like me.

I’m a man who works with his hands, every single day. Not the kind who belongs at a hotel where they turn down the blankets and leave chocolates on top of the pillows.

Overheated, exhausted, I fight for the last few steps. It is my strength alone we depend on.

“I’m not tired,” he mumbles. I wish he’d just stayed asleep. Jostled back to awareness as we bumped down the steps of an over-packed Disney bus, I knew he’d fight sleep now. His thin, pale arms dangle around my neck, sticking to sunburnt skin.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

He exhales a long, slow sigh. His head, too heavy for his skinny, rag-doll neck, drops back onto my shoulder. His fading eyes disappear beneath the brim of a tricorn pirate hat.

I hope that he will remember this day of dreams and happier things. No doctors. No hospitals. Just us.

I hope that I will too.

I set him down on crisp, fresh sheets. Tiny fingers lose hold of a shopping bag. Factory made plastic gems-- his favorite souvenir-- fall one by one, raining artificial color in dim illumination across the carpet.

“My treasure!”

“I’ll keep it safe for you.” Toxic tears and drops of sweat congeal and catch fire. They burn my eyes, age my face, and obscure my grieving vision. “I promise.”

Forties Club Finalist #62

Anniversary Dinner
by Joni Haws

Joyce stood in her bra and panties, assessing herself in the full-length mirror. She turned slightly, the light catching the streaks of silver in her up-do, and panned over her reflection. Then she sighed.

The belly button she’d worked for years to keep in a taut yawn grimaced back at her, crunches and carrot sticks notwithstanding. Her knees were inexplicably cushioned. How on earth do you get rid of knee fat, she thought. Glancing up, she praised God that her boobs were tucked neatly inside the lacy bra. They looked so exhausted without one these days, her dejected nipples shying from the limelight. Stretch marks. Wrinkles.

She completely avoided her ass.

Cocking her head she put her hands to her waist and thrust out her chest. Hmm. She jutted out one hip, paused, and groaned. Good Lord, I’m my mother.

“You’re beautiful,” Tom said from the doorway.

Joyce started. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to want to see the rest.”

Joyce wilted. “Oh, stop. I’m such an old bag.”

Tom came up behind her. “Don’t talk about my sexy wife that way. If we didn’t have reservations I’d take you right now.” He turned her around and placed her arms around his waist.

“But I’m not beautiful like I used to be,” Joyce pouted.

Tom lifted her chin. “You’re right.”

She gasped.

“Now you’re spectacularly gorgeous.” His lips traced her jaw, shoulder, collarbone, making her shiver.

“We’ll be late,” Joyce whispered. And she laughed.

Forties Club Finalist #61

by Vincent Kale

The haggard king slumped in his throne of skulls. A beggar, rogue and thief kneeled before him. Each presented a gem to the Lord of Fire and Death.

Coal, his servant, collected the stones and deposited them onto a bed of kindling in a marble basin. The king waved his hand lazily. The dried twigs ignited.

The three peasants watched the flames lick the surface of the jewels. The ruby caught fire, its false exterior burning away.

“Imposter.” The king snapped his fingers, incinerating the beggar. Coal swept up the resultant pile of ash.

The emerald glowed forest green. Vapor drifted out of the stone, taking the shape of a slender woman. The king leaned forward in his throne. The woman solidified into a being of green bark and vines.

“A common Dryad,” said the King. He snapped his fingers again. The wood nymph screamed as flames consumed her, leaving a burned, twisted stump behind. Coal dropped a copper coin into the rogue’s hand.

The diamond began to smoke. Fog poured from the basin, extinguishing the flames. The king leaped to his feet as the basin became encased in frost. A figure crystallized, a beautiful woman carved of living ice.

“After all these years,” said the king. “My Queen.”

He kneeled before her. A throne of snow and ice formed on the dais.

Coal dropped a pouch overflowing with gold coins at the thief’s feet. Ash drifted from his mouth as he whispered to him.

“You have doomed us all.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #60

The Caged Bird
by Michelle McMurry

Birds steal shiny things, I muse, shaking my head. Sunlight glints off the small collection of faceted stones he’s used to attract my attention. Loosely nestled among twigs and grasses, they flash like a rainbow of mirrors under the sun. A beacon. Clever.

I wait. Impatient until a shadow obscures the cliff face. The sun blinks out. My neck cranes higher and higher until one more inch would have me toppling backwards. It is him.

Air leaves my lungs in a rush. Finally.

He’s watching, hovering directly overhead, and I smile. I feel small. Frail. Too human, even though I’m not—not entirely.

For him, I will give it up. This time I will stop pretending.

My eyes flutter closed. His wings make wind. It rushes through the clearing. I feel it brush across my cheek, feel it tangle my hair. I let it take me.

The change happens, natural as breathing. Why do I fight it?

Muscles flex, instinct, and then I’m weightless. Soaring towards him, I watch his eyes, the beat of his wings. Slow. Relaxed. I have hope.

Closer. Higher, where the air is thin, I greet him. A shrill sound. He circles and descends, lighting upon a sharp edge of stone. The air shimmers around him.

Heart racing, even knowing I won’t be able to climb down, I still follow. To see him transform, it’s worth it. I snare myself in his trap.

He changed for me. I will change him back.

Forties Club Finalist #59

by Andrea Hickman

I was disappointed. The one person that I expected to understand and respect my decision had done this. The jewels he offered sparkled between us. I stared at them. It was easier than looking at him.

“I could give you everything,” he said.

I sighed, exasperated. “I do not want everything. I have never wanted anything.”

“You don't mean that. We've always been good friends. Marriage is the best solution.”

“Would you respect me if I married you?”

“Of course.”

“I would not. And I cannot respect you.” I looked up at him again. My statement shocked him, I could see it in his eyes. “That you think you can buy me with these,” I indicated his offer, “shows how little you truly know me. It shows how false our friendship is.” I stood, adjusting my skirts.


I turned my back on him. I knew what I needed to do. He pressed the jewels into my hand. I held them up, tilted my hand and watched them tumble onto the sand. I left them there, with the rest of the world.

There was a creak as I went through the gate, and breathed in the peace of the cloister. I was home.

Forties Club Finalist #58

by Gina Langridge

Kate reached under her bed, the duvet brushing against her hair, and dragged out a wooden chest.

"You promise you won't tell?"

Anna waved her hand over her tee shirt. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

Kate opened the box and pulled out the tissue paper from the top. "Look." She held out a shiny piece of wood. "It's silver."

Anna took the twig in both hands. "Where did you find it?"

"In the woods." Kate was vague. It was her treasure and it wouldn't be special if everyone had one. She rummaged through shells, pebbles, and a feather looking for her favourites.

"This one's a real diamond." She held up a jewelled ring, its clear stone the size of her thumbnail. "I got it in a cracker last Christmas."

Anna swapped the birch twig for the ring, which she slid onto her finger. "Can I keep it?"

"No." Kate reached for it and after a small hesitation Anna handed it back.

"Oh, and there's this." Kate drew out a ring of some dirty brown metal, engraved with two joined hands.

Anna glanced at it without interest.

"I found it when Daddy was doing his digging in some old ruins. He said, 'Don't touch anything,' so you mustn't tell. I know it's not really treasure," Kate said, "but I kind of like it."

Forties Club Finalist #57

Stratagems: Polonium-210
by James R. Tomlinson

That bastard Gerard made corporate. Two decades campaigning. No lab experience. No exposure. If I had hair I’d pull it out. The shareholders are grooming him for a take over. Call it “preferential downsizing.” He’s seated next to Colonel Drakeford, CEO of Geo Chemicals, Inc.

“Pass the shrimp,” Drakeford says.

The shrimp-platter-express moves from executive to executive with one final hurdle: Gerard. He speaks, his voice amplified, “We need more cutbacks in Research & Development.”

That’s my department. “The best defense,” I advised Drakeford, “is a slow, time-releasing agent. Believe me, I know.” He agrees, yet his sustenance comes first. He reaches for the shrimp but Gerard pulls away.

“Now now,” Drakeford says into the microphone.

Is he placating Gerard or cueing me?

“Members of the Board, Shareholders, Employees …”


“…I’d like to present one last Geo Award.”

I carry a crystal egg down the aisle and place it on the table under the soft lights. The crimson cut alloy shimmers.

Everyone applauds.

The whole damn thing is staged. How ironic: an award for longevity. Gerard’s flabbergasted. He relinquishes the shrimp platter and cradles the egg. Drakeford starts chomping shrimp and dropping tails.

“I’m speechless,” Gerard says. He inspects the egg. “I think there’s a hairline fracture in this.” He leans into Drakeford whose face reddens. It’s at this moment that Drakeford realizes I’ve deviated from the plan.

I tell them both about the cost of extracting airborne radioactive Polonium-210. I remove my hat.

(James R. Tomlinson, author of “Adopted Behaviors” (Motor City Burning Press, 2010), has cautiously returned to blogging. Look for his flash-memoir at Sleet Magazine this Fall.)

Forties Club Finalist #56

by Sameera Ansari

It had been a long day. Mike glanced at his watch; she was due any moment. He smiled to himself, it would be worth the wait. The dahlias in his hand were in full bloom. By the time the train pulled in, his heart had transformed into a fluttering bird.

It seemed just like yesterday…They had met in the very same place exactly an year ago. It was a pity she lived in another city, not that it made any difference to him. He planned to bridge the gap permanently today. The ring felt like a talisman in his breast pocket.

She was not the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, nor the cleverest for that matter. Maybe it was her mysterious aura that intrigued him. Whatever the reason, he was madly in love with her and wanted to spend every living moment with her here on…

He was woken from his reverie by a fat lady pushing a fruit trolley. Rubbing the small of his now aching back, Mike made his way through the crowd. His phone buzzed just then. Frowning, he saw it was his dentist’s assistant.

Good evening Mr. Mike, said the old lady, I just wanted to remind you of the appointment at 7 pm today. Without replying, he hung up and checked the calendar. Today was Tuesday. Kate was supposed to arrive on Wednesday.

Looking up, he saw her kissing a tall man in a business suit. He was carrying a bouquet of dahlias.

Forties Club Finalist #55

The Search
by Hilary Robertshaw

The cry for silence swept over the crowd of weary searchers like a wave.

Craig held up his dust streaked hand and craned forward to listen. He could have sworn he'd heard a cry. No, not a cry - a whisper. Now there was nothing, just the drip of water off the rock face and the shuffling of his companions.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” His voice was harsh in the silence. He felt a hand on his arm.

“There's no one there, Craig,” Joe said, flashing his torch down the tunnel.

“We can't give up.”

“We're way passed the accident site. He's gone.”

“Then we have to find his body,” Craig snapped back.

“He could've been swept miles. The flood was torrential. Face it, we don't have the resources to go on.”

Craig rubbed his hand over his face.

“I can't believe...”

Joe squeezed his arm again, the grip tight, tighter... “There. What's that?” Just ahead of them, lying against the tunnel wall, was a yellow helmet.

Craig rushed forward. The uneven surface disappeared in front of him and he halted on the edge of the void.

“Whoa..! Shit..! Mike..?” He scanned the walls of the chasm. “You there..?” His voice echoed back at him, mocking.

Then, something pale, a streak of red and a white face appeared twenty feet below him.

“You took your time, mate. Now get me out of here. Please.”

Forties Club Finalist #54

The Vacation of a Lifetime
by Dottie Taylor

Three days on the beach and so far, all I've seen is the inside of my hotel room.

“Come on, baby.” I whine pacing the room, my body bikini clad.

“Go ahead, Juls.” The muffled response comes from behind the closed door.

“Aren't you feeling any better yet? It had to be the oysters.” I glance at the white walls, white bed, white carpeting. Possibly the most boring room in existence.

Ben retches, the toilet flushes.

“No... please, go. Enjoy yourself.” Water splashes as Ben groans.

“Okay,” I slip on a shear wrap, knotting it at my hips. “I'm just going to peek at the beach.” Sliding open the door, I lean out into the near dusk of the sea air, perfection. The Bahamas was our second chance. I shrug, his loss.

Grinning, I race down the steps to meet the rolling waves and the crystalline sand. The water greedily sucks at my toes as I squish sand between them. When the wave recedes, a ruby red stone is left in it's wake. As I bend down, a shadow falls across my body, then a thud and nothing.

Floating as if with the tide, my eyes find darkness. Wriggling my hands, I reach out and my fingertips brush a coarse texture, a splinter jabs the pad of my ring finger.

Screaming, terror rifles through me, no one can hear. My nails rip as I claw the moist wood, sand seeps in. Divorce Bahamian style.

Forties Club Finalist #53

The Skullmash Mountains Open
by Whirlochre

The Hotsy Potsy Ogres stilled their breath.

With a hole in one, their chieftain could win them fame, fortune, makeovers.

Anything else, and it would be lunch with a fearsome dragon: the whole tribe in a single panini (or goulash).

Stinkgrunt Bendycock thundered into the arena, his breath the halitosis fog of a champion, his expression proclaiming, I ready to win win win.

With lives, honour, and full body massages at stake, Stinkgrunt eyed up the target. As the hobbit bladder bagpipe wail of trussed, almost musical, goblins lifted the flaps of the enormous mountainside teepee, he sank low and dangled his Shiny Shiny from the flaps of his chequered loincloth.

The gems twinkled against the panorama of ogre bodies like dewdrops on an impossibly ugly scrotum. Hung in the air, swinging left, swinging right, their multi-faceted forms seemed the perfect metaphor for the moment: truly, this could go either way.

Cheered on by a roar from the gathered Hotsy Posty, Stinkgrunt gave his pelvis a series of ballistic thrusts — forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards — till the gemstones caught the air like barbs on a spiked flail. Thwack, thwack, thwack, they went — hard against the cleft in his backside, hard to either side of his navel (but never right in, for he was a master). With a final shunt reminiscent of the night he sired a dozen sons, the gems hurtled from his loincloth.


and hurtled...

and hurtled...

towards the parrot’s open maw...




and missed.

Forties Club Finalist #52

by Michelle Davidson Argyle

The darkness is filled with sound. The crickets rub their legs. Leaves dance. When he closes his eyes footsteps squish in the sand along the shore outside his window. Bugs bang at the screen. He wonders if she will come tonight, if she’ll slide her fingers against the mesh that divides him between walls and sky. He feels his chest rise, the bugs slamming like his heartbeat. They are attracted to the green glow of his digital clock, an unnatural hum exhaled from its insides. She is closer. He imagines her white skirt in the breeze as waves ripple to the shore. She will smell of hydrangea and cinnamon. He will raise the screen, will open his hands to her skin and love and light. There is no sound when her lips part above him. There is only a jewel at her naked neck, bright and round as the moon, a halo of fireflies, a promise in her throat that she will return tomorrow. Only there is no tomorrow.

When he rises he travels down the dusty road with the smell of rotting apples at his feet. The summer is hot and the sun is too bright. He shields his eyes with a level hand. He steps through long grass and finds the etched stone where she rests. All around him the cicadas sing.

Forties Club Finalist #51

by C. Sonberg Larson

Four sisters raced to the shoreline.

“SkyGod will choose me as his wife.” Rhianna’s long, red hair flowed behind her.

Enid scoffed. “SkyGod will prefer hair the color of the clouds. I will adorn the throne.”

Leyla smiled. “Fools. SkyGod will desire a raven-haired maiden with striking green eyes.”

Sophia was silent. Her beauty could never equal that of her sisters.

They reached the sand.

Enid called out. “SkyGod, we’ve arrived!”

A bolt of lightning cracked the sky.

“Dance!” A voice commanded.

The sisters danced, but Sophia noticed that the lightning struck a bird and it fell into the sea.

Sophia pointed. “The bird is drowning!”

“We saw,” Enid said.

“Nothing you can do,” Leyla yelled.

“Dance!” Rhianna shouted.

The sisters twirled, their hair and skirts flowed.

Sophia dashed forward and dove into the waves. She swept the animal into her arms and carried it back to shore. “I won’t let you die, little one.” She knelt and placed the bird on the wet fabric of her dress.

The bird swelled and stretched. Within moments, it transformed into a beautiful man.

The sisters froze, faces agape. SkyGod raised his hand and struck them with shafts of brilliant light.

Sophia ran toward them, but they were gone. Nestled in the white sand were three gleaming jewels: one red, one white and one green.

SkyGod stepped forth. “They will adorn the throne, as the ornamental beauties they are.” He took Sophia’s hand. “I have found my wife.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #50

Diamond in the Rough
by Angel Zapata

Chris pushed the other boy back to the ground.

“Leave me alone.” Brandon was too weak to get up. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Yeah, you did.” Chris circled his former classmate and smacked him in the head several times. “Go ahead and say it again.”


“Say it!”

The boys were alone in the woods behind the church. It was Sunday afternoon and the wind was deathly still. There were no cars in the parking lot and the playground was barely visible through a thick line of trees.

Brandon looked up at Chris. The boy’s face was a swollen mask of rage.

“I’m sorry for calling you a pirate,” Brandon sobbed. “Please don’t hit me anymore.”

Chris kicked at Brandon’s legs. “Arrrrrgh!” He gritted his teeth and smiled. “There’s me treasure.”

“What are you talking about?” Brandon slowly shuffled backwards in the dirt.

“My grandma says that a little boy’s tears are like diamonds falling out of God’s treasure box,” Chris explained and watched Brandon quickly wipe them from his cheeks. “And you know what a pirate does with his treasure, right?”

Brandon had backed up against a large rock.

“Well, do you?” Chris taunted and lifted up the patch that covered his ruined eye.


Later that night, police officers used the sketch Chris provided to locate the shallow grave.

It was aptly identified with a big red X.

(Angel Zapata has fiction appearing in the Toe Tags Anthology, House of Horror: Best of 2009, Mausoleum Memoirs, Flashes in the Dark, The New Flesh, and Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral and Infernal. Visit

Forties Club Finalist #49

Past Transgressions
by Hadley Stevens

“I’ve carried three secrets for nearly all my eighty-five years. The first would have lost me my home. The second would have lost me my children. The third, well, the third would simply have lost me my life.”

Pouring tea, she smiled.

“They don’t hang many women this far north, Mr. Andrews, especially ones so fair skinned as myself. I’m sure they would have made an exception for me.”

The young reporter shifted in his chair. “Can you tell me?”

“Most of it hardly matters anymore.” And time was almost up. “Are you married, Mr. Andrews?”

He could see this would be a puzzle then. “Yes. Ten years.”

“And do you love her?”

“Of course.”



She looked out the window. Light was fading. “It will be hard for you to imagine, then.”


She hadn’t realized she’d said the words aloud, but she met his gaze. “To have to choose.”


“Your children, or your spouse.”

“And did you?” he asked. “Have to choose?”

“Mmm.” The sound was neither a denial nor an acknowledgement. “Do you like chocolates, Mr. Andrews?”

Patience was difficult. “My wife has a taste for the sweets.”

“Then you must take her this box.” She held it out. “As a gift. Please.”

Andrews walked the narrow lane. He didn’t hear the footsteps approach, or feel the blade as it sliced. The box tumbled when he hit the ground, his eyes dead as the man reached down to gather what lie in the thistle.

Forties Club Finalist #48

Desert Treasure
by Lazlo Kovaks

Diamonds were never her best friend. Too many complications attached, too much greed or bad karma or something floating around them. And you had to keep track of the damn things.

Which was why she was tramping around in sand dunes at dawn in her bare feet. Sandra still couldn’t believe that her asshole boyfriend, obviously high, had grabbed her purse and flung it out the window. Only he hadn’t. He’d pretended to, grinning like a ghoul. By the time he brought his hand back into the car with the purse, she had nearly rolled the Mercedes trying to stop it by stomping on the brakes. When he handed it to her she knew instantly that it was too light. Then she saw the rip in the bottom corner. “Get out get out get out!” She screamed. She started searching the floor of the car.

But they weren’t there. The jewels, worth more than her car, more than her mansion for god’s sake, had worn a hole in the purse and when he jerked it out the window they must have flown out onto the side of the road. Unless they had fallen out earlier. Sandra shuddered at the thought, then she wept.

But only a little. Then she backed up to...where? Her best guess was maybe a couple hundred feet. Then she tore her flats off and ran to the gravel and sand that bordered the highway. Beyond, endless stretches of dunes and sage and stones. And pain.

Forties Club Finalist #47

by Wuff Al

“Not easy stepping out of the comfort zone. But I had no choice. Father was hacked to death when I was four. Two years later, Mother was thrown off the cliff. Then, my village was run over by bandits. I counted myself lucky that I was let off by Master. He might be nasty to punch me every other day, but he gave me food and shelter. He might be mean to poke me from behind every other night, but he gave me guns to play with. One day, he gave me men to shoot at. I felt powerful. One night, while in bed, he told me he was assigning me a special task. He would make me the head of his second army if I succeed. I was reluctant to leave him and his ways. The next day, Master hauled me up and shouted at me to be a man. I nodded. With my gun, I was on my way. The enemies were smart. They had guards all over the place. I told myself I was smarter and I would complete my mission. I walked up to one guard and shoved the diamonds into his hands. I said I had more for the chief. He took me to him. I bowed to him before stabbing him on the chest. The rest is history and I’m your leader now……”

The army of boys marvelled at their twelve-year-old master, eager to wait for their turn to be uncovered by him.

Forties Club Finalist #46

Three Lives
by Lissy Jones

I have one life left. Two I already gave away. To my daughters. I bought their lives with precious stones. One stone for one life. I don’t know where my daughters are. My husband gave them away instead of drowning them. But they live.

Three stones had been my dowry given to me by my mother.

“They will save you,” she had whispered when she slipped them into my hand the day of my wedding. Her mother had given them to her, but she didn’t need them. Her firstborn was a son, an heir, and that’s why she was allowed to live and I, the second child, too. Three times you may try to give birth to a son. Then your husband will kill you and take another wife. Such is the custom of our people. I could buy my life with a stone.

But I have only one stone left to plead for a life and in my arms I am holding my newborn daughter.

Forties Club Finalist #45

Tavernier Dimensions
by Aidan Fritz

The wind off the Moskva River ruffled Jean-Baptiste's fur-trimmed coat as the bells of St. Basil's Cathedral rang. Jean-Baptiste swore. Respect required you arrive on time. Jean-Baptiste, purveyor to kings, deserved respect. An eccentric place for business, but he'd learned to trust in eccentricity. It had given him Hope.

A slit-eyed man wore a coat that puffed over his scarf and three sweaters. The seller from the Far East. Jean-Baptiste wagered the seller was fifty, a youngster.

"Sorry I'm late. Cold?"

"Warm enough," said Jean-Baptiste. "Do you have it?"

The iron box filled the seller's hand.

Jean-Baptiste gripped his jeweler's glass waiting for the stone's debut. "I must appraise the stone."

The seller withheld the box. "Different. Unlike any stone you've had."

Jean-Baptiste closed his eyes, counting three winter breaths. "Different?"

"Gem marks a split-point in our reality where wielder can fold fourth dimension through fifth dimension."

"Nonsense," said Jean-Baptiste.

"Man who touches the facets can travel through time."

Jean-Baptiste listened to the seller's raving. Yet, the man's pupils glowed with an iridescence reminding Jean-Baptiste of his first trip to India. Gems did that to one. Gems that mattered. The money was Louis's and besides hadn't he earned the right to take a risk after eighty-nine years.

He exchanged gold for the box and lifted the lid to caress a facet. The world spun in a cacophony of reflected light. He released the gem. His wrinkled skin warmed by spring sunlight cascading across trees dotted with buds along the Moskva.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #44

by B. Nagel

Qwentin, a Fifth, believed in fate and hope. His days depended on it. Marooned to die at Ward Hollow, that prison at the end of the shifting world, according to law, according to custom. The alluvial plain spread its arms around him, enveloped him in fens, washed the grit from beneath his swollen feet. The ropes that held him, faced him westward, would not yield but he had faith.

Not in Humanity or God but in poetry.

He recited the lines, lifted from the out-of-favor Book of Prophets:

"I found you in the waste land,
valued beyond measure,
hidden and forgotten.
I quested for you,
a jewel to sparkle around my neck."

Though the writer sank to a handful of dust before Qwentin's mother's mother passed; though Fifths never returned; Qwentin scanned the liquid sky for sails.

Jael would search for him. She and Qwentin shared a mother, shared a room, shared a plan to shatter the Rules. Strictures binding mothers to birth and children to task. Except for Fifths.

Firsts shall fight,
Seconds shall sail,
Thirds shall trade,
Fourths shall farm,
Fifths are never born.

A dimlit drowninghouse, to be born a Fifth.

Waters rose to swallow the sun, baptizing her parched skin. Qwentin closed his eyes.

A hand on his face awakened him to the night sky. Jael's eyes, a water jug to his lips. The ropes behind him loosened. A woman's voice in his ear.

"Come, son. Let us remake the world."

Forties Club Finalist #43

by Shona Snowden

The Winton baby had just stopped crying when the Peace baby started. Again.

Nurse Assistant Evans froze in the aisle, one foot in mid-air. Wails echoed through the dim nursery.

At the desk Nurse Ilda flicked over a page of her magazine. "Go change his diaper." She flicked over another page.

From the Peace baby's bassinette, Evans yelped: "you've gotta see this!"

"Girl!" Ilda hauled herself up. "If I've seen one poop, I've seen "em all."

"Not this one." A sea-blue sapphire sparkled in the Peace baby's diaper.

Ilda prodded the baby's tummy with a clubbed finger. He whimpered. She thought for a moment. "Let's feed him."

Three ounces of formula later, the baby screamed in pain and yielded a ruby and a diamond.

Ilda settled herself in a rocker with the baby and a six-ounce bottle of formula.

"That's too much!" Evans protested.

Ilda glanced up at the clock. "Five am. Two hours 'til our shift is done. My credit rating's shot. And didn't you want to go to college?" The Peace baby arched his back and shrieked. A sapphire, an emerald and a diamond. Evans thrust another bottle into Ilda's hand.

The baby moaned, twisting from the teat. Ilda plugged his whimpers with milk, until the formula was gone. The baby writhed in pain, his face purple-red.

At six thirty doctors filled the nursery, muttering about intestinal blockage.

At six forty three the Peace baby died.

At nine thirty Nurse Assistant Evans enrolled in medical college.


Forties Club Finalist #42

Grandpa’s Laugh
by Elliott Cox

I wouldn’t say that Grandpa was secretive about his ninety-three years of life; I think he was just a humble soul. He never volunteered information, but when I asked the right question, he would always spin one hell of a yarn for me. When Grandpa told me a story, the only pause came when he asked me to pour three fingers “of the good stuff” for him, which I gladly did; the more rotgut scotch he drank, the more vivid his story became.

One time, I asked Grandpa if he had ever killed anybody. His rocking chair stopped and he stared through me for what seemed, at the time, like several hours. That was the only time I have ever felt uncomfortable around the old man. When his rocking chair started moving again, Grandpa asked me to pour him three fingers, and the tension crumbled with his voice. I handed him his scotch and sat down on my usual spot on the wooden porch, waiting for a story, or at least an answer to my question, but I never got either. I asked him several more questions that evening and only got clipped answers…no stories.

I’m sitting on my spot on the porch now, picking my way through the cedar chest that I inherited from Grandpa two weeks ago. I found three large gems hidden in the false floor of the chest, and now I know I’m finally going to hear the one story that Grandpa couldn’t tell me.

Forties Club Finalist #41

Eau de Fear
by Donna Dickson

I never knew that terror stank.

It's a smell that means your balls are up against the wall. There's nowhere left to run. You made a wrong move, and now you're gonna pay . All you have to do is figure out what the price is gonna be. And all you know is, you can't afford it.

All your life you stayed two steps ahead of the game. Duckin' and divin', showing off some fancy footwork. Never reaching the lofty heights but Christ, you did OK.

You start lookin' around at what other people've got and you're on the road to a whole lotta hurt. It's not smart to have dreams. Anyone'll tell you that.

Thing is, you gotta take your chance when it comes your way. It's not like there's a whole cherry tree full of chances in your back yard just waiting for you to walk up and take your pick.

“Get up shit-for-brains.” Vinny's henchman was not impressed.

I got up. Slowly.

“Vinny don't take kindly to being double-crossed. And you're so shit-stupid you couldn't even get it right. You fucked up, you got greedy. We caught you, so say goodbye”.

Damned if that cherry tree didn't have a few precious jewels on 'em. Damn right I picked 'em.

Vinny could kiss my ass.

I rolled Vinny's henchman up in the tarp and shoved the shiny red ruby between his teeth, the smell of his own terror clinging to his quickly drying sweat.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #40

by Angela A

I lay, waiting.

Beside me, my sisters take in the sun. They sigh luxuriously, glad to be swimming in fresh air once again, glad to be away from where we have been hidden for so long. They do not care if we are found, but I know. Someone is coming for us.

The straw prickles at our backs, but we do not worry for the sake of our beauty. All these years of life have not taken their toll on us; how could simple grass do any damage?

The feeling grows hotter, and I smile to myself. Yes, someone is coming, and they will soon be here.

Within moments, a traveler appears on the road. He looks weary, poor, down on his luck. I can smell his desperation; it will work perfectly to our advantage. As he approaches, my sisters and I reveal ourselves. We are stunning in our radiance, deceptively pure. He can do nothing but stare. Yes, this one will be easily manipulated. This one will do quite well.

The traveler takes us reluctantly, as though he can feel the evil that seeps from our cores. The temptation is simply too great for him to resist. We are slipped quickly into the pocket of his cloak. Even there, we gleam in triumph. Red as malice, green as spite, white as deceit. We glow with the fire of our compromised souls.

Forties Club Finalist #39

The Maker
by Timothy P. Remp

The stench of rot and decay clung to the doll maker’s workbench. He ran his stained fingers through his thick curly hair and judged his work with a critical eye.

She was beautiful.

She had curly auburn hair, pouty lips—he couldn’t see the stitches--- and feathery eyelashes hiding her –stitched-- emerald eyes.

He adorned her in a flowing gown of alabaster, trimmed with white and rose ruffles, white stockings, and shiny buckled shoes. A dark velvet choker concealed the stitched gash from where droplets of rubies had tumbled.

Candlelight dance-shadows bequeathed a semblance of life to her stiff body.

“I love you,” he uttered, surprising himself how easily the words escaped his lips. He could never before say them to her.

He ignored the banging at the door of his shop. Someone screamed; someone cried out her name.

This is our moment, our private moment.

From his pocket, he retrieved a red felt box and knelt before her. He smiled as he opened it. A diamond ring sparked. “Be mine," he whispered and slid the ring on her rigid finger.

The door burst open. The Constable and his men rushed inside. A woman cried, “My daughter! My daughter!”

The doll maker turned to the crowd, holding his bride’s cold hand and smiled. “I made this.”

(Timothy P. Remp is a member of New England Horror Writers (NEHW) with a pending membership to the Horror Writer's Association (HWA). He has had several book reviews, flash and short stories published in both on-line and print publications including Shroud #7. He has won Honor Mention in the Writer's Digest Competition of 2009 for his original Dr. Who spec script, "Shadows of Chronopolis" and in the Clarity of Night’s ‘Silhouette’ short fiction contest 2010 with "Beyond the Nest." Currently, he is working on his bachelor's degree in English at UNH while working full time for Fairpoint Communications.)

Forties Club Finalist #38

The Fairy's Gift
by LynnCee Faulk

Marvin stopped his ax mid-swing at the sight of the young girl, stumbling through the woods. Her hair was tangled and her dress hung limp and dirty off her frail frame. She lifted her leg to step over a branch and nearly fell. Putting down his ax, Marvin rushed over to her.

“Madame?” he said. “Why are you alone in the woods? Are you ill?”

She wet her cracked lips before speaking.

“Good sir, my mother has beaten me and turned me out.” With every word, a precious gem fell from her lips to the ground. Marvin looked down to see rubies, emeralds, sapphires and the biggest diamond he had ever seen nestled in the grass. He bent to pick up the diamond and in the sunlight he saw the rough edges of the gem were tinged with blood. He looked back up at the girl to see her eyes flutter as she fainted to the ground.

He scooped up all the gems from the ground and pocketed them. He then rushed back to his stack of wood, cleared off the cart and wheeled it over to the girl. Pulling a length of rope from his pack, he tied her hands behind her back, careful not to wake her. He paused before lifting her onto the cart to stroke her matted hair back from her damp forehead.

“Dream sweet, dear. You can tell me all about it when you wake.”

Forties Club Finalist #37

The Jock
by Lori Villarreal

Derek heaved a sigh, and then sighed again.

In no hurry to leave the taxi, he pressed the button on the door panel, lowering the window half-way. A much-needed burst of fresh air wafted across his perspiring face.

He looked at the house.

The driver glanced in the rearview mirror. “Is this the right place?”

“Yeah.” It was his parents’ house.

A dog barked from the yard across the street, its location shrouded by darkness. He wondered if the Wilsons still had that ratty little terrier with a piece of his ear missing.

How long has it been since he’d been back here…a year?

“You gonna get out here?” the driver asked.

“Give me a minute,” Derek said. His hands were shaking.

“It’s your dime.”

Would his parents understand?

He’d always been good at sports – had even won a scholarship to the state university.

Now in his third year of college, things were not as they were when he’d started.

It was time he told mom and dad the truth.

With another sigh, Derek rummaged in the bag at his hip. Darting a quick glance at the back of the driver’s head, he flipped open the little round mirror, and checked his reflection.

Not bad.

Not bad at all.

The operation was a success.

Derek took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“That’ll be twelve-sixty-five, miss,” the driver said, his eyes in the rearview mirror admiring the pretty young woman in the back seat.

Forties Club Finalist #36

Like Broken Glass
by Ann M. Pino

Cuervo dug through the straw, then sat back in frustration. He had gone to a lot of trouble to steal this box, plying the guards with tequila from his stash and nearly getting killed in his escape. Chocolate, powdered milk, batteries… he had high hopes. Bullets would’ve been nice, too. He could certainly have put them to use out here where the dangers of survival were as fearsome the dangers of the pandemic.

The lightness of the box should’ve tipped him off, but it was too late now. He examined his stolen goods and pondered. What were the odds he could find some clueless kid who would think these still held value? For a moment, he imagined the trade possibilities—a solar battery charger, perhaps. Antibiotics. A packet of peanuts or beef jerky. If he talked fast and had a clever story….

He slipped the colored stones back into the box. No one with decent trade goods wanted rubies and emeralds. He might as well offer dollar bills or a credit card. These could be museum-quality gems for all he knew, but every kid in town sported gold and diamonds, taken from the looted jewelry stores. Such things were no more useful than chips of glass from the broken windows of downtown.

He gave the box a kick and walked away. Surely there was someplace in this wreck of a town where a guy could still get something of value…like maybe a water filter.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #35

Honor Amongst Thieves
by John Donald Carlucci

The sharp pain in my stomach was getting worse. I tried not to grimace, but a knife fight in your guts can make your choices for you.

“Sir, you’re sweating a lot.” The stewardess said as she handed me a wet cloth.

“You have that affect on me, doll.” She dismissed me with a tired smile. I needed the bathroom, but my luck put me on a flight that served a bad dose fish to its passengers and the stall has been occupied with one retching person after another. Food services are terribly unreliable on African flights and I’ve learned to never partake.

“Arrrh,” I choked as the other passengers looked on with sympathy. I guess they assumed I had the worst case... I wish.

My partner Benny and I had a bad fight before I boarded. It was the kind of fight that breaks up partnerships real quick.

I absently tongued the bit of dental floss stuck between my back molars as I waited for that damn bathroom door to open.

“Damn it!” Blood stained my hand as I coughed from the pain and I couldn’t wait any longer. I gagged as I reached into my mouth, grabbed the floss, and yanked the bag in my stomach up my throat.

Inspecting the blood soaked bag, I realized what Benny had done. He’d filled it with crushed glass instead of the diamonds I was to mule back to America.

I guess Benny did believe I was stealing after all.

Forties Club Finalist #34

by Sandra Cormier

I tore along Main Street North on my ten-speed, a jockey urging her mount down the stretch. Tightly packed houses became scattered country homes. I stopped to catch my breath and heard the crow before I saw it.

It perched on a split rail fence and regarded me with one yellow eye. It didn't caw – it spoke.

"Sparkle," it said.

My initial disbelief turned to matter-of-fact acceptance. If magpies could talk, why couldn't crows? "Are you someone's pet?" I asked.

It responded with unintelligible sounds like a voice from a tinny transistor radio. It hopped along the cedar rail, stopping periodically to watch my progress as I pushed my bicycle in cautious pursuit. At the end of the fence the bird spread its ebony wings and fluttered to the ground, continuing its course into a patch of tall grass.

I laid my bike in the ditch and crawled across the ground. Warm, dry grass pressed crisscross imprints into my palms. Deep in the thatch, something glittered. The crow watched as I pushed the fronds aside.

Nestled in the shadows among toy cars and rusty watches were three gems – blue, red and crystalline.

I gathered them up. "They're not real," I told the crow as I sat in the ditch and watched the late afternoon sunlight bounce from their facets.

"They are." The crow's voice was suddenly clear and deep, and he grew tall enough to block the sun. "They now belong to you."

Forties Club Finalist #33

Toads And Diamonds
by Kimberly Bea

Bess couldn’t remember the last words she spoke. She remembered the feeling—the diamond scraping her throat, the taste of the pearl passing over her tongue. Grimacing, her mother had collected the gems, and cleansed them of the bile and half-digested food coating them.

“Jewels are jewels,” she said, whenever Bess vomited them up. “No one will care where they came from.”

Bess wouldn’t argue, even if she could do so without spitting out stones. She merely nodded and tried her hardest not to speak.

The fairy meant it as a blessing, a reward for kind words and behavior. Yet Bess’ words were ignored in favor of the gems they produced; her charity devalued now she had more wealth than anyone could want.

Her sister was as irritable and foulmouthed as Bess was gentle. Cursed by the same fairy, Maudie spat out toads and serpents when she spoke. Yet she had married a man who loved her, who treasured her vermin-producing words like the rarest of gems. When he went out in the morning, he kissed her, and dodged the hopping vermin coating their floor.

Bess had a king for a suitor, who treasured the gems she spat forth. Neither of them pretended it was love.

A hempen rope encircled Bess’s throat, not yet cutting off her power of speech as it soon would her life. “Goodbye,” she said to nobody as she kicked the stool out from beneath her. As she died, three gems fell to the forest floor.

(Kimberly is an aspiring historian and long time lover of fairy tale and myth.)

Forties Club Finalist #32

Locked Away
by Peter Davidson

I watch the shadow-drama of a life passing me by, flickering over my cell walls like some silent movie. With only insects for company, lethargy and energy take their remorseless turns in commanding my life. I stare at the notes I've posted on my window to the world outside. Will I be answered? More likely just read mechanically, filed, and noted by the spiders.

Spent, I slump back. What do they make of me, this human morsel locked away within their web? My crime? That of awareness. That time is finite. That I am alone. That I'm the only sane person in the asylum. But as a madman, I would say that.

Yes, I hear voices. All talking, few listening. I’m lucky to be here, I know. Some sit in the rain begging for handouts and crumbs while mumbling their wisdom. Others – the real madmen – shout from boxes on street corners to the amusement of bored teenagers and irritated business men. Only the pigeons really listen.

I’m not mad, not like them.

At least in here, I’m warm. I have everything and nothing at all, here, alone in my cell. Yet I understand things they need to know, outside, through that window.

My voice is out there. Talking, cajoling, persuading, seducing, annoying, whining and … faltering. Insects for company and just the spiders listening. Insane. Lost in this spiders web, glinting unseen in the darkness, waiting for discovery.

Forties Club Finalist #31

The Wish
by Aaron M. Wilson

“Told you.” Victor tried to hand over the geocache to Carmella. His hands were stained back from digging the muddy soil. He wished Carmella enjoyed discovering the trinkets people left behind. He, at least, pretended to enjoy ballet. Honestly, he did enjoy watching her stretch and dance, but the men she danced with turned their noses up at his beard and soft, skinny build.

Carmella waved in a shooing, dismissing gesture. “Yes. I can see.” She turned her back to Victor. “You found it. Can we go home?”

Victor crouched down over the cache’s hole. He replaced trinkets and took a picture with his phone, so he could tweet his find. However, as he started to push the dirt over the trinkets, the sun caught something blinding Victor for a second.

“What now?” asked Carmella, hands planted on her slender hips. “We are so not looking for another one today.”

Victor slowly dug at the side of wall of the cache. His fingers found several hard, smooth objects. He cleaned the largest of the stones on his jeans, a red crystal the size of a large chicken egg. Carmella still had her back to him. He knew she hated watching him “play in the mud.” Victor quickly pocketed all of the stones except the red crystal he’d cleaned. Holding it tightly in his right hand, he made a wish.

On their way home, Carmella kissed Victor on the cheek. “I think we have time for one more, don’t you.”

Forties Club Finalist #30

Finders Keepers
by Katherine Tomlinson

When my husband and son came home early from their camping trip, hauling a footlocker in the truck bed and grinning like fools, I got a bad feeling.

Deke carried in the trunk and dumped it on the living room rug. “Open it honey,” Deke urged, but I didn’t want to touch it, so he knelt beside it and threw open the lid.

The trunk was packed with small velvet pouches. Deke pulled one open, pouring the contents into my hand. Diamonds, each stone as big as a pearl. “They’re real,” Deke said. “I tested them.”

“Put it back,” I said. This was a dragon’s hoard; so precious it was worth its weight in blood.

It took me all night to convince him but in the end he agreed to return the trunk to its hiding place.

Three days later, there was a knock during dinner. Deke opened the door and stepped back to let the visitor enter.

“You have something of mine,” he said. “I want it back.”

“We have nothing of yours,” I said.

“You are misinformed,” he replied mildly.

I turned to my husband in horror. “What did you keep?” Deke’s face was ashen as he pulled an antique rose gold watch from his pocket.

“You’re welcome to the time-piece,” the visitor said. “I’ll take your boy in trade.”

And simple as that, Andy was gone.

I could have left Deke but that wouldn’t bring Andy back.

Deke wears the watch every day. It keeps perfect time.

Forties Club Finalist #29

Easy Chair
by Posol’stvo

Antoine ushers me to the living room and has me take a seat while he heads to the back to get the shit. There are two chairs – a straight-back and an easy chair. I take the easy chair.

Two small, dark eyes peer at me. Stalk me. Little four-year-old, broken-armed Angela. She tries to climb into my lap. She thinks I’m the guy, but I’m not. Maybe twenty years ago I would have been. But not now. Not today.

I push her away. She falls to the floor in a heap, hurt and angry now. But she doesn’t cry. She’s used to disappointment. And I’m used to disappointing.

I can’t save you kid. Shit, I want to, but…. I know your dad beats the crap out of you and your mom’s in a shallow grave, but I got problems of my own.

I mean, life’s tough, but kids – kids bounce, you know?

Antoine comes back, takes my money and slips me my package. I don’t even thank him, just bolt out the door. I put the shit in my pocket.

And that’s when I find them. The stones. The three fake jewels that Angela’s always polishing. She snuck ‘em into my pocket, the little rat. Payment? A bribe? I freeze. I should bring ‘em back. But I can’t.

Like I said, I’m not that guy. I got no white horse. I like the easy chair, not the straight back.

At least, not most days.

Forties Club Finalist #28

by J. Elis Morgan

My mother’s voice is the sound of blue.

It isn’t always a clear blue. Sometimes it claws like heat lightning jagging across a night sky. When she speaks, I have to open my eyes. Sapphire strikes, irradiating the darkness around me.

The doctors named my disorder synesthesia. It’s the colored hue that trails from people’s voices. Sometimes gold, sometimes green; luminous as a rainbow. No one understands. How could they? It’s mine and mine alone.

The house smells of cinnamon today, my mother’s favorite tea. I visit her more often. She’s not always strong, but now she lifts a petunia from its pot, roots dangling, and replants it. Look at that. Her hands don’t even tremble.

“Are you prepared?” She pats the soil gently.

The day grays around me until all I see are shadows. A touch of red snags my words. “Why didn’t you choose chemo? Everybody does.”

Everybody. They want to live. What is wrong with her?

She pauses. A petal drifts downward. “I have my reasons.”

“Explain why. Just help me understand.”

The air glistens with her sigh. “Tell me you’re ready,” is her only reply.

I’m left with glowing anger. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She nods, and clips dead blossoms from the stem.

Yet when the day arrives, I sift through my mother’s things. I rage. I cry. There’s no such thing as being ready. Around me, people murmur. The rainbow arcs. Synesthesia. It is emerald and ruby and diamond.

It is the absence of blue.

Forties Club Finalist #27

Early Riser
by T.M. Riddle

There was nothing that Mary Francis hated more than cleaning out the chicken coup and collecting the eggs. Everyone else was still warm and sleeping in the house while she picked though the straw filled with droppings and held her breath against the smell. She made sure that she handled each egg so that it didn’t break. Any evidence of a broken or cracked shell and she would be the one without breakfast.

Mary looked down into the basket. She had only found three eggs. They always laid four. If she didn’t find it now, then she’d be looking for a rotten egg later. She thrust her hand back into the coup and began to rummage around. It had to be there somewhere. Then she grasped something that felt strange. It wasn’t warm; it was cool, and felt like glass. She closed her hand around it and drew it out just as the sun was beginning to rise. She opened her hand and the morning light glinted off the jewel she held. It looked like something she’d seen in the movies that she and Claire went to. She remembered something Father had read in the paper about a robbery and how she had thought she had heard someone running through the yard last night.

She dug her hand into the straw, greedy now and came up with two more jewels. She dropped them down into her rubber boots. She’d leave the ruby under Claire’s pillow before she caught the train.

Forties Club Finalist #26

Jewels of Pain
By Margaret D. Whittle

God had taken the one thing that was precious to her and destroyed it, so being the good little Parochial Schooled vassal that she was, in her mind she was just following his directive: An Eye for an Eye. There was to be no blame. There would only be retribution, which is what brought her to the church.

She threw the Molotov cocktail hard, fast and without regret. It arched high against the Sunday morning sky and since her aim was as true as her purpose, the crashing of the stained glass window came as no surprise to the parishioners gathered on the lawn, seemingly frozen in a tableau of disbelief.

The multicolored glass depicting Mary of Nazareth in the stable, gazing lovingly at her Child in his swaddling clothes, shattered in what seemed to be slow motion. The rush of heat from the subsequent explosion began to fuse the colors once in the pane, into brightly colored gems that began to fall tear-like on the earth below.

Topaz gold had been the color of her sons hair-Sapphire blue was the color of his eyes-Ruby red the color of the blood that ran down his face when the lightning bolt sent by God had struck him. Revenge while neither sweet nor meant to ease her pain, would serve as her return volley in the game of destruction being played.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #25

by Prashant Dhanke

Before she died, she had one last look at the sky. She has been sleeping since then, only to keep waking in another dream.

Now she found herself on an island with no trees and three crystals. The crystals were the shiniest she had ever seen.

“Do you like them?” said a voice which came from nowhere.

The sparkles told her that she wasn’t in a dream. Nothing so pure can be untrue.

“They were sons of the same mother.” the voice continued.

“Sorry??” she mumbled, uncertainly.

“I’ll explain. What was Newton’s greatest accomplishment?”

“Calculus? Laws of motion?”

The voice smirked.

“No, child. Newton became ‘The Theory of Relativity’.”

“So, the dead turn into theories or crystals?”

“Yes, they do, into ideas, into events, into all things that are beyond the realms of meek, the living beings. Mona Lisa, the Ninth Symphony, Zero; each one of them came into existence after centuries of suffering of the dead. ”

“What about the beginning, when there was no one to die?”

“No creation is free of the guilt of destruction.”

“Then who died for Big Bang? Was it God?”

“A force more potent.”

“What was it?”


Even the waves paused for a moment.

“Nothing else explodes with such magnificence.”

And then the voice disappeared. And the crystals melted into tears and were stolen by the momentary breeze before the sand could swallow them, leaving her alone on the island of melancholy, till the day she turns herself into lyrics, yet unsung.

Forties Club Finalist #24

Uncovered Again
by Catherine Vibert

April 20, 2420 A.C.E.

“A little to the left. There it is. Now sweep away the sand,” Captain Bill Pritch ordered.

Two men stared at the monitor from the podcraft. A large robot arm pushed the sand away from the undersea platform. A letter M was visible. Other cameras showed mounds of rusted debris.

“Yeah baby, this is it!”

“Why are we searching here Captain?” Jim was anxious. He pushed the arm over the platform.

“The tanks are empty, Jim. We need the jewels to keep the moon station operating, oxygen is a necessity.”

The letters MAC were visible. The arm pushed further.

“Don’t think we’re gonna find jewels in there.”

Jewels is what we call oil here in collections. You’re such a newb!”

“I think we should get out of this god-forsaken place. Something horrible happened here, I feel it.”

“Obviously! Dead planet? Get a clue!”

“No, something happened here, in this spot.”

“Nothin’ that happened here’s gonna stop us from getting the goods. Life on the moon station depends on it!”

Jim’s eyes enlarged as his jaw slacked.


“We’re not reopening that one!”

“That’s the one!” The captain aimed the laser at the platform.

“But, the methane!”

“I’m sure it’s all escaped. Hence, a dead planet. Commencing fire!”


From Rigel 5, it looked to Yaweh like a nova when Earth and its moon blew out of Solaris’s orbit.

“Spectacular ending!” He squealed to Michael. “You try the next experiment. But leave out the apples this time.”

Forties Club Finalist #23

by Darryl Price

It was impossible

that these three stones alone
should survive the seven
days and nights of battle
unscathed. Even the bones

of the very dead had
long ago been carted
away by what foxes
still remained. Maybe it

was that even the crows
couldn't stand the warning
stench coming off of those
glittering surfaces.

They rest in the palms of
grasses but still somehow
command the trees and rocks
around them with menacing

authority. And
any sunlight unlucky
enough to enter
those fractured chambered doors

are immediately
captured, broken off at
the wrist and sent winding
home like a piece of cut

string.No, better to let
them sink at will, no matter
the years, back to the
soft breasts of the mother.

(Darryl Price was born in Kentucky and educated at Thomas More College. A founding member of Jack Roth's Yellow Pages Poets, he has published dozens of chapbooks, including a dual chapbook with Jennifer Bosveld, founder of Pudding House (the largest literary small press in America), and had poems in journals including The Bitter Oleander, Cornfield Review, Allegheny Poetry, Wind, Out of Sight, Paper Radio, The West Conscious Review,Pudding,Metazen, Cap City Poets, Doing It,Prick of the Spindle,Olentangy Review,Fourpaperletters,LITSNACK, Like Birds Lit and the Green Fuse.)