Green – Dawn Corrigan

I awoke in heaven. It was a real Roman Catholic heaven, too. I saw Mary and Jesus, and they were just like human-sized, mobile statuary from church. A man—I don’t know who—was with me.

Mary was just about to speak when I decided to leave. I started walking back to earth. Someone else was walking in the distance ahead of me. I kept pace without letting the space between us grow or shrink.

I left because I missed the color green. There was no green in heaven, and I walked back to earth so I could see green again.

Eventually I was back on earth, and I continued walking around, still following someone, and the person who’d been in heaven with me—we’d sort of been paired together up there—came with me, too. I was following someone, and he was following me. And the trees tossed in the breeze, and we were happy.

 

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Stump – John Brantingham

You’re over at Drew’s house with Cyndi and your wife, during one of his I-might-just-be-the-wealthiest-man-in-town parties complete with a string quartet and catering staff and the most expensive booze you’ve ever seen which is why you’ve had your share and Cyndi’s too because what the hell, she’s too young to drink. You’re about to head for the bar to get started on your wife’s share when you notice Cyndi, glaring at Drew’s coffee table.

“What’s up?” you ask her.

“Can you believe this?”

“The table?”

“Yeah, look at it.” The middle section of a giant tree that someone put legs on and shellacked until it was smooth like marble.

“It’s a table made from a tree cookie,” you say.

“Yeah, a sequoia tree cookie.” You cock your head at it. It’s a big table, but it’s not sequoia sized. It’s not even redwood sized. Cyndi’s at that age when everything is an injustice that she must rail against, and you like that about her. She’s a good person and all of that, but on the other hand, she’s also kind of wearing you out with cause after cause.

On the other hand, you know that Drew’s always had kind of a thing for your wife, so you say, “Son-of-a-bitch, you’re right.”

“I don’t believe it. I thought these trees were protected.”

“Go grab your mother. We’re leaving in protest.”

Cyndi heads off looking for your wife while you slip over to grab one more drink. Drew comes up behind you and grabs you by the arm. “I wanted to show you something,” he says. He takes you into his study, which has been locked all afternoon, closes the door behind him, locks it.

“What’s going on?”

“I just bought something at auction the other day, that I think you’d get but maybe not everyone else would. You know about the Boer War, right?”

“I wrote my dissertation on it. I teach a couple of seminars.”

“Yeah, I thought so. Check this out. It came back to England with a colonel. He reportedly bought it during the campaign.” He hefts something that looks a bit like a tree stump and places it on his desk in front of you. “The man is supposed to have known Churchill.”

“Which one?” You ask, but his face scrunches. Then your face scrunches. You can feel it. “What is it?”

“Look closely. He turned it ironically enough into a footstool.”

You stare at the gray thing for a while until you understand. It’s the foot of an elephant, hacked off and preserved somehow. Once you understand you lose yourself a little. All you can do is stare. “You have a lot of money, do you Drew?”

“What?”

“There is a point at which a man might have too much money.” You realize that you’re still at that age when so many things are injustices that you must rail against, and you like that about yourself, but it can be exhausting.

“What are you talking about?”

Cyndi and her mom come through the door on their quest to find you, and you turn to Drew, who is goggling at your wife and say, “Listen Drew, we’re leaving now, and until you can find some way to act like a human being and get that stump out of here, we’re not coming back.”

“What?”

“Seriously, man, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

And as you walk out your daughter beams at you for the first time in a long time and it makes you want to storm out, which you do, as well as anyone can storm and also stop off by the bar for one more glass of the good stuff.

 

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Today We Printed Out The Internet – Paul Thompson

Today we printed out the Internet.

All of it.

Boredom is the main obstacle. Paper jams welcome, our printer stopping on random pages, gasping for respite. Occasional network issues keep our minds sharp. And the trucks outside, delivering paper to our door, as we stack and carry into the warehouse.

Otherwise it is the mundane, the churn of the printer barrel, its friction melodic. We compose accompanying ukulele chords, playing our song during long periods of self-doubt. The information we print is sometimes distracting, sometimes worthwhile, infrequently enriching. Content we never knew of, its existence beyond imagination.

We abandon our plan for governance, the physicality overwhelming. Our original intention to create a structure, a manual index. Prototypes still on our walls, built with string and pins and photos, all now hopeless. Instead we have chaos – information random, back to its anarchic conception. We print, and stack, and store as we find it, building towers of content. Archways of A4, avenues of ink.

We try not to think of the trees, or the transport footprint, or the excess. Instead we focus on the greater good. How every individual, or society, or civilisation needs a backup. The inevitable collapse of infrastructure, and a world thankful for our save state. Everything recycled.

Our first query is from an old man who wears medals on his jacket. He walks with a limp and a small dog. He compliments our efforts, peering into our back-yard Internet. Paper blocking the horizon, changing perspective. A forest cut down and reassembled new.

Can I use your Internet, he says, The local library is closed.

He is a writer, researching bacteria types for a new poetry collection. We draw him a map from our collective memory. The information is to the west, far beyond the recent paper monoliths, sheets fluttering like the snow. He takes a compass and a flare gun, declining our offer of a guide, before vanishing into the web.

Buoyed by our good deed, we double our efforts. The final million pages, a period of reflection. Holding individual sheets up to what remains of the sun. Observing gaps in the fonts. Touching our favourite words. Smelling the ink. Consuming both the form and content. Leaving our fingerprint on every piece of information ever created. The printer thin and worn down, operating beyond its design. Stray pages on the carpet, information trampled and lost forever.

Late in the day, a query comes from the old man’s daughter, concerned by his disappearance. Several hours and billions of pages have passed.

He is easily distracted, she says.

We assume shared responsibility, having been equally distracted by our nearness to completion. Could we have boxed him in? Does he still wander without direction? His daughter demands to search with us, but we persuade her to stay. The landscape is organic and collapsing, shifting sheets forming curves and slopes. Instead, she will stay to maintain the printer, and wait for our return,

In our bag we pack a map and compass, and a box of matches, in case of emergency. Before leaving we document our efforts and intention, for the scenario we do not return. Upload our story to the web, hoping it will print out before the cartridge r

 

Paul Thompson lives and works in Sheffield. His stories have appeared in Okay Donkey, Spelk Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and The Cabinet of Heed.

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Grievous Faults – Martina Reisz Newberry

I request ahead of time
that you be patient with me
and forgive me all my sins;
they are ephemeral but persistent.

I’ve been greedy for small things:
a home, a fan base of readers,
the addicting honey of flattery,
the warmth and perfume of Irish Whiskey
in a snifter–its magnificent dumbing down–
chocolate truffles and potato chips–
Oh! to eat them and not get fat, to stay slothful
and slender as a poppy stem.

I confess an obsession with the imperfections
of my own body. I confess that I never
stop dreaming of such thinness that amounts
to nearly-not-there. I confess my envy
of willowy young beautiful women
and, though I have stopped disliking them,
I know my envy is a dark sin frowned upon
by God, Thor, Jupiter, or Zeus.

I have avoided Pride (which is thought to be the sin
that severs the soul from grace) and Wrath, as both
are ill-fitting and carry too many consequences.
But, for the rest, dear reader, I confess all of them
and ask forgiveness from you instead of the gods.

 

Martina Reisz Newberry’s newest collection, BLUES FOR FRENCH ROAST WITH CHICORY is available from Deerbrook Editions.. She is the author of six books. Her work has been widely published in literary magazines and journals in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in her much-beloved city, Los Angeles, with her husband, Brian Newberry, a Media Creative.

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Forever Moor – Damon Garn

Crawling. Right hand digging into the dirt. He pulls, shoulders straining. Then his left hand, fingernails tearing on a rock. He pulls himself forward again. A sharp branch sears his ruined foot like a branding iron. He bites his lip against a scream. He is crawling away from the dark. Crawling.

Panting. His lungs fill. But not enough. Never enough. The exhale whistles and bubbles like an old teapot. Breath smells of blood.

Sprawling. Face laying in the soil. One eye pressed closed against the ground. One eye open, tear-filled and wide. He sees decayed leaves and a horse’s skull. He lays there too long. Too long.

Listening. The air presses itself around him. The beginning ends. His ears pull in the sounds of the terror-filled darkness approaching.

Is that it?

Can he hear it?

No. A beautiful silence. A sweet silence. A silence he can live in.

Remembering. A fool to come out here alone. The brochure had advised against it. The locals had shuddered and shuttered themselves in before full dark. His new bride laughed at him as he carried her into their room. Dared him to be a man for her.

Moving. Has to keep moving.

*      *      *

Crawling. Left hand digging into the dirt. He pulls, shoulders straining. Then his right hand, digging like an undertaker’s shovel. He pulls himself forward again. Another desperate handspan closer to nowhere. He bites his lip against a sob. He crawls through the dark. Crawling.

Panting. His chest rises just a little less than last time. Never enough. A bubble fills his mouth like a sail. Pops, and smells of blood.

Sprawling. Face laying in the soil. He twists, there on the ground. Something primitive urges him to look up into the night. One eye closed, blood-crusted and dead. He sees the starry sky and a mourning moon. He lays there too long. Too long.

Burning. His foot is burning. The frantic mind-voice urges him to look. The logical mind-voice warns him to not. Stomach roils at the sight of twisted white bone. Red life-blood. Pink muscle. Green pus. Black rot. Clear venom.

Scratching. His nails leave a bloody track on stone. A big stone. A huge stone. A standing stone. A stone standing with its fellows in a circle of lintels and the living night. A darkness is approaching.

Is this it?

Can he see it?

No. Beautiful stones. Deadly stones. A sight he can live with.

Remembering. A fool to come out here alone. His gut had cautioned against it. The locals had locked their eyes on their doors and locked their doors behind them. His new bride laughed at him as he stepped into the night. Dared him to be a man for her.

Moving. Something else is moving on the Forever Moor.

*      *      *

Crawling. Talons digging into the dirt. It crawls, straining toward him. His shoulders ache with his petrified stillness. It pulls itself forward again. The cold standing stone holds him like a dead lover. The dark crawls closer. Crawling.

Panting. His lungs pulling in their last sweet air. Not nearly enough. Not nearly enough again. The inhale gurgles and crackles like an empty percolator. Breath smells of blood.

Sprawling. Face laying in the soil. Mouth pressed open against the ground. He tastes sweet sticky moss. A line of spit tangles back in his hair. He lays there too long. Too long.

Listening. The fog rolls in and slams shut above his head. The end begins. His ears pull in the sound of the hate-filled darkness approaching.

Is that it?

Can he believe it?

No. A long quiet. A quivering quiet. A quiet he can’t live in.

Remembering. A fool to come out here alone. The moor itself had warned against it. The locals had made the sign against evil and he’d signed away his soul. His demonic bride laughed at him as she stepped out of the night. Dared him to die like a man for her.

Moving. Finally stops moving.

 

Damon Garn lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife and two children. He enjoys hiking, writing, and annoying his neighbors with mediocre guitar playing. He writes in the fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk realms, experimenting in flash fiction, short stories, and a novel. Follow Damon on Twitter: dmgwrites or at https://dmgwrites.wordpress.com/find-my-stuff/

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Alison’s Ex is a B*tch – Nadia de Castro

Alison wanted to order champagne which to Frances seemed a little over the top for the occasion. The occasion? Meeting Vivienne, Alison’s ex.

In the two years Frances and Alison had been together, she had heard a lot about Vivienne; the stories were usually followed by words like b*tch or c*nt. Frances couldn’t understand how Alison had stayed with her for half a decade, and above all continued to be friends after, but she had gotten used to the follow-up to the b*tch/c*nt stories which were always redemption ones; justifying why Vivienne had done what she had done, saying how great she was really, how when Alison needed her she had always been there… Frances suspected Alison had some form of Stockholm Syndrome.

When they had discussed the reasons to move to London “We’ll be close to Vivienne!” was always in the pros for some reason. They had some minor arguments about it, and on more than a handful of occasions, Frances had found it unavoidable to ask if Alison still had feelings for her. Alison laughed out loud every time as an answer. Well, she must’ve thought that was an answer because she’d never say anything after. It didn’t feel like an answer to Frances, but what could she do? Their relationship seemed just one big fight away from perfection, which Frances thought any relationship should have to pass the test of seriousness. The big fight did happen, eventually; it wasn’t about Vivienne so Frances took that as an answer and married Alison quickly after.

They had been sitting at the restaurant for half an hour. Vivienne was late. Charming. Frances hadn’t considered the restaurant was going to be this fancy; she had only put a coat over her favourite jogging bottoms which the Maitre Di scoffed at. She felt utterly embarrassed and couldn’t believe they had left the dog home alone for this.

When Vivienne finally appeared, she was wearing a white dress that seemed tailor-made to her incredible body, she might as well have been a Hollywood star; frosty, decadent, shameless. They got up to say hello, well Alison did, she just followed. Vivienne kissed Alison’s cheek and then hers. She smelled so good, the b*tch. The first words she said to Frances: “I read somewhere sweats are the new black!” The c*nt.

Vivienne then turned to the waiter and asked him to send her hellos to Antonin, who Frances later learned was the chef, and then she ordered a whiskey, neat (so now they’d have to drink the £90 champagne bottle just between the two of them. Great. Frances hated champagne as much as she hated Vivienne). Also, who orders whiskey to drink at dinner?

After the tiny starters, before the ‘Pork Jowl with Langoustine’, Alison got up to use the loo leaving her alone with Vivienne. Trying not to look up at her, Frances noticed the pattern on the marble table looked like a vagina and she thought of mentioning it to Vivienne but it didn’t seem like she’d laugh. Vivienne asked Frances what kind of art she liked, Frances wanted to answer, to seem just as cultured, but the only painting she could think of now was the portrait of her dog that she had gotten from a painter at Leicester Square years earlier when she never thought she’d come to live in London.

Vivienne quickly realised Frances was lost and said: “That was a stupid question, the last thing I want to talk about now is art!” and she changed the conversation to: “Alison sent me a picture of your dog. She seems lovely. Next time we’ll meet at mine so you can bring her” followed by: “Have you spotted the vulva on the marble? I’m yet to find a table here that hasn’t got one.”

And all Frances could do was laugh. So they laughed together and toasted to vulvas. Suddenly Frances felt better in her own skin than she’d ever felt before. When Alison joined them it looked like she had been gone three decades and Vivienne and Frances had been friends that long.

As the night continued she couldn’t take her eyes off Vivienne, they all kept laughing together; Vivienne was doing this thing where it seemed her and Frances had lots of inside jokes. How was she doing this? They’d only met an hour earlier.

After the cheese selection, the petit fours and the Port digestif, Vivienne asked for the cheque and paid for dinner—as an apology for being late—and somehow it didn’t feel awkward.

Saying their goodbyes, outside the restaurant, this time Frances offered her cheek willingly and kissed hers back. She did smell wonderful; Jasmin and spices; daring, refined, erotic. Then Vivienne got in her Porsche and they waved her goodbye. She waved them back with the promise they’d meet again soon and then drove off into the London night to the sound of Kim Carnes “Betty Davis Eyes”.

This woman had broken her wife’s heart and here Frances was, thinking she would probably let her break hers too.

 

Nadia de Castro has written and directed short films (fewer than she thought she would) and designs logos for a living. She is inspired by women’s lives, cultural clashes and tv shows about lawyers. She lives in London with her wife and their dying plants.

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10 Things You Should Never Throw Up On – Ruth Brandt

  1. Your bed, obviously, although this can be hard to stick to if you’re really ill. Just try not to.
  2. Cat, dog, snake or other pet, yours or someone else’s. No explanation needed.
  3. Your laptop, iPad, phone. Ditto 2. And yeah, I’m aware I’ve listed loads of stuff already, but I’m getting there.
  4. Mother. Definitely not your mother, particularly when you’re sitting behind her in the car and you lean forward to open the window, but don’t get your head out.
  5. On your birthday. Or let’s face it, Christmas, or your mum’s birthday. The sort of days that go down in history as being spoiled.
  6. Into your drink. Bad move. And if you do throw up into your drink, never, ever think it’s a good idea to go back to drinking it. Seems obvious in the cool light of day.
  7. Between the sliding doors of a shower. Poking the bits out of that is a bastard.
  8. Over a nurse. Sure they’re trained. They sort of expect it. They say, ‘Never mind.’ They say, ‘Happens all the time round here.’ They say, ‘Really, don’t worry.’ Then they slurp away and a cleaner comes with a mop, and the healthcare assistant comes with clean sheets and washes you down, even though you don’t want to be moved or touched. Even though you’d prefer to be left to lie.
  9. When you see your consultant. When she says, ‘That’s it.’ When she says, ‘You’re done. Finished. Completed.’ When she says, ‘Go and enjoy your life.’
  10. On someone’s football boots after you’ve run up the pitch, dodged the defenders, dribbled the ball in past the goalie. After you’ve been hugged round the waist and lifted. After you swore to yourself you were done with throwing up. Then it’s just plain embarrassing.

 

Ruth Brandt’s short fiction has appeared in publications including the Bridport Prize Anthology 2018, Neon and Litro. She won the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing Prize 2016 and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. She lives in Surrey with her husband and has two sons.

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Photo by Jeff Kingma on Unsplash

Storm Ciara – Gareth Culshaw

The letterbox snaps against the door
as a pulled Christmas cracker.
Canopies of trees sweep the sky of cloud.
The moon is somewhere hangs above
the storm that makes gates clunk
as milk bottles on a moving float.
We sit in front of the log burner
watch the flames try to escape
the wind that falls down the chimney.
Recycling tubs keep themselves low
bins try to hide in the dark corners.
Telephone wires appear to be skipping
ropes being used in a boxing club.
The birds hide cling to hedgerows
or lower branches of trees.
Earlier today the sky sheared clouds
filled the roads and pavements with white
chalk. An hour later the rain washed it away.
For a time I didn’t think I was going to get home.
Gazed out of work’s windows with sheep eyes.
Wondered if I should ring my mother
to let her know my voice is alive.

 

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Cold Comfort – Rob McIvor

They shuffled forward on their skis and waited for the thump on the back of their knees as the chair came around to scoop them up. They had made it down that final run just in time. The running engine of the attendant’s snow buggy indicated that they would be the last passengers of the day and Susan couldn’t see anybody on the chairs that were already rising up the mountainside.

As Jack lowered the restraining bar, she shivered and tugged her collar up in front of her mouth. This chairlift would put them at the top of the main run back into the village. Fifteen minutes up; another ten to ski down and they would be back at the chalet in time for tea and cake with the others. Dusk was close and the temperature was already falling fast.

“Do you have to work again tonight?” she asked, as the chair swung high above the treetops.

“A conference call with Chicago at nine. And there’s a contract I’ve got to look at. They’re emailing it later.”

Susan sighed. “So, will we see you at all this evening? We are meant to be on holiday.”

Jack was silent for a moment. He could feel his phone vibrating again, as it had several times on their final descent, but ignored it.

The chair moved slowly over a deep gulley; snow obscured the ground, falling in chilling blobs that slithered past their collars and dribbled down their necks. The empty chairs ahead and coming down the other side were barely visible, like ghost ships floating on air. The rumble of the motor through the cable and the juddering rattle as their chair crossed the pylons were the only sounds. Without warning, the chair shuddered to a halt, swinging gently as its momentum subsided.

“I hate it when it does this,” said Susan. “Some idiot’s probably fallen over getting off at the top.

“How are we doing for time?”

Jack pulled off one of his mittens with his teeth, unzipped his jacket pocket and took out his phone.

“Almost five,” he said. “We’ll miss the cake at this rate.”

“Maybe we should phone and let them know we’ll be a bit late,” suggested Susan.

“Not much juice left,” Jack commented, scrolling through his contacts. He found the chalet’s number and pressed “dial”. The screen lit up, flickered, then went blank.

“Dead,” he said. “It’s been buzzing at me all afternoon. They’ll get us moving again soon. I don’t think I’ve ever been stuck for more than two minutes.

“Although, do you remember that time in Austria when I got my poles tangled and couldn’t get off the chair?”

Susan laughed. “I remember the attendant shouting at you when he had to stop the lift. I was thinking it was a good job you couldn’t understand German.”

Jack smiled at the thought. “Well, at least he was awake enough to see what had happened. I don’t think that guy down the bottom even registered that we were getting on the lift.”

“Probably thinking about his own tea and cake when he got home,” Susan chuckled, then asked: “What should we do tomorrow?”

“How about we go skiing?” laughed Jack. For brief interludes he found something calming about being in a place for one reason only. No decisions were required, other than which run to tackle next and when to have lunch. Flying down the slopes he felt weightless, his mind focused only on reading the ever-shifting surface and the almost instinctive rebalancing that kept him upright. Then the insistent buzzing in his pocket would pull him back to earth.

Ten minutes had passed. Nothing had happened. Susan became agitated.

“Jack, they’ve stopped the chairlift. They don’t know we’re here. Are you sure your phone’s completely dead? I should have brought mine.”

He looked again. Nothing. “Don’t worry,” he cautioned. “Once the others realise we’re not back they’ll raise the alarm. I’m sure they have a system for checking all the lifts at the end of the day.”

Susan knew, as did he, that wasn’t true. She nodded, but then started to shout, desperate to alert someone, anyone, to their presence. It was futile. Even had there been anyone to hear, her shouts were smothered by the persistently falling snow. After a few minutes she stopped and began to cry. He put his arm around her shoulder. There was nothing he could say.

The last of the daylight disappeared. It was already below zero and rapidly getting colder. They shivered, despite their thermal suits, and huddled close. Keep her awake, Jack told himself. Keep her talking.

“This reminds me of that beach in Scotland,” he ventured. “You remember? It was so quiet that we pretended we could hear each other’s heartbeats.”

Susan smiled through her tears. “A whole weekend without a signal,” she murmured. “You were so relaxed.

“Let’s go somewhere with no phones for our summer holiday.”

“Sounds good,” said Jack. He began enthusiastically reeling off suggestions, of increasing implausibility: The Maldives; Cuba; Easter Island; Tristan de Cunha. Susan’s responses became shorter, shrinking to a mumbled “yes” or “maybe”. Only Antarctica was ruled out. “Snow more snow,” she slurred. Her breathing had slowed and, no longer shivering, she leaned in to him, staying very still. Jack fancied that he could hear the dwindling thumping in her chest, but realised that it was his own heart he could sense.

The snow had stopped and the stars were out. Jack couldn’t remember the last time he had seen so many. The heavens seemed to be descending around them, as if those flecks of ancient light would soon start to land on their shoulders. The silence was enveloping and the cold gradually embraced them.

Jack leaned back on the frozen seat and closed his eyes. “It’s so lovely, so peaceful,” he said softly. “Wouldn’t it be lovely if it was always quiet, like this?”

“Susan?”

 

Rob McIvor lives in Blackheath, London, with his family, several bicycles and two unruly cats. He is currently attempting to tame the first draft of an over-ambitious novel.

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