The Fleshland—Surya Hendry

Today, the fleshland is brittle and aggravated. I step out to retrieve the mail, and each step I take shreds the skin below me, causing blood to well up and soak my slippers. I bend to massage the flesh, console it, but even my soft finger strokes provoke bleeding this morning. I grab the mail and race back to the house, leaving a small river in my wake. I chuck my slippers at the door. I consider telling my husband, Joshua, about this development. Instead, I step into the shower and scrub my feet and hands. I put on boots and venture out to see what is vexing the flesh. 

Joshua and I moved here six years ago. His programming job went remote and I had notions of becoming a homesteading housewife. We hunted for fixer-upper properties in the rural West, asked realtors if the land would be suitable for chickens and ponds and greenhouses. Joshua fell in love with this house’s sticker price and windowless basement office. Before we bought the house, I mentioned the odd quality of the ground. Joshua told me to think of everything I could do with ten acres, and I smiled wide, and we paid in cash.

Years passed. I tried to plant crops, but the land remained barren save for hair. I called in a local contractor to install a chicken coop, and he refused to dig into the land. Joshua and I communicated only in grunts and raised eyebrows. On the rare occasions when Joshua would initiate sex, I would think of how the skin looked near our house, how the pink and gray folds layered and rumpled, how the soft hair strangled my attempts at a flower garden. Joshua did not mind being pushed away. He had work. 

My friends from the coast would call with news of their children, their jobs and volunteering and marital problems. I stopped calling them back. I had nothing to say to them. Joshua did not require caring for or management. On the sunniest days, I would grab a bottle of aloe vera and a picnic basket. I would take lunch far from the house, where the skin became flat and leathery. I would walk until I found a patch of skin that was split and reddened from the sun, and massage it with the aloe vera and eat lunch beside it. 

Now, I walk across the entire property. The once-flat terrain is ridden with keloid molehills and cystic bogs. The ground is too slick for my boots to gain traction. I fall and crawl and stumble my way across the calloused land. 

Finally, I reach the edge of the property, where the flesh gives way to a dense, brambled forest. I immediately see the problem: a sturdy sapling has rooted itself directly into a softer patch of skin. I try to pull it out but only break it off at the base, leaving the roots intact. 

The next day, I return with a knife, to sever the roots from the earth. Every time I think I have found the end, I discover a new curve or twist. I scramble back home and find a shovel in the attic. I toss scoops of still-throbbing jelly flesh over my shoulder. Still, I cannot find the end of the root. Blood wells up below me and weighs down my jean cuffs. I place my left arm against the root and keep shoveling. Soon, my head is flush with the ground. Blood fills my nose and throat.

I think I am down here for a day and a night. I wonder if Joshua has noticed my absence. I imagine collapsing down here, getting swallowed up by the flesh, becoming a little tumor. If I scramble up the hole I have made, I can see that I’m digging closer and closer to the house. 

When I am nearly at the foundation of the house, my left arm slips off the root. I lose my footing and drop about ten feet and crunch onto my knees. For a moment, I gulp in my breath and try to swim upwards. I notice that my nose is breathing clear, warm air. I open my eyes. 

I am in something resembling a cave. Right above me is the hole I punctured, surrounded by dangling organic stalactites, which drip lukewarm water onto the ground. Soft cries are coming from the center of the cave, and I wade towards them. I find a creature, hunched into the fetal position, nose barely above the water. I bend to it. 

It takes me a moment to recognize the creature as a woman. For a long moment, I am only focused on her components: her muscles and tendons, her raw and wide eyeballs. Her body is bare from skin. I place my hand in hers. She grabs my wrist and sits up and stares at me. She opens her unlipped mouth. 

A needle is lanced through her tongue. She stays still and squeezes my hand as I ease the needle out of her mouth and toss it against the cave wall. Her cries diminish, and she buckles into my arms. 

Around me, the earth rattles. The hole in the ceiling sutures itself shut. I rise up, as if I have some chance of returning to the surface, but the woman tugs me down with tough fingers. I do not fight her. We sink to the base of the cave pool and hold each other. Fleshed and unfleshed hands intertwined.

Surya Hendry is a writer from Everett, WA. She currently reads for GASHER and Uncanny Magazine. You can find her work in The Leland Quarterly and The Foundationalist, and reach her at @suryahendryy on Twitter. 

photo by Vatsal Patel (via unsplash)

The Doll’s House—Elle Symonds

There is one light aglow in the little house. It flickers like a spotlight above the table, the resin food glistening beneath it. A glazed roast chicken. A basket of bread. Jam that never goes down. I watch you as you sit there, staring at the feast. Sometimes you stare at the newspaper, too, but you never pick it up. Your hands don’t work that way.

You have one of those painted faces. Beautiful, with a small nose and rounded cheeks, dashed with rouge. Curls frame your face; they are auburn and look like fire when the sun shines in through the tall window. Once, those curls were tidy, but that was a while ago, when you were boxed and new, when your clothes were free of stains and the dust hadn’t gathered beneath your eyes. 

You are young, but not too young. When you first arrived I wasn’t sure about you. Were you the lady of the house? You didn’t look as regal, but that was fine; sometimes we could dress you up, in a different frock. Sometimes satin, sometimes something flouncy with pleats, that would move as you twirled around in that little kitchen. I knew you weren’t staff – certainly not – you didn’t have the uniform.

You had a companion once. The man of the house. With his little oversized suit and mop of curly dark hair. He’d sit at the same table in the little kitchen, with his newspaper and coffee that he never finished. He’d read the paper but never turn the page, and the both of you would sit, all silent and unmoving. 

But he took a tumble. Down the slippery, wooden stairs, his porcelain body all smashed up. He was no good after that. That’s the trouble; you’re too fragile.

Now you wear that same expression each day, until you’re moved to another room in your big, open house. And I watch. I listen. 

I watch as they arrive with food left untouched, food you say tastes like wax because everything does to you now. I watch as they bring flowers, more and more, until they take up the kitchen and suffocate you with forced colour, forced apology, and I see your painted face, how it smiles when you see those people, how it vanishes once they’re gone and you’re back at the table, and the dust, the grey dust that surrounds your eyes – you wipe it away on your sleeve and sit there, sit there until the light flickers again.

You don’t move. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You don’t see me, or hear my silent shouts across the room. I’m here, I’m here. 

Because everyone knows dolls don’t speak. They can only watch.

When the last light goes out in the little house, I wait. Until tomorrow, when we will sit together again, silent and unmoving.

Elle is a novelist and flash fiction writer from Bristol, UK. Her words have appeared at Retreat West, The Drabble, 5 Minute Lit and more. She’s fond of the seaside, ghost stories and filling her house with too many books. You can find her on Twitter: @seventhelle

photo by edgeeffectmedia.com (via unsplash)

The Last Birthday—Ryan J.M. Tan

The last man on Earth sits on a pew in a ruined church. His silhouette cast by a flickering flashlight. He is gaunt, malnourished, wrapped in rags. His face is permanently darkened by soot; wrinkles on that face add years to his true age. Any colour on him has been robbed by dust, any expression ground down by reality.

Suddenly, he stands. His posture is hunched. He hobbles forward, rucksack in hand while humming a familiar tune. It is Happy Birthday.

He approaches the broken altar and wipes dust off its surface. He drops his rucksack and rummages within, pulling out a bottle, lighter, and photograph. His shuffling is the only sound in the church.

He looks at the photograph. It is of himself with a woman and child. Their faces are smudged, as though he has spent every waking day stroking their faces until the ink rubbed off. A hundred times. A thousand. His grim face, for a moment, betrays a smile. 

He unscrews the bottle and bathes himself in its liquid. A baptism in oil. He ignites the lighter and sets himself aflame, raising both arms as though he were on a cross. 

A burning phoenix crucified. 

A dead city. A bleak sky. Ash falls from above like a winter’s snow that powders the ground like white cloth draped on a corpse. Clusters of dilapidated buildings and rusted vehicles litter the streets while dust mummifies the city, once alive, now tomblike. Silence is all that stirs here.

Above, stars twinkle in the black sky. Each, a glimmer of warmth within infinite dark, beacons of hope that, somewhere beyond, there may yet be life. They had never shone so brightly until the final days. It is as if the death of the world kindles their flames. 

But the stars twinkle uncaring, as silent as the divine, eyes innumerable watching the last man burn below.

In the far distance, a flickering light like a faint candle can be seen, its smoke dissolving quietly into the grey twilight. 

Faraway screams. The only sound that travels through the concrete valley. The final vesper of a dead world. 

Ryan is a Malaysian writer residing in Kuala Lumpur. He studied law but chose not to go down that path. During his free time, you can find him watching horror films (with eyes shut), playing the piano (to an audience of one beagle), and baking (usually edible) bread.

photo by v2osk (via unsplash)

The Croak—Ellen Forkin

I soar as the world turns to winter. The heather is purpling, like swathes of velvet upon the green, grass-tufted land. The thistledown’s catch the wind, the docks and cow parsley have turned to rust. The bogs are dark, muddied, treacherous. The harvest fields, golden, gleaming, rippling a whispering wave of barley. I pecked the fields when they were sown, stabbed my dagger beak into the sweet earth. I strut among them still, catching glimpses of mice, voles, a hare, its startled eye as brown as a hazelnut. I am safe amongst the whispering ocean. 

It was not always so.

I was human, a dozen lifetimes ago. A little uncanny. Braided hair and haunting songs, sharp eyes and quick fingers. Unmarried, untethered. Some said unsafe. Hag, crone, witch. Names thrown like stones, hard and sharp, through spitting teeth. Men with books, accusations – then neighbours, villagers, townies, friends. Yes, she knows her poisons. Yes, the Devil knows her name. 

I crouched amongst the barley, barefoot and fingers trembling. I crouched until I took flight. 

I soar. The sky and sea are two mirrors of grey. I fly alone, skimming the islands’ edges with their speckled sand, their dark tresses of seaweed, the tang of it carrying on the salted wind. I wheel down, stretched feathers warm in the amber sunlight, and flap gently, lower and lower. My leathery feet alight on a moss-furred fencepost. I cling to it, needle claws scratching the weathered wood. There are perhaps fifty like me, black and sharp-beaked and beetle-eyed. Each on their own fencepost, we sit, we gather, we know. We croak over the murmur of barley, grass, heather. We talk of juicy bugs, earthy grains, the warmest roosts and wildest winds. We reminisce about nimble fingers, breath-catching dances, soft, cooked meat. We caw and croak and sing until the full moon sits heavily in the sky. Then we fly home, as quietly as we came, soaring under a night of pinprick stars.

Ellen Forkin is a chronically ill writer living in windswept Orkney with her semi-wild rook. You can find her work and upcoming publications in The Haar, The Alternative Stories Podcast, Northwords Now and New Writing Scotland

photo by Mark Timberlake (via unsplash)

In a manor—Rebecca Dempsey

She broods alone on the cliff, an old house frowning toward the lines of breakers and beyond, to where the sky submits, kissing the restless face of the vast ocean. The building’s weathered features sag and creak in the cold, briny wind, waiting for her owner. And she does return: in the evenings with the new moon. With her presence, the dark, colossal dwelling is transformed. The old mansion shakes off the dour expression and greets the visitor with gaping smiles from its broken and jagged leaded windows. Light and mist and orchestral music spill out from the cracked front door, across the wrecked porch into the decaying yard, flowing over the edge of the subsiding cliff, colours falling and flowering in the sunset, and then lost in the roiling, inky swell below. 

Inside, candlelight flares to play with the shy shadows lurking in the corners, scurrying from room to room at her heel, as the guest paces with gracious mien through the webbed and empty corridors. She chooses to return, and everything forlorn is glad once more.

The visitor glides silently down the central staircase, crosses the leaf-scattered atrium and enters the parlour. Muted laughter and piano music float through with her measured footsteps. Heavy moth-eaten velvet curtains drift in salt-scented drafts. Her light sparkles through dusty cut crystal chandeliers. Grey coiffed ancestors gaze down from flaked and darkening antique portraits, their dulled glares reflected in gilt-edged mouldering mirrors.

In the parlour, a fire blazes and crackles at the guest’s approach. She takes a glass of glowing ruby red from the mantle and surveys the room as she takes a sip. Everything is as it should be. The visitor sets her glass down, smooths her gown, and sweeps back her tresses. The music, echoing throughout, takes up a statelier tone as she makes her way to the great hall. The French doors open for her, and even before she sees him she’s walking to where he’ll be standing: breathless, expectant, but to attention, in full dress uniform. 

She smiles, and the light from her is reflected in him. He bows and, taking her gloved hand in his, leads her to the centre of the space. They wait, poised, and then the music changes tempo again, to match their slow circles. As they dance across the scuffed parquetry floor, their movements add further swirling patterns over the broken timber. Eyes lost in each other’s gaze; time stands still. The dance slows. At the centre of the old hall, this night, she leans her head upon his chest as he clasps her close. She can’t see his shining tears, as he buries himself in the scent of her raven hair, haloed in the starlight. He holds her even closer: they incline towards one another always, caught in each other’s gravity. They cling to each other now, waiting. 

A tremor runs through the building, almost like a sigh. The couple’s light dims. Flames flicker and go out in the breeze. Finally, the music drifts away on the tide as the spray of stars tilt slowly lower, before fading as they dip below the horizon. 

This is how it is, since it happened, for the couple, for the old house. Since the raucous parties at the cliff top mansion fled, and passed onto other shores, once and for all. 

Yet, she returns, a promise fulfilled. 

For years, people pull up in determined convoys following old stories, rumours and superseded maps, studying the area for remnants of the mansion’s crumbling façade. Each attempt meets failure, and those lines of vehicles full of sight seers, history buffs, and treasure hunters hurtle back along the wrecked and overgrown coastal road in the night. These travellers, frustrated and confused, start determined, and then they dwindle. Each passing decade with no results. Wayward tourists occasionally buy postcards of the infamous manor from the nearby village, until they stop printing them, for lack of interest. The last of picturesque cards remain in the local history museum, fading under glass. 

Late some nights, surfers, or gaggles of city students partying in camps further up the coast, fooled by the echoes of happier times, swear they see lights pouring across the ocean from the broken building. Some suggest they hear music and shouts of laughter over the incessant waves. Bemused locals shrug at the stories told out front of the grocery store: they’ve heard it all before, the legends. 

The stars, the coast, can play tricks, they tell the young people, tapping their heads. Perhaps a bit too much to drink last night, they suggest. Or smoke? 

Students and surfers laugh and leave, moving onto more carefree adventures up the coast, happy to abandon the locals to their mysteries. 

The residents, too, take care to point out it’s a new moon. 

Of course, they explain, you don’t understand what it’s like here

Older residents shake their heads, their smiles fixing as they avert their gazes, lost in the past. Some, when prompted, offer their excuses before shuffling away, unwilling to share secrets, leaving searchers thwarted. 

There are days though, some rare days, when town folk are roused from reflection to more willingly refer travellers to the fading articles collected in the corners of the library window. Others point towards the old display in that ignored museum, open every third Saturday of the month. 

Dutifully following directions, curious visitors shudder as they read about the grandeur of the lost manor house. These tourists, quest complete, shrug into their jackets, chilled after they’ve learned about the newly-weds, the famed heiress celebrated for her charitable works, and her husband, the dashing Great War veteran. They drive off, eager to abandon the little village, tense and overcome, contemplating the beautiful couple, and how, on the night of their fifth anniversary, they disappeared with their shining home on the promontory in the devastating landslip after the biggest storm of the decade, in 1922.

And this is how it continues. 

Rebecca Dempsey’s recent works are featured in Provenance Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Electica Magazine, and Ink Pantry. Rebecca grew up in rural South Australia, and lives in Melbourne. She can be found at WritingBec.com.

photo by Annie Spratt (via unsplash)

Before Us—Marisca Pichette

Once there were no dragons. From Boston to San Francisco, the horizon was empty. Once, fires only happened when you started them. Once, houses were built only to weather time, never considering that a cloud was not a cloud. 

Once, they called us earthquakes.

In the far off past things were different. A girl might walk along a road, cars speeding past her on every side. She is making her way to school (they attended school then) or the library (they hoarded books then) or perhaps the home of a relative (families were spread thin, oh so thin, then). She carries nothing, but maybe a bag. What is in the bag doesn’t matter.

She is alone, walking in a noisome world. The sky is empty and bare, coldly shining down on her tangled hair. When she gets to her destination, she puts down her bag (if she has one), and goes into her destination, be it school (a place of education in society of those times), or library (for keeping all the books away from the people who might try to hoard them), or home (separate from her own). Then she will open her mouth in the old custom, and speak.

She is very thin, and very tangled. Her mind is tangled, her thoughts are tangled, her clothes are tangled. She walks on tangled paths and looks at a tangled future, thinking about how she will further her education (going to another, larger school), and find employment (payment for labour of almost any kind). She rarely thinks about the sky, or the earth. Walking in between, she is concerned only for what she might easily touch.

Now, we know more than this girl. But we cannot fault her for her reaction when earth and sky closed together, meeting in darkness. We cannot fault her screams as light flickered before her eyes and all the ancient devices of humanity tumbled into the abyss. Libraries cracked open like eggs, spilling their hoarded knowledge over the ground. She took cover behind a bookcase, and watched the coming of dragons.

Fires ignited in our minds, eradicating everything that came before. All that was new and old fell back, leaving only what is eternal. 

No one knows if that girl lived or died—the girl of memory, the girl of the past. We have her cowering before us, unable to move her lips to the rhythm of ancient speech. No one knows if she existed at all, a hundred years ago, when we were trapped beneath the crust. Perhaps her tale is only an anecdote of the wasted past.

Once, there was a girl (or not). Once, there was a world she lived in (or not). Once, she thought she might be happy one day.

(Or not).

first published in Daily Science Fiction (July, 2020)

Marisca Pichette is an author of magic and monsters, living in Western Massachusetts. Her work has appeared and is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Fireside Magazine, PseudoPod, PodCastle, and Fusion Fragment, among others. She is on Twitter as @MariscaPichette and Instagram as @marisca_write. Website: www.mariscapichette.com

photo by Alyzah K and Zarif Ali (via unsplash)

Feather Its Nest—Aleks Wittkamp

Potato pancakes, tomato soup, sweetbread—Jamie’s favourites. You set the table for two and you take your seat. You hold out hope that Jamie will come, right up until you hear the wings beating.

The first time it came, it flew in through the kitchen window. The next, it strutted in through the garage. You considered locking the house up, but you’d never. 

Jamie needs a way in.

This time, it slips in through the open skylight and alights opposite you at the table. It screeches once. It tears strips off the pancakes, stands in the soup, and shits a white-black streak onto the bread. Its eyes like black beads reflect your kitchen, but warped, dirtied—your own face appears drowned in tar.

You don’t look away. You invite the tar onto your cheeks, into your lungs, and throughout your veins. You shiver at the thought of thick black blood clogging your heart.

It screeches again, knocks the bowl off the table, and, with a flapping of its wings, darts forward. The tip of its beak catches the tender skin of your cheek. Then it’s gone, back out through the skylight.

You put a hand to the cut. Your breath catches in your throat. A blush warms you.

It’s a lie that you set the table for Jamie anymore. You set it for the crow.

Aleks Wittkamp writes when he writes, and he doesn’t write when he doesn’t write. It would be silly to write when he doesn’t. He lives his unsilly life in Toronto.

photo by Karen Sewell (via unsplash) and Nika Akin (via pixabay)

This is the Place—David Hartley

This is the place. Right here. Where the wizards drowned the village.

Look at the lay of the land. Look at how it sweeps and how it curves. Something’s not quite right. You feel a tad dizzy. As if you suddenly can’t trust your organs. Any of them.

This is no place for a lake. That’s what’s wrong. The lake should not be here.

The wizards put it here. And down in the depths there are a hundred and eighty-six skeletons. 

Taste the water. Go on. Scoop some up and have a little sip. It is crystal clear and as pure as a mountain spring. That’s no way for lake water to be. You should not be able to drink this water without feeling sick. But you don’t feel sick. You feel revived. You weren’t even that tired, but now you’ve perked up.

The wizards were trying to create a story. It went like this: there were these greedy villagers who turned away a hungry beggar. The beggar knocked and every door was slammed in his face. Not a scintilla of sympathy from any of these rich folks. The lake was the beggar’s revenge. So say the wizards. As if they were there.

Have a little swim. Go on. Take a dip. Swim out as far as you like. Further. Go on. All the way to the middle. Try drowning yourself. You can’t. No-one can drown in this lake. Some get close and pass out. But they always awaken on the shore soon after. There are no undercurrents. Some unseen force will always push up anything that tries to sink down. The spirits of the dead far below who simply cannot sanction another death. No room left in their underworld.

They wanted a local legend. The wizards. This place had no myth. Intolerable. A lack of myth starves the aura needed for magic. The wizards pooled their powers and created their own fable.

But it didn’t work. Consider that tale. 

Wait. 

Turn your back on the lake first. Look out over the rolling fields. Look at that radio tower on the hill in the far distance. 

Now think about the story. Think hard. The beggar. The village. The wizards. The lake. It doesn’t quite chime. Doesn’t quite sit well.

And here’s another strange thing. You can’t hear the lake anymore. You have no sense at all of a body of water just behind you. Listen. Nothing. You’ve grown thirsty again. And your hair has dried. Consider: was it ever actually wet? Are you sure?

Now walk. Don’t look back. Keep going. Do not be tempted to turn or glance. Just keep walking. Keep heading to that radio tower. Don’t stop. Don’t stumble. Don’t try to catch a glimpse in any reflective surface. 

Trust us. Keep going.

Go on.

One foot in front of another.

Keep your head forward.

Eyes up.

Don’t turn around.

You really don’t want to turn around. 

Trust us.

You really don’t want to see what’s actually there, waiting.

David Hartley is the author of many weird and wonderful tales about things that hover in the back of your mind and the edge of your vision. His latest short story collection is Fauna (Fly on the Wall Press), a menagerie of bizarre tales about animals described by Lucie McKnight Hardy as ‘fiercely original’. His work has appeared in Ambit, Black Static, BFS: Horizons, Structo, and The Shadow Booth. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester and tweets at @DHartleyWriter. 

photo by Ian Keefe (via unsplash)

When the Dust Whispers—Chelsea Thornton

My sister is sleeping just behind this door. My hand trembles. Ripples undulate in small circles within the glass of water I hold onto as my knuckles pale. The door looms in front of me. I hate this room. I’ve hated it ever since my sister went to sleep.

The door beneath my palm is cold. I knock, even though I know my sister won’t hear it. I swallow and push. A rush of stale air assaults my senses, and it’s like stepping outside on a wintry morning. I step into the room, and the darkness envelops me as I tread over the line into shadow. The dim light from the hallway is barely enough to see by. I grasp around for the empty glass, nearly knocking it off the nightstand. I steady it and take it up, replacing it with the full one. My attempt at resistance fails, and my breath hitches in my chest as I peer over at my sister slumbering in her bed.

I falter and stumble backward. Dust escapes the armchair as I sink into it. I stare through the dense cloud. Sofia may appear to rest peacefully, but I can imagine her nightmares.

It’s been months since Sofia first went to sleep. There’s an empty glass and a full one because she wakes just enough to keep herself alive. The bare minimum. Eats, drinks, showers. We only know she does these things because of the evidence she leaves behind—empty cups and plates, damp towels. When she’s not doing those, she sleeps. And since our mother has been away, it’s my responsibility to make sure Sofia has what she needs.

I can’t bring myself to come into this room more than necessary, so a layer of dust has fallen over everything like a fine blanket. My reflection in the small television set across the room stares at me. I wait for the television to flicker on, to pull my sister or myself inside of it like in a particular Murakami novel. To be trapped in an inescapable room of white that feels as though it’s in the bowels of a ship rocking nauseatingly on the seas might be a kinder fate than this.

While I’m staring at the television, shadows move somewhere in my periphery. My gaze snaps to Sofia, but she remains motionless. There’s movement in the room, but I can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from. Not until I spot the shadows on the walls.

Silhouettes take shape in dancing forms with no discernible source. They’re hazy like television static or a piece of black and white artwork done in pointillism. It’s as though they’re cast by the very dust in the room, and I can almost make out wisps of clouds made from the particles.

I peer past them to see the shadows forming into imposing figures on the wall. Fists. Angry, sharp curves of faces. Open, furious mouths. The shadow figures float over my sister’s bed, screaming down at her with silent foul words, their lips moving around vulgar promises. The shadows of those demons coalesce with hers, the movements violent and obscene. Sofia remains perfectly motionless except for the faint frown and the furrowing of her brow.

I can’t take the sight any longer. I snatch up the empty glass and tear from the room. After I slam the door shut, I lean against it, needing something solid to ground me. I feel a tear slip and slide down my cheek.

I couldn’t save my sister from those monsters. Now I can’t save her from their ghosts.

Chelsea Thornton is a writer from Texas. She is a reader for The Forge Literary Magazine, an MS warrior, and a tea addict. Her short fiction has been published in Maudlin HouseBewildering StoriesIdle Ink, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @chelseactually or online at chelseathornton.com.

photo by DAVIDCOHEN and Jr Korpa (via unsplash)

As the Blood Moon Burns—Kristin Kozlowski

She didn’t hear the gentle yip of the coyotes. She didn’t hear the cicadas vibrating against the cold trees behind her. She didn’t hear the mournful owl before he left his branch and swept past her like a silent train engine. She was too busy watching the spirits hovering above her broken body, wisps of smoky gauze, apparitions of mountain legends and conjured myths. She was too busy separating from her skin, pulling apart like honey from a hive, releasing her soul into the night air, leaving trailed blood and bent bone behind. She was too busy asking the stars for directions, holding out her weightless hand, and trying to find her way home.

Kristin Kozlowski lives and works in the Midwest, US. Some of her work is available online at Lost Balloonmatchbook, Longleaf Review, Pidgeonholes, Cease Cows, and others. Her piece, “Salty Owl”, will be included in The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2021. In 2019, she was awarded Editor’s Choice from Arkana for her CNF piece, “A Pocket of Air”. If you tweet: @kriskozlowski. 

photo by Jr Korpa and Chantal & Ole (via unsplash)