Conversation"I am driving in a Hummer. I am on a two lane highway. I was listening to Counting Crows before panic threatened to cut off my air supply. Air supply is a band. I have no idea what they sing. I'm pretty sure they were a clue on Jeopardy once. I…I…have to pull over so I can breathe."
Omar put on his blinker and steered the over-compensation-mobile to the shoulder of the road. He fumbled with the lock on the door and his heart felt like it was going to burst through his chest when he tried to get out of the car and couldn't. Seatbelt. It was just the seatbelt. His hands were slick with cold sweat by the time the belt whizzed cheerfully back into its place and he managed to slide out onto the shoulder of the road.
He was glad it was so late and glad that the highway was so deserted. He was trembling so hard that the change in his pockets rattled and he never would have been able to speak if someone had pulled up and offered to help. He hated for people to witness his panic.
Anything you can find:"They're wicked," whispers Deputy Mack, when he thinks we aren't listening. "Beautiful, but wicked."Anything you can find:2 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
It makes Noah smirk from the front desk, where Clara Wynn, the dispatcher, is sneaking him sips from her hip flask while she profiles him. DePrince, she writes, Noah Thomas. Age: 12. Hair: Black. She puzzles over the color of his eyes before penning gray on the line, a rarity that gives us an edge, which we use like a scalpel. Noah flickers eyes like new nickels whenever we want something. Today is the Friday after the funeral and we are sick for answers, so we ask Clara if she will take our mug shots.
"I'll find some film," she says, disappearing into the back room. The door taps shut behind her. Deputy Mack and Sheriff Spellis are still arguing about us in the office, their voices a low rumble of contention, so we slip off our chairs and spread out through the station.
"Obituaries, photos, police reports," says Noah, fanning a stack of files across the desk. "Hur
The TypewriterThe TypewriterThe Typewriter2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
It began and ended with a word.
Not a particularly strong or powerful word, but a word that changed everything. It wasn't too long or difficult to spell. It wasn't uncommon either. In fact, it was a perfectly ordinary word, but, I suppose, its commonplace origin is what made it so special.
I loved that word.
But the word doesn't mean much without the story along with it and I was always one for telling good stories.
I ignored the call from the other room and remained seated. That tone wasn't unfamiliar. Taking a bite from my toast, I waited for him to call again. It wouldn't be more than ten—
"Sammy! Come quickly! I've gone an' done it!" he shouted. I turned just as he poked his head into the room with a bright smile across his face.
"What did you do?" I asked as I walked towards his study. Chris had said those same words nearly twelve times this week. Every other day he had called me in for some discovery.
I pushed open the door t
Helicase Helio and I were always sitting on the stairs, chatting about the lamina and occasionally making snide remarks about ribosomes. There wasn't much for us to do. Our job was to simply be, and let the RNA polymerase scribble down the letters on our foreheads when they came around every once in a while. Helio was a G, I was a C. It wasn't exactly fulfilling, I suppose. There wasn't much to be filled. So to pass the time, we talked.Helicase2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
"You ever wonder?" Helio asked.
"About...well...what's out there." Helio and I were rooted to the stairs, quite happily, but it was awkward to move in. He kind of twisted in the general direction of the closest pore. "Out in the cytoplasm."
"I haven't," I admitted. "What's there to wonder about?"
"That's exactly the thing. I have no idea." Helio sighed, gazing into the distance. "Somehow it feels like we pl
RenovationsThey will come again, and when they do, the others will hide.Renovations1 year ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Mr. Brown will curl up in his hole in the eaves. The Wife in the crawlspace, and I'll be here, clutching my dear ones close. I'm wrapping my legs around them, and I can hear them fidget against the soft sac, their little tremors not unlike the desperate throes of flies, but warm, beautiful. It won't be long now. Now is the tender time. Soon I'll wear them on my back, and we can leave this place. But not yet. Not yet. Now is the time when a swift strike would kill them, and me with them. I will not leave.
I can't leave. I've hidden as well as I can. A small shadow between the braces under the mantel, where their lights don't penetrate. At least not yet.
Too much light. Too many sounds. They come with their sounds, with their fangs at the ends of their legs, shooting explosions into the walls, toppling everything. They are giants. They grumble at each other, tear up the floors, rip down the lights. Destroy everything that has
The Stick PeopleIn a town called Rushing Water, there lived a woodcarver with no face.The Stick People2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
When we were small, my brothers and I, Daddy would sometimes take us to visit her. We would sit there at her kitchen table, amazed, as this woman with no eyes – and indeed no nose or mouth – would pour out our tea without spilling a drop.
I was frightened of her because she looked so strange, so grotesque. All the other days of my life, I encountered people with faces – square faces, oval faces, faces round and smiling like the moon with slanted eyes or big dark ones or little beady bird eyes. Snub noses, Romans or long, thin, birdlike ones like mine. Yet here was a woman with none of that or any of the faculties that come with those organs.
As a little girl, I dreaded our visits to the faceless woodcarver. But now that I've grown up I miss most all the memories of my childhood, even the somewhat unpleasant ones, so I sometimes let them wander through my mind even when they aren't invited. So I remember the woodcarv
Bringing Down SweeneyI asked him who he was, and he said, "I'm Sweeney," and I believed him. I probably shouldn't have, except that it was true. I can always tell when people are telling the truth.Bringing Down Sweeney5 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Mum and Dad were still in the last battles of the divorce, so I was trying to keep myself out of their hair as much as possible. This was why I had packed two cornmeal pancakes and an old plastic dish of syrup and was heading out into nowhere, where I wasn't necessarily wanted but sure as hell wasn't unwelcome. Not that I was resentful about it or anything. Nobody wants to fight in an amphitheater. Well, nobody but gladiators, but you don't see a lot of those around these days. Goes to show you.
So out I went, with my book and my pair of half-crumbling pancakes and my yellow wellies and an old, oatmeal-colored jumper that had holes in the elbows. "Get a new one, Linnie," everybody was always saying. The truth was I had gotten used to it, and now it felt weird not to have my elbows out in the wind like that. Out
Choose Your Name“John Brant,” I whispered, and a dashing British gentleman appeared in my mind, arrogant and suave as the slim-fitting Italian suit he wore. He sounded classy, not overly pompous. But there was just something about him. He could be the cool confident charmer I was looking for. But he could just as well be a stiff stocky soldier with his pride shoved far up his ass.Choose Your Name2 years ago in Stories & Vignettes More Like This
“John Chase,” The name rolled smoothly off my tongue. Another man took form, both the same and different from the first. He was just as charming, perhaps a little lower in class with a bolder tongue. And was that a little mischief I saw in his eyes? Undoubtedly, he was smoother than the latter. He could work. A common name for a common man. Maybe a little too common. But he could work.
“John Davies,” I frowned, my eyes still closed as I wrinkled my brow. This man was full of question marks. Unlike the previous two, I couldn’t picture him quite as clearly. And I wasn’t su
ToddThere was a big fanfare when Todd came back. Even a couple of newspaper reporters showed up. It was only right I guess, what with him being dead for a year. At least I think it was a year. I mean, he was gone for eight and I'm pretty sure if a person is missing for seven years the government declares them dead or something. I know that his parents bought a tombstone from the place on First Street a while ago. They put it up in their family lot at the cemetery, next to his grandparents. I went to visit it after the funeral. It had his name and a little inscription. They left the dates off though. After that they took him off the missing persons list too. I know because I used to check it.Todd3 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
I'll bet that everyone was real pissed when they found out the truth. He got into town on Tuesday but nobody said a word until Friday. Then on Satur
ForesightDebra Mae was an astonishingly good programmer.Foresight2 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Her code always worked correctly the first time, and she never missed a deadline. Her workspace was immaculate, but curiously devoid of personal effects. No framed pictures, no toys, just her small collection of pens lined up according to color and an inbox for the occasional old-school paper input.
Her computer was equally immaculate. Nothing extra on her desktop, no stray icons. If one peeked at her browser history there’d be nothing there but work-related google searches and company stuff.
She dressed neatly but very plainly. I suspected she had four dresses in her wardrobe and rotated them daily. On casual Fridays she wore jeans and a plain white top, unlike her shaggy coworkers who went in for clever t-shirts or flannel.
Her space was so depersonalized that visiting salespeople often mistook her desk as vacant, setting up shop for the day. The first time that happened Debra Mae simply drifted to an absent co-worker
A Note on DrowningI am writing this letter for myself. If you have found this letter, please give it to me. If you find that I lack the will to read, if my mind is gone, if my hands are bloodied, tell me at least, that the song is near its end. If I am dead [indistinguishable]A Note on Drowning3 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
[Written in the margin: IF I AM DEAD THROW ME TO THE SEA]
In laying out the bones of my terrors, a solution may be found.
I’ll start before the beginning, when Mother took me for walks on the beach and told stories. Together we missed my father, who sailed the sea. These are my earliest memories, but I remember things had always been this way. We walked together, and I counted my many steps and Mother’s few. When I stretched my legs, I could make it so my path went over only her footprints.
The sand was soft where she had stepped. Elsewhere was gritty, and unclean.
I was young for all of Mother’s stories. Here I will write the relevant one as best I remember.
“A sailor was on a ship. This ship was far of
paper hearts. Theres a crevice in the wall where she hides her little baby girl, all plastic smiles and mechanical giggles. She cuddles it like it has a soul and speaks to it like it has a name. Its soft rubber skin has been covered with paper hearts and marker stars, and its little plastic ears have been filled with whispers of adoration and love. Its wiry blonde hair has been crossed into braids, twisted up above its head, and she has pulled a dress onto its synthetic body with the brightest little smile. She reminds it that its beautiful, even though it cant hear. She fastens it tight into the beaten pink stroller and skips behind it as it rolls across the pavement, dancing in the sun like there is no tomorrow and yesterday is only a dream.paper hearts.6 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
And maybe she's only six years old, but she knows how babies are made. Not the ones you buy in the store, the ones you have to tear out of the cru
PREY NO MOREPREY NO MOREPREY NO MORE2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Rope dug into Patrick’s wrists as he struggled to free his hands. His hot, damp breath washed over his face, trapped by the fabric sack secured over his head.
A floorboard creaked. Patrick froze, his back rigid against the chair, and strained his ears. Another creak.
“Hello?” he called.
The sound of swishing fabric.
“Who’s there? Where am I? Why’d you bring me here?” Blurred memories swam through his mind: drinking at the bar; stumbling home; a shadow sweeping out from an alley.
Fingers grasped his chin and jerked his head upward. “Hush.” A woman’s voice.
The pressure released and Patrick clenched his jaw, his nostrils flaring. He heard the strike of a match and a blown breath. The smell of acrid smoke filtered through the hood. The hand returned, grabbing his head and ripping the hood off, taking a fistful of hair with it. Candlelight flickered from a table beside him. He looked at the woman, but
IndependenceOnce the wind caught on the seaIndependence2 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
And its dress snagged upon the crests
Like a girl who couldn't help falling
For a boy with too many cracks
Then the wind tumbled between the waves
Crashing with the water when it couldn't find the sky.
I always wanted to live in the sky,
Wrap clouds around me--dip myself into the sea--
And wander into roaring waves
Of emptiness; Rush as the sun crests
Rush like wind and water into the cracks
Of myself, so that maybe I'll stop falling
For people who can't keep themselves from falling
Down, and who won't quit looking at the sky
So they can avoid all the cracks
In the sidewalk as they weave through a people-sea.
Well, I'm not used to riding the crests
Of others' success; I'll make my own waves.
So though my hair falls down in amber waves
I fear the strands will keep on falling
And my white-wash hands in lunar crests
Won't show you a spacious sky
Unless you want to see
Through star-spangled cracks.
Eyes and eggshells shattered, tiny cracks
And the tears stre
Cloud in a Bottle 1Cloud in a Bottle 1Cloud in a Bottle 12 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
How is it your voice is a canyon which cuts
where you did not even speak, opening the rivers
of my lungs so they could cataract, could rage with breath
you breathed? That the rock swells of your ribs, washed
round and floating, met then barred the way with mine
so that my heart, turned to tides, could not slip by,
and beat against the walls, unanswered, ‘til it drowned?
And that I still don’t hate you, even now?
There’s all this nonsense of lips and bubbles, that’s fine;
still refuse drifts in one direction all the same, refusing—
shored up maybe by some reassuring echoes still unsung—
to sink, so like an opened blouse colored by brine, my hope
finds refuge at the highest point, and lays itself unlocked
on barren sand to fade, suffuse with light, the way all things
in the desert turn finally, achingly white.
Personal Demons“Do you even know what a demon is?”Personal Demons2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Archibald Feeney had never considered himself an overly religious man, but he attended church every now and then, and read the gospel if there wasn’t anything good on the telly, and even said his prayers if there was a lull in his bedtime preparations. It was, however, still a bit of a shock to him when he ran face to face with his religion.
He had popped into the local pub for a fish and chips, having been late from work and disinterested in cooking. There might even be a pint in it for him, though he tried not to succumb to those urges too regularly. No more so than the vicar anyway, who stopped in every Saturday, as regular as clockwork.
It was while Feeney was nursing his lager and waiting for his meal that something came in and sat beside him. It was tall and lithe, with reddish skin that was only beginning to show signs of peeling from a mild burn. It wore no clothes, but its bottom half was clearly quite goat-like. The brown
GrandfatherLancaster Pennsylvania.Grandfather2 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
July 3rd, 1978.
Eighty-two degrees outside.
Driving sixty eight mph down Millersville road
past miles of cornfields
And everything is silent.
Except the faint scream of wind escaping through the cracked driver side window
and the dull thud of tire treading on the newly paved road.
trying to understand,
while trying not to think,
while thinking too much,
while being silent.
And suddenly its
March of 1968
And Calley is calling
“kill them all dead”.
And he sees his daughter,
her Agent Orange colored curls
clinging to her face like napalm sticks to melting bodies;
her eyes burning brighter than Hanoi and Haiphong on December 18th, 1972.
He begins to cry
because its still
July 3rd, 1978,
Five pm, and
eighty-two degrees outside.
But in his mind it will always be March of 1968
or December of 1972,
because for him the war is still being fought;
monks and Morrison still burning;
Saigon is still screaming
like it was on April 30, 1975,
The Ghost of Emily WhiteThe cemetery never changed, or at least not very much. The trees and hedges were trimmed every few years, and when Scott was six, they started turning off the water butts in the winter because the pipes froze, and so did the streams that the local boys used to make by overfilling the water butt at the top of the part that sloped. The weather changed, of course, and the plants and the animals with it. Sometimes a new grave was added. When Scott was ten, his grandmother was buried there.The Ghost of Emily White2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Sometimes he popped in to see her on the way home from school, just as he always used to. He missed being able to see and hear her, but it wasn’t so bad, because he was sure he could feel her there. He had always felt that way about the cemetery’s ghosts, ever since he could remember.
When he was learning to read, Scott used to like deciphering the names on the headstones. When he fully understood how the system of years worked, he liked looking at the dates as well, the older the bett
AerosolIt has been a day and a half since the crash, and I have found a cabin. In some ways, this is a relief. I don’t know if I could face another night on the mountain without shelter. Outside, a fire does no good: the heat simply travels upwards. However, this place also raises some difficult questions. I estimate that I’ve put eight miles between myself and the crash site. I don’t know if this will be enough. It occurs to me that I don’t really know anything.Aerosol2 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
The survival manual recommends staying with the plane. It explains that this affords the best chance of rescue. It explains that the wreckage offers warmth and shade. It explains that seventy percent of pilots who stay are located within three days, while seventy percent of those who leave are never recovered. It does not explain what to do if the payload begins to leak.
Jenkins shouted after me as I ran, said it was our duty to defend the aircraft. I tried to warn him about the spur of wood protrudin
Brain WaspsBrain WaspsBrain Wasps2 years ago in Stories & Vignettes More Like This
I am on the verge of tears. Why is this so hard? I think furiously, twirling the cylinder of Chapstick around in my fingers. I shut my eyes tight and try again.
I reach out to set the Chapstick on the nightstand beside my bed, but seconds after I release the tube I have to grab it again. Wrong, the brain wasps tell me, you have to get it just right.
I briefly consider hurling the thing across the room, but I know that I’ll just have to get out of bed to pick it up again. I am trapped in my own compulsions.
I know it’s stupid, and that’s part of what’s bothering me so much. Why can’t I just put the Chapstick down? It’s a simple mindless task, but as I look at the clock it’s taken me a full five minutes. As soon as I put it down, I have this need to pick it back up again and move it, almost as if two pieces of a puzzle don’t fit quite right with each other and I have to try again. And again. And again. And again until i
Aaron GreenHe has four patients in analysis,Aaron Green2 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
who lie on the couch, and six patients
who come in for psychotherapy
and sit in a chair.
A vivid, impatient,
black modern sofas
reproductions of modern
art, an unswerving classical
I remember the agreeable warmth
of the low-ceilinged,
dimly lit room.
A cozy lair.
From these early, unimaginable transactions
between proud, lovesick women and
nervous, abstinent analysts--
the feverish rush of discoveries.
He conducted therapy as no classical
Freudian analyst would conduct it
today--as if it were an ordinary
in which the analyst
Murder in the First, Second, and ThirdThe first time it happened, she was drunk.Murder in the First, Second, and Third2 years ago in Stories & Vignettes More Like This
Kissing in his bed, hands locked on his face, how difficult would it be? Phone on the bedside, the password his year of birth and high school jersey number and all she’d have to say was that he was going to spend a few days at her place. His roommates would be disappointed but not surprised. Break your heart, break your heart, that girl’ll break your heart. But none of them would count on this, no one would notice until he didn’t call his father or the unfamiliar smell of human death crept into every reach of the apartment. Keys in his pocket, cutting into her thigh, she could take them and head for the coast. Head for the border, even, and slip away. If she got caught, she’d claim she had no idea what was happening when it happened. If she got caught, she’d smoke cigarettes in prison and cut her hair short. If she got away, she’d never think of him again.
She bit until she tasted blood, and then rolled out
NamelessA nameless creature jammed into a nameless space located in an unknowable location was all that stood between Experiment 726 and what he considered to be the Endless Stream of Creation itself. The creature was large and menacing, but seemingly beautiful to behold. Experiment 726 crinkled his eyelids at the creature that stood before him, frustratingly unable to comprehend all but the most simple adjectives about it. And yet… it was as clear as day and cold as night.Nameless2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Cold. That was something you could call it, 726 mused. It was one of a very limited number of describing words that he could muster about this impossible place, because no matter how much he looked or analysed anything, nothing seemed to make much sense.
“Why come here?” The nameless creature demanded. “And how? No creature such as yourself should even be capable of getting here.”
“I'm just lucky?” 726 tried. “I honestly don’t know.”
Goodnight Enigmatic SongShe was the song you hear and, at first blush, don't like.Goodnight Enigmatic Song2 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Well, you don't know how you feel about it so you keep listening in an attempt to discover how exactly you feel and then you reach the end of the song and you realize, you don't like it; you love it.
That was Grace.
She was my coworker and she was my friend.
We carpooled together, I drove and she slept most of the way.
"Don't get much sleep at night, do you?" I asked her, catching those drooping lids mid-descent.
She looked out the window streaked with rain; it spoke in percussive touches filling the car with quiet overcast conversation.
I felt the warmth of her smile in the corner of my eye. The blur of her hand reached at the window to feel the cold of the droplets.
"When I was a girl, I used to race these. I thought it was funny the fat ones always won," she giggled and I imagined her as a little girl in the passenger seat then, legs too short to reach so kicking, and hair messed in the bac