Displaying items by tag: fiction

Sunday, 11 November 2018 13:04

Shame by E.C. Adams

Shame  by E.C. Adams

By the time I was fourteen I knew what pretty meant. And it had nothing to do with me.

Pretty meant knowing what to do with your stringy, oily, not-quite-brown, not-quite-blonde hair. Pretty meant never being caught dead in khaki cargo pants and your brother’s hand-me-down Hard Rock Café T-shirts, two sizes too big to hide the boobs you got in 5th grade. And pretty meant that, when you got the courage to sneak into your mother’s room to find the makeup she’d hidden from her previous life, you did not spray perfume into your eye.

But the very first hint at my un-pretty nature came at a fifth grade Girl Scouts meeting.

“Today we’re going to discuss puberty,” said my troop leader. “Let’s begin on page 34: menstruation. Kayla, can you read aloud please?”

Kayla obeyed, as Girl Scouts are taught to do. “Menstruation is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina.”

I burst out laughing. In what kind of sick world did every single woman repeatedly bleed from her hoo-ha? No way was that real.

 “Is there a problem, Chris?” said the Troop Leader. I looked at my fellow Girl Scouts: none of them were laughing. Instead, their prim and pretty faces barely concealed smirks of superiority.

“No,” I said. “No problem.”

Published in Issue 66 Nov 2018
Saturday, 20 October 2018 12:03

A Most Exceptional Scholarship by Nestor Delfino

A Most Exceptional Scholarship by Nestor DelfinoTaking the long way home was the least of Toby’s worries that warm June afternoon. The drugstore faced the parking lot -- the school bullies’ favorite hangout. But Aunt Annabel needed her refills, and he was going to get them for her.

Creeping up to the parking lot, he scanned in all directions. No ruffians in sight. He sprinted to the drugstore as fast as his limp allowed and almost hit his face against the sliding doors.

“Hi Toby,” the man behind the counter said. “How’s Annabel doing? Are we keeping her headaches at bay?”

“She’s fine now,” Toby said, gasping for breath. “She had a headache yesterday, but the stronger painkillers helped.”

“Here you go.” The man handed Toby five white paper bags. “Give your aunt my regards.”

Toby stuffed the bags in his backpack, and took a worried look out the window. He left in a hurry. At the same time, from the bubble tea shop next door, his nemesis stormed out. It was none other than Cody Sylvester, the sixteen-year-old who was taking grade nine for the second time. His younger buddies followed.

“Well, lookit! It if ain’t the limping nerd! Dinnit I tell ya I don’t wanna see ya in my hangout, Flynn? Dinnit I tell him boys? Dinnit I?”

Toby tried to get away, but Cody grabbed the handle of his backpack and pulled him down. They carried him to the far end of the parking lot and dumped him in the ditch, face down.

Published in Issue 65 Oct 2018
Saturday, 20 October 2018 11:59

Blue Eyes by MM Schreier

Blue Eyes by MM SchreierThe tree was an anomaly. It stood, a lonely sentinel, in a world that no longer welcomed it. They say there used to be forests, dense with growth. Communities of saplings, shrubs, and climbing vines. But that was so long ago, it felt more like folklore than truth. Pictures in books depicted trees with jewel toned foliage. Their crowns spread broad and proud. They blossomed, bore fruit, and were things of beauty. The stunted relic outside my window was a nightmare tangle of twisted limbs and dagger sharp brambles. The leaves were ashy, green-grey spikes covered in fuzz. It never grew fruit, but it did flower. Once.


“Eliot! Let's go. School.” Mom hollered from the base of the stairs.

I hated my name. It was just one more thing that alienated me from my classmates. Eliot -- that weird girl with a boy's name. Not that I was interested in what they thought. Idiots.

“Eliot. Move it.” Her voice was stretched thin with impatience. “And don't forget to change the filter in your gas-mask.”

I clattered down the stairs and rummaged through the front closet. I sighed. The box of filters was nearly empty. Money was tight now that Dad was gone. At least school was ending and I would start my apprenticeship. Take a little pressure off Mom. I hesitated and then put the new cartridge down. I could stretch it a few more days. She didn't need to know.

“Mom, I'm going to be home a little late after classes today.” I didn't meet her eye as I finagled a thick, tattered volume -- Agriculture in the Twenty First Century -- into my overstuffed rucksack.

“No problem. Are you doing something with your friends? Or a boy, maybe?” Her voice was a shade too nonchalant. “There are still a few days before marriage contracts have to be submitted.”

“Gross.” I groaned and rolled my eyes. “I’m sixteen, Mom. I have no interest in being a Breeder. Ugh.” The slang word tasted bitter on my tongue.

Published in Issue 65 Oct 2018
Friday, 14 September 2018 18:50

Additional Triangles are Formed by Michael Pesant

Additional Triangles are Formed by Michael PesantJackson knew it was nothing good when his mom showed up at the high school with his father in the car. His dad looked like an overgrown child, holding his briefcase on his lap like a lunchbox. Jackson couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen him in a car he wasn’t driving.

He didn’t feel any better when they pulled up to Ray’s office.

Parents liked Ray because he was different from other therapists. None of that touchy-feely garbage, Ray cut to the point. Sometimes kids thought he was cool. Tattoos covered every inch of his jacked up arms. Before getting clean, he’d been a gearhead, or a deadhead, or some kind of head. Metal, maybe. The admiration seldom lasted.

He hadn’t moved offices since their last visit, but the building had changed, for the worse. Jackson always thought this strip mall behind the freeway a strange place for a therapist’s office. Before, it at least shared space with normal stores: florists, Chinese restaurants, ambulance-chasing attorneys. Now it was payday loans and vape shops.

Austin and his mom were already in the waiting room when they walked in. He looked like a Westie, with tear-wrecked eyes under his curly blond skater mop. In a long dress and too red lipstick, Austin’s mom looked dressed for a job interview instead of a therapy appointment.

Jackson’s mom wrapped Austin’s in a hug. She let her, but didn’t reciprocate. Instead, she stared at Jackson’s father, as if as the only man in the room, he alone had the capacity to sort this all out. He looked uncomfortable. Therapy wasn’t his forte, even with a hard ass like Ray. Austin’s dad wasn’t in the picture anymore.

Published in Issue 64 Sep 2018
Friday, 14 September 2018 18:47

Étude for an Extraordinary Mind by Julie Novakova

First published in the print anthology Futuristica Vol. II (Metasagas Press, 2017).

Étude for an Extraordinary Mind by Julie NovakovaPRELUDE

Doctor Stephenson leaned forward and smiled reassuringly. “Tell me, Mandy, what do you experience when you switch between your implants?”

The girl across the table remained silent.

“Your parents are worried about you.”

No response.

She was usually difficult to get to talk and would just sit silently crouched in her chair like some frightened little animal – but there was something different about her now. Doctor Stephenson started being suspicious about its reason.

“Am I talking to Mandy?” he asked, suddenly with a very stern expression.

“No,” the girl said defiantly.

“I want to hear her opinion now.”

“Why? It’s my damned life too! Who ever cares about my opinion? Nobody!”

“I will hear you out, I promise. But I need to talk to Mandy first.”

After a short pause, she spoke: “Fine.”

The girl changed in front of his own eyes. It wasn’t dramatic, one might not even notice it at first sight, but he knew the signs. Her look changed. She lowered her shoulders and stooped a little. Her muscle tone rose up as if she was nearly in a spasm. She seemed a little nervous but also distant.

“Now, Mandy,” he said softly, “you do remember my question. Please, tell me.”

Published in Issue 64 Sep 2018
Saturday, 04 August 2018 18:44

The Nearly Boy by Alyson Faye

the nearly boySam sprinted down the pavement, vaulted a bollard, lassoed a lamp post with his right arm and swung himself over the fence next to the school playground, landing crouched but balanced, on the tarmac. He was late as usual. It was impossible trying to get Millie up, give her breakfast, get her dressed, drop her at school and still be on time himself. Meanwhile their Mum lay in bed, too sad to get up, since their Dad had left.

Sam slunk into the school building, trying to be invisible. Mrs Thompson, the school secretary, sighed when she saw him.

“So what”s the excuse this time?” Her hand hovered over the Late Book. “No more tall stories like “Chauffeur Assassinated” or “The Great Goldfish Escape” please, Sam.” Her smile was kind though. Her eyes warm.

At lunchtime Sam”s worst nightmare confronted him in the corridor outside the gym. Adam was everything Sam wasn”t. Confident, tall, with perfect teeth, gelled hair and sporting the latest most expensive trainers. As usual he had two of his hangers-on with him. Lads who”d do pretty much anything to fit in with Adam”s “cool” crowd.  The trio pinned Sam against the radiator. Adam positioned himself in the centre, whilst the other two held Sam”s arms.

Published in Issue 63 Aug 2018
Saturday, 04 August 2018 18:42

Starling’s Flight by Sylvia M DeSantis

Starling's Flight by Sylvia M DeSantisStarling snuggles deeper into her tangle of sheets, yawning as rain spatters and pings against the porch’s old wooden steps. The shutters will totally need painting after the storm. From her room, a tiny space just off the north side of the parlor, Starling can see almost all the way down Ocean Avenue to the sea. She reaches over to her nightstand, an old chipped wooden cabinet resurrected from the basement, and grabs the wire-wrapped pendant.

Even in the dark room, the quartz winks. The purple wire had been her special request. She turns the pendant in her hands, studying the tiny chips of garnet and aquamarine, peridot and labradorite laced across the face of the frosted quartz wand. Time to try again. Juniper said to keep trying, that crystals, especially Record Keepers, don’t give up their secrets easily. Too bad most of the girls in her class weren’t more like that.

Secrets of the Ancients, answers to the Universe’s mysteries, maybe even a prophesy? Starling drops the heavy pendant over her head, the waxy black cord soft against her neck. Ok, count to ten, breathe deeply…

Published in Issue 63 Aug 2018
Saturday, 14 July 2018 19:37

Social by A Anthony

 Social - image by Anoop Anthony

On the day Priya got the strange message that would change her life forever, she returned home from school at the usual time (around three o clock), climbed into bed, propped her tablet PC on her belly, and began watching streaming TV shows. She preferred the shows about zombies, where dead people chased after living ones and tried to eat them. She watched the shows until Amma got home from work, which was usually well after 8:00 PM. By then, Amma was too exhausted and irate to bother about anything. It was best to stay out of Amma's way when she got back. If Amma asked her questions about school or homework, she just told Amma that everything was going well.  

After Amma and Appa got divorced, their lives had become tough. Priya had been eight years old when it happened, and that whole period of her life was just one terrible memory after another — Appa and Amma fighting, court cases, strangers and relatives visiting.  

Soon after the divorce, Appa got a job somewhere in Saudi Arabia and left India for good. For a few months after that, he stayed in touch, but his calls grew less frequent over time. Now he no longer called. Amma told her that Appa had married another woman and was living with this lady in Saudi Arabia. He had a child, too, another daughter. Which was probably why he had stopped calling.  

Amma worked hard because there were bills to be paid — the rent, school fees, groceries, and so on.  They lived in a cramped two-bedroom apartment on MG Road in Sri Nagar. (Priya's bedroom was a little larger than a closet). Amma drove an ancient, beat-up Maruti and said they had two hefty bank loans to pay off. Amma often complained that her job barely paid enough to sustain their lives. (Amma worked as the company secretary and receptionist at a real estate firm). Amma also hinted ominously that men did not behave well with divorced women, although she never went into details.

Published in Issue 62 Jul 2018
Saturday, 14 July 2018 19:30

Milk by Marie Osuna

Milk by Marie OsunaWhen my mom picked me up from the airport last night, she didn’t say a word. She had taken one look at me, grabbed my suitcase, and threw it in the back of the car. We drove home in silence, the heat and unsaid words steaming up the car windows. I had expected her to at least ask me how my trip was, but her lips remained closed. It didn’t matter though ‒ I was tired, and I understood her reaction. She was upset, because of me.

Stepping off the plane, the details of the trip were still fresh and swirling in my mind. I remembered the colors of the countryside, the electric rush of people in the city, the smoggy Paris air. I recalled smelling the incredible French foods: the breads, the soups, the desserts. Foods I never actually ate.

I, once again, have let my anorexia relapse.

My month-long trip to France should have been one of the best experiences of my life. The sites, the language, the food. I should have enjoyed it all, but there was no one there to watch me eat. There was no one to hold me accountable for consuming the recommended 2,000 calories a day. So, I didn’t. Everything had started off so perfectly ‒ I loved France! ‒ but of course, whenever anything is going right in my life, my brain always has to revert back to my old ways. I had tried so hard to still enjoy myself despite not eating, but I quickly became too tired to leave my hotel most days. I had wasted the biggest opportunity of my life.

Now I’m sitting at the breakfast table, where mom has put waffles and fruit and a glass of milk in front of me. She stands in the kitchen with her back turned to me, pouring batter into the griddle, lost in her work.

Published in Issue 62 Jul 2018
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:33

The Power of the Page by Anne E. Johnson

The Power of the Page by Anne E. JohnsonThe books started talking to Cosmint on a Friday afternoon at around 3:15. Xe— meaning Cosmint, who didn’t think the average pronouns “he” and “she” were awesome enough to describe hir— had popped into the high school library before heading home.

The outline for hir social studies report on World War II was due Monday, and Mrs. Nguyen had said they must use at least one “physical resource.”

“My iPad is a physical resource,” Tonya Marconi had mumbled from the back of the room. Super-ears Nguyen heard that, of course, and exploded with a machine gun volley of “Book, book, book, book, book.”

It was the funniest thing to happen the whole, boring day. Cosmint was reminding hirself of it while hunting for G. L. Mortimer’s The Soldiers of Patton’s Army. “Book, book, book,” xe whispered, tickling a dozen spines with hir sparkling gold fingernails. “Book, book, book.”

Xe found the book, but it resisted when xe pulled. No surprise, Cosmint thought. How gross must these awful, yellowed things be, with their cracked plastic protective covers cloudy with other kids’ fingerprints? But xe needed that book, so xe gave the binding a good yank.

Published in Issue 61 Jun 2018
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