Joseph S. Pulver, Snr submitted this dark fantasy as an invited piece, unaware of how Skeleton would perfectly embody symbiosis within. SY
(for Brian McNaughton)
Read the book. Came away with paper cuts and a wounded heart. Maybe I had the wounded heart before. Hard looking that far back…
The book was A Nightingale’s View of Autumn. The cover whispered of dark skies. Fitting. And sad…Inside the black ivy on yellowing paper were questions of blood and The Day After, an underworld of blackness that rattled with mysteries. The forest inside was thick, fog-shrouded, and hopeless.
That was the name of the town, Hopeless. And where the sea’s oblivion waves came to lick its shore with ash, it was. Skeleton felt it. Breathed it in. Found himself drowning in it.
That’s me. Skeleton. Was. A few Thens (charged with the witching-whisper of twilight and the nightingale narcosis of black stars) have changed things, but that’s where I began that night. Stood on that rocky shore and heard the rain-lashed cries of the crow. Turned and followed.
Eve has come on this trip at the behest of her sister. No one could have predicted what would happen, or how it would change Eve’s very real plan to end it all.
Lee put together a story that was a literal example of two beings working together toward a common goal: life. Be warned though, Lee is an expert in the horror that leaves your stomach churning. SY
Was I dead?
I peered through the fog.
I was dead: I had to be, because I could see an angel. But if I was dead, why was my head throbbing like the inside of a nightclub? People were shouting and moaning. Somewhere nearby a car alarm was blasting. I smelled petrol.
I blinked. Blinked again. Slowly, my eyes cleared.
Not an angel, then. Just a man with a pigeon flapping on his shoulder, the soft grey insides of its wings like an angel’s at his back.
Casey has lost the only person who seemed to care since the death of his mother. The unusual man at the duck pond, feeding Mrs. Kuschikin’s ducks, piques Casey’s interest and he has to find out the truth of his appearance. No matter what it costs him.
J.B. Rockwell leads us down the precarious and lively garden path of childhood; the dramatic need to have all the answers. This story looks at the need of another to make a better world for one’s self, and another. SY
They held Mrs. Kuschikin’s funeral in the pickle factory her family had owned and operated for over a hundred years, and a memorial in Wickering Park after. Not your typical send-off, but that’s what Mrs. Kuschikin wanted. She never had been one for fanfare and folderol, after all. Especially when said fanfare and folderol involved herself.
The funeral itself was mercifully short, and it was a fine June day for the memorial—the kind of day that made ten-year-old boys like Casey grateful to be outside—but the official in charge of Mrs. Kuschikin’s memorial just kept droning on and on and on.
Casey wished he’d hurry up already. He hated having all these stranger around him, whispering, staring, throwing pitying glances his way. ‘Look at the poor little broken boy in the wheelchair,’ their eyes said.
But he wasn’t broken. Casey’s legs just didn’t work like theirs.
Reviewed by Damien Smith
Symbiosis, as defined by a quick Google search, is “interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.” This could be between two close family members, one of those little birds that pick bits out of crocodiles’ teeth or, in this case, between protagonist and reader.
Symbiosis can be a very intricate and subtle process. It can be a community of organisms living and working together for the betterment of them all. Adam Kotlarczyk takes this idea and works it in delightfully into this post-apocalyptic snapshot.
We’re all having dinner when my friend Kris collapses. Tony had just broken some bad news to us:
“Saw some Hendersons yesterday,” he says, working on an apple. “A whole mess of them.” Tony has these beautiful, sincere brown eyes, and he wields them like a superpower. We’re all about 90% sure he was a used car salesman before. He knows just how to use them to get an effect. Now the effect on the group is anxiety. All eyes turn to Phil.
“Hendersons?” says Phil, digging his fingers into his gray beard. “Why would they be all the way out here?”
“Water, I think,” says Tony, looking around the room. “Any rate, the pond is where I saw them.”
This horror piece, delving into the existence of an individual’s psychologically-perceived worlds existing side-by-side, perfectly captured the (sometimes) precarious balance of this edition’s theme. SY
Misery doesn’t love company. Complaints, bitchiness and boredom love company. Misery is a solitary place. A place where one exists alone with only thought and pain as company.
Marvin Jackson considered this whim in front of a mirror as he gazed into the red of his eyes, the tiny veins like hot red fingers reaching for his irises. It had been another long and uncomfortable night.
Physically, the pillow-top mattress with gentle heat and subtle cooling options was akin to resting on a genius cloud, one ready to accommodate with the push of a button. The remote sat where they always had next to the bed, untouched. Marvin’s eyes stared at the ceiling, casting aside the dark around him in search of more dark, a dark that could take him to a worthwhile life.
“This bed, this room, this is not who I am,” he mumbled.
Next to him, his wife rolled and smacked her lips while she slept. She always slept so easily.
Virralat and Ira are the only mission members that made it to Venus. As they work together to continue the mission, in the absence of any communication from home, their relationship seems fraught. But together they must continue to exist.
A.L. Lorentz has worked many layers of commensal relationships into this science fiction short. See if you can spot them all! SY
My emerald hands glittered with every twitch in the pale indoor light of the cleaning chamber. The diagonal facets tessellating my body echoed the heavy metal grating I stood on and the reinforced lights below. I remember the days, literally worlds away, when I wondered if anyone would ever give me just one diamond. Now I have millions.
They said Venus was the best chance to start a much needed human colonization effort, but they gave me so many changes I barely felt human by the time we arrived. NASA’s microbes turned my skin verdant and my lungs ochre. The sparkles were a fortunate side effect of using my skin to separate carbon and oxygen from the otherwise deadly troposphere. Fortunate not for aesthetic reasons, but protection against acid rain.
NASA gave me a suitor too: Ira.
Reviewed by Lee Murray
In our time-poor society, novellas are becoming a mainstay of our literary diet: stories which can be told in manageable bite-sized chunks, ideal for bedtime reading or workday commutes. So, when Greg Chapman’s The Eschatologist came across my desk, just 96 pages of concentrated darkness, it didn’t languish on the pile for long.
Cooperation and coexistence appear at the end of this delightful fantasy, even if only for a brief moment. SY
The last of the sunlight shafted through the water, twining through the green kelp and transforming its tips into diaphanous siren hands. Devon was mesmerised by it momentarily, and then checked the regulator and her oxygen readings. Sunset dives were tricky and more than one diver had been lost in these underwater forests as day turned to dusk, then night.
A flash, a slivering gleam far below caught Devon’s eye—she hadn’t imagined it earlier. It flickered through the fronds, a mysterious beacon in the watery gloaming. Her diving partner, Christine, was observing sea otters near the top of the kelp, close enough for Devon to feel safe to dive just a little lower.
There. With each pulse, the light outlined a gate made of glass and faded gold. Above Devon, Christine motioned for her to come to the surface. She shook her head in response, pointed below. At that distance, in these waters, she shouldn’t be able to see it so clearly and in such detail.
Unbelievable, she thought, checking her oxygen again. But it was there and behind it, a city of molten glass, rising through the green depths in spires and turrets and ever-changing gables. Mist swirled and eddied in the glass buildings and—impossibly—through the streets and alleyways between them. It glimmered, shifted, reformed, a ghostly song made into faery palaces twisting in the tide. Read the rest of this entry