The Sweetest Curse

by Trevor Creighton

Something had gone wrong. They had been warned of the curse but had purchased the bones anyway. Five coins and two sheep had been the price. They’d thought themselves pretty smart. The shaman had blessed their endeavor.

But the curse hadn’t been sedated and the bones turned black on the third night. Black with ants crawling all over them as they grew softer. Those who attended the bones were in turn cursed by the buyer when parts began to fall off. Stringy, sticky parts, not the dry, clean breaks expected when bones come apart. The attendants received rushes of energy but found it ever more difficult to stand till their eyes were left moving energetically as their bodies remained still. This was the curse, and when the buyer started tasting the sweetness, a symptom reported by his attendants, the bones were returned.

They were buried and prayed over. A hasty wooden church was erected on the site to ensure constant prayer, and the buyer became the priest. A priest who dressed in white and removed all sweet things from the diet — sweetness being cursed and dryness being exulted. Water was drank, sparingly, and the people began to adorn the church with riches, which attracted raiders, who learned of the curse after taking the gold and returned to claim the buried bones. It was a silly mistake. Their camp became the second sacred site.

The priest continued to pray with his parched tongue but refused all treasure, and slowly the church was rebuilt in stone.

Trevor Creighton is a strange little creature who creates worlds at whim, often leaving them unfinished and unprotected as it travels from here to there.

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Nucleosaur of the Frigid Lace

by Adam Mac

A long way away—1.185185 quadrillion light years, give or take a billion or two—on an asteroid belt nicknamed the Frigid Lace, the world was populated by nucleosaurs and electrosaurs. [NB: Protosaurs are a strictly human construct as proved by Poodlesky. Ed.]

One such nucleosaur was Stanley Nucleosaurus, Esq. As a nucleosaur, Stanley had a following, so to speak–in his orbit, so to speak again. They were called electrosaurs, or electrosaurus cum minimus negativus, and basically they were servants, but for Stanley they were primarily snacks.

Stanley constantly snacked on his electrosaurs. This had the predictable consequence of Stanley often turning himself into something else. After a couple of electrosaurs, he’d take on the properties of, say, “Strontium saurus” or “Plutonium saurus” or something more exotic. A dozen once transformed him into a flatugenic facsimile of himself and a double double turned him inside out into Defecatorium saurus.

You’d think this would all come to a quick end what with Stanley’s infinite appetite and his finite number of electrosaurs, but it didn’t. So far, we’ve only mentioned his internal consumption, but for every electrosaur he gobbled he consumed two nucleosaurs. This raised Stanley’s electrosaur count to dangerously high levels and challenged scientists to scramble for names, like “Ican’tbelieveIatethewholethingium” or “YikesIthinkIgotabadoneonium.

All this took its toll on the Frigid Lace. Stanley munched his way from one end of the asteroid belt to the other, devouring everything in sight and leaving behind great clumps of antimatter and clouds of noxious quasar gas. So much had Stanley grown—Giganticus Infinitus Pacmanicus—that astronomers could track his movements as he galumphed acrossed the asteriods as if they were stones in a stream.

Eventually, as the external supply of consumables was depleted, Stanley had to turn exclusively to consuming his own electrosaurs. Long predicted by dark-cloud scientists, Stanley then achieved the first documented interstellar case of absolute subjective annihilation. Id est, he ate himself up.

Adam Mac is a featured author in the Garden of Eden Anthology.

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A Fly On The Wall

by Adam Mac

I had lived a sheltered life. Windows always open, wholesome fragrances everywhere, and I buzzed in and out of the house at will. Best were the apple pies that cooled on the kitchen table. The madam playfully swatted at me and chased me around knowing full well she’d never get me in a room with 10-foot ceilings.

Then one day, horror struck. I found my family strung up on one of those sticky strips, stuck there unmoving in gruesome, contorted positions. I’d never noticed it before, but my younger brother had seven legs.

I hopped the first outsider who was going far away–I hoped. Turns out, he only made it to the first stop on the interstate before he had to relieve himself. I was tired and disoriented, so I just buzzed around his cap, but when he made to leave I was prevented by a strong downdraft of air at the door. We parted ways and I got to know my new surroundings.

People, always men, came in waves. When it was slack, young boys would come in and horse around. “I can hit it from way back here,” one would say, and the other would wager a small bet.  Most of the time, men would stand as far apart as possible, but sometimes you’d get a guy who’d come a little too close. I watched and listened.

It took getting used to what I thought was my punishment for having survived. (I’d learned all about guilt in Sunday School.) The smells weren’t like momma’s apple pie, but they were strangely attractive in a primal sort of way, and I felt a side of me emerge which might have frightened me once. Towards dark—the crickets told me—a large fellow in a black Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt barreled into a stall. I followed. I didn’t come out for hours. If this was purgatory, I could skip heaven.

Adam Mac is a featured author in the Garden of Eden Anthology.

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The Girl Named Spit

by Wm. Bernan

“You’ll be hard pressed to find a suitor,” the Stepmother claims.

“No matter,” the little one swats away her commentary, like a fly. “There’s naught one could do that I could not do meself.”

Lenore huffs away as always, annoyed she never can get through to the girl.

The teen, slim between knees and elbows, scuffed and scraped as always, is everything Lenore never wanted. More of a stepson than a princess, despite the beauty hiding under the grime.

The title of stepmother was thrust upon her, truly she’s the girl’s godmother. It was supposed to be an honorary title. Care of the waif was given over upon the untimely death of her best friend since schooldays and her husband. A fate virtually predicted by the girl’s father.

All she ever wanted was to feminize the girl, dress her as she would a doll, parade her to oohs and ahhs, and eventually marry her off…out of her care. Alas, mending breeches and tending cuts…the girl will never learn.

For the girl’s part, she unknowingly, very fortunately, takes after her father. A rough and tumble man, raised to defend his own by his absent father, a man with an absurd solution to a real problem…a family tradition of sorts. Sue Cash took nothing from no one, neither asked nor gave anything more than was warranted, and unfortunately died before he could teach his young daughter the cruel ways of the world.

The girl named Spit Cash was already stronger and bolder than a dozen stepmothers, it’s a family tradition.

#

With reverence for Johnny and Shel.

Wm. Bernan is an author of historical and paranormal fiction and lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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A Night Among the Utes

by Matthew J. Barbour

cabin in the valley of the utesIt was supposed to have been a shortcut across the mountains. If I took the old road through the Valley of the Utes, I would meet up with the interstate around Raton. I had planned to stay the night there before continuing on to Denver, but now it was dark and I was still in the valley.

There were no lights along the road, which was littered with potholes. It wasn’t safe to keep going–not at night at least. I looked for a place to pull off, as if I expected someone else to come down the road. I hadn’t seen anyone for hours.

People must have lived in the valley at one time. Once in a while I could make out a cabin just off the road. All of them looked like set pieces out of an old western film. It didn’t look like anyone had lived in them for years.

The idea of sleeping in the car really didn’t appeal to me. I was going to have to shut the engine off. I couldn’t afford to run out of gas. This high in the mountains, it was already cold. So, I decided I would get some shut eye in one of the cabins. They all had chimneys, and I figured I could build a fire.

So the next cabin I saw, I pulled off the road, jumped out of the car and went inside. It wasn’t like I broke in. There was no lock on the door and no one was sure as heck living there still.

The cabin was a simple structure consisting of a single room. I stumbled a bit in the dark. There was a full moon outside, but between the ponderosas and the cabin walls I couldn’t see anything. I fumbled over to the hearth and lit a fire.

As the light of the fire filled the small cabin, I was surprised to find that it was still furnished. All of it looked like it had been sitting there for at least a hundred years, but back then they must have built furniture to last. I settled myself into a comfy rocker. Maybe this was an old film set, I told myself.

Sleep overtook me almost immediately, but before I faded off into the realm of dreams. I remember seeing what looked like a red stain on the floor in front of the fire place. Blood? More likely paint made to look like blood, but shell casings were scattered about too. It really was like something out of a movie. Definitely an old film set, I said to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I awoke to the sound of distant drums. It was like the beat you would hear Indians play at a powwow.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The room was dark. I must have been asleep for some time. The fire was nothing but embers.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The drum beat appeared to be getting louder. I got up from the rocker and stuck another log in the fire. It just smoldered and filled the room with black smoke. I coughed.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I thought about it for a moment. The sound wasn’t getting louder. Rather, it was getting closer. It was probably coming from the stand of trees just outside the cabin door.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I walked outside. It was still dark. I couldn’t see anything. The moon had sunk behind the ponderosas surrounding the cabin.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The noise was so close now. I must have been within a few hundred feet of the drummer. I called out. As soon as I did, the drumming stopped. It was silent for a moment. I wasn’t sure what to say or do.

Then, I thought I heard the door of the cabin swing open behind me. Gunshots filled the night air and I could have sworn I heard a woman scream. I didn’t look back. I jumped in my car and sped away.

Matthew J. Barbour is a speculative fiction writer living with his wife and three children in Bernalillo, New Mexico. When he is not writing fiction, Mr. Barbour manages Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs and writes for a number of regional newspapers.

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Garden Gnome Submissions Process

From time to time, the garden gnomes like to shake things up a bit as we are wont to do. We have noticed lately that there seems to be a bit of confusion about our submissions process and we were hoping to clarify things a bit. We’d like your help.

Will you take some time to give us some feedback on our submissions process? Feel free to check as many boxes as apply.

And we thank you for your assistance with this grave matter.

What's Wrong With the Garden Gnome Submissions Process?

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Fram

by Ruben Stemple

A few words from the end

Curses, blood, and dust filled the air as the two men fought like badgers clawing at the same piece of trash. Tumbling through the dry, dusty landscape, they narrowly avoided bombed-out craters, deadly snakes, and cacti while rolling toward the edge of a cliff. The weaker, mustachioed man fought dirty, his very survival at stake. Time stood still, waiting for the result before deciding whether or not to continue.

The gist from page 2

I have to kill him. I hate to resort to murder, but he’s ruining everything. The only real decision is how. It has to be something epic, a death worthy of the havoc that he has already created. He doesn’t deserve that, but I think it’s the only way.

The good part from page 1

“I’m not going anywhere! You brought me here and now you have to deal with me!”

“But I don’t like you.”

“That’s not my fault! You’re the asshole who made me part of this.”

“Not part of this. You were brought in for a specific reason and I decided not to use you. Now go away!”

“That’s bullshit! You can’t just send me away! You know you like my moustache.”

Some of the beginning

I know this guy named Fram. He’s a character of mine, but I don’t think I like him. He has dirty brown hair, a bushy moustache, and the kind of face that makes you want to throw things at him. He’s not even smart enough to be a good villain.

The problem is that he keeps inserting himself into other stories. He showed up on a Vultarian space ship from a sci-fi piece I’m writing. He put on an ill-fitting business suit and tried to give a presentation that I wrote for work. Not to mention what he did to Ms. Sophietta from Home with the Horses.

Prologue

Open this E-mail Promptly

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The Fall of Thesaurus

by Bruce Costello

Thesaurus EncyclopediaThere was something about Encyclopedia’s darting green eyes that made Thesaurus wonder if his lipstick was on crooked or his fly buttons undone and his assets revealed.

He opened his mouth, but for once he was wordless.

So this was his mother-in-law to be, a fabled creature both loved and hated by his fiancée, feared and loathed by people throughout the land – an hermaphroditic beauty with the sultry eyes of an Art Deco flapper and a bosom resembling the humps on a steam engine.

Desire welled up inside him and overflowed into guilt, acrid as reflux in his mouth. Her gaze was on him as his eyes devoured her body.

She moved towards him, her lips pursed like a camel summoning a glob of spit. Thesaurus gazed at her as a mouse does on glimpsing a snake’s tonsils. He felt a beetroot flush appear on his man curve and spread to his butt cheeks.

“Come to Mama,” Encyclopedia whispered, her basilisk eyes watering, her forked tongue flicking around the corners of her lips. “Come to Mama, my darling, come.”

Thesaurus shook himself like a three-headed dog that had fallen into a long-drop dunny in urgent need of emptying, sidestepped his way to the door, and stumbled onto the street.

Encyclopedia stood in the doorway. The theme song from ‘Hair’ burst from her lips and pursued Thesaurus along the footpath. Strands of ponytails, rat tails, bobs and buns snared his senses and he felt himself falling, falling, falling…

“Encyclopedia!” Thesaurus cried out, his vocal cords thick with lust.

“Thesaurus!” Encyclopedia called in a voice like dark molasses.

He wafted into the air on a cloud of flatulence and jetted towards her outstretched arms across dark paddocks, starred with radioactive sword-wielding ninja cockroaches and Liberace’s undies.

Bruce Costello is a New Zealander. After studying foreign languages and literature, he spent a few years selling used cars. Then he worked as a radio creative writer for fourteen years before training in psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy and spending twenty-four years in private practice. In 2010, semi-retired, he took up writing for fun and to avoid housework. Since then, he’s had sixty-five stories accepted by mainstream magazines and literary journals in six countries. He still does housework.

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Who’s Runnin for Me, Now?

by J.B. Pravda

In the annals of captive animals, it was unheard of–much less run in any respected publication to date.

Labeled the ‘anti-cheetah’ by the zoological community, Furilongo’s excuse for the refusal of the species in question to run, preferring to ‘play’ possum’–the zookeeper’s own words–was deemed illogical (they hastening to add that this did not necessarily imply that the creature was ‘ill’).

Famed zoologist Quentin Furilongo was unable to bring the fleet-footed West African gazelle out of its lethargic funk–it seemed, as he wrote in the scholarly journal ‘Gazelle Gazette’, that the prized beast knew it was THE speed limit for all other creatures–‘fast as a gazelle’– thereby suffering from the fastest run syndrome.

Desperate–his colleagues piling-on characterization of his tactics–Furilongo chanced upon a solution: he would summon Cezar Lyon to coax the animal from its seemingly feigned lethargy.

There to witness certain failure, the skeptical Gazette reporter, Upton Cooper, was on hand at precisely high noon.

Whispering into the lethargic gazelle’s keen twitching ear Cezar seemed to be crooning, albeit faintly heard by human ears.

Suddenly, what had been a supine four-legged mass of motionless favorite red meat for the competitive cheetah so sprang into flight as to conjure the blurry rotary leg action of cartoon animations.

As Furilongo’s smile foretold, Cezar had done what seemed impossible without cheating; when questioned later by a truly surprised Cooper, Furilongo would only hum a tune, mumbling what sounded like these lyrics: “Do not forsake me, oh my yearling, on this your running day–”, and something about being frank concerning millet and a fresh downy bed.

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Schmerdloff’s Proposal

by Adam Mac

In the current Journal of Statistical Probability in Law Enforcement, Viktor Schmerdloff proposes the original theory that there are two types of people: those who fold their toilet paper and those who scrunch it up.

Anticipating skeptics, Schmerdloff explains why the FBI should be interested in profiling folders and scrunchers. Folders, he maintains, are inherently dangerous since they are fastidious in their planning and methodical in execution. When combined with other threat indicators, folding can provide reliable predictive data, which more often than not results in successful intervention and apprehension of suspects.

On the other hand, scrunchers, though percentage-wise less of a threat, can be worrisome insofar as their recklessness and aversion to normative behavior makes them unpredictable and virtually impossible to combat. The very absence of orderliness frustrates traditional law enforcement professionals and warrants new and controversial techniques like chaos profiling.

A unified approach targeting both folders and scrunchers is recommended, since they are, in effect, two heads of the same monster.

Regarding the operational issue of collecting data, the agency can work closely with manufacturers to install and retrofit millions of door locks in public restrooms with tiny hidden cameras. These cameras will generate continuous and multi-synchronous CCTV feeds for the agency’s super computer in northern Nevada to analyze and prioritize.

We think Schmerdloff’s proposal is a good first step but would add that profiling should further segregate those who don’t flush from those who do and among those who do flush it should separate out those who flush with their hands from those who flush with their feet. Since both folders and scrunchers are suspect, additional data are required to distinguish between actual, probable, and possible threats.

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