Tag Archives: short fiction

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.

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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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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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The Albino Man on Mystic Drive

by Russ Bickerstaff

albino kidIt was the dawn of the last century, a cold night in the middle of the woods. No idea why a kid would be wandering around beyond the cornfield. This kid was lost out there.

An albino kid. Didn’t know any better. He just ran off, exploring the woods. No telling why. Some kids get it in their heads to go. They hear the call of the wild or some goddamned thing.

The boy’s parents didn’t help matters. The father of some weak albino boy in the early 20th century might’ve been particularly hard on him. Maybe he preferred the wilderness to home. Truth be told, the old man that little boy turned into doesn’t know why he left. He only remembers being cold. It was late fall in Southern Wisconsin.

The boy followed sounds he’d been hearing for some time and was getting hungry. He didn’t know how to hunt or fish, or anything like that. He wandered around in the woods in Muskego, hearing whispers that melted into his thoughts. Kid must’ve been half-dead when he felt little hands drawing him in. Half sick and on the edge of death from the cold when all those little hands and arms and backs took him into a cozy, civilized warmth deep within the woods.

They later told the albino kid they’d served him bowl after bowl of gruel for days straight before he finally started to move around in a hazy daze. The people who had taken him in were different from the adults who looked down at his frail albino form. They could all look him straight in the eye. They all seemed to have a cautious respect for him. Sure, they had argued about whether or not they were going to take the kid in to begin with, and their reluctance nearly cost him his life, but they were under no obligation to help him.

The group were all as tall as the little albino kid. Every single last one of them. And they were all adults, too. Hard to believe now, but back then there wasn’t any TV or Internet and you didn’t ever go to the movies unless you had the kind of money the little albino boy’s family didn’t have. So he’d never seen full-grown adults that were as tall as him. They didn’t look down on him. They didn’t pity him because of his frailty. They didn’t hate him because of his weakness either. The little albino boy had met a group of adults who looked him in the eye and respected him as some kind of equal. The little albino boy had found this magical place where everyone was more or less equal. He knew he had parents. He knew he could find them. But he didn’t want to.

The people of the village deep in the woods in Muskego were very reclusive. The nearest major road is a tiny, little forgotten thing called Mystic Drive which ends in a gravel path. Back then Mystic Drive went from nowhere to nowhere. The people of the little village loved it that way. They were reluctant to bring the little boy back and they were sure as hell reluctant to let him stay once he’d been brought back to health. There was a pretty large minority of the village who wanted to simply escort the little albino boy back to Mystic Drive and let him find his way back home. A minority is a minority, however. The decision was to let the kid stay for as long as he liked as long as he pulled his weight and as long as he kept respectful of the villager’s decision to keep away from the outside world.

The little albino boy would come to know the villagers as dwarves. They taught him about them. He kept thinking of himself as a dwarf. His teacher kept telling him that he was an albino, but he was no albino dwarf. One day he had come back from chopping firewood and he asked his teacher what it meant to be an albino and not be a dwarf. The teacher got a far away look in his eye and he told him that it meant that he would grow to be taller than the rest of them but that his skin would always be the color of fresh snow in the dead of winter. By this time the boy was old enough to see that he was getting taller than everyone else in the village.

His teacher was a wise, old dwarf who told him that the time would come when the albino boy would have to decide if he truly fit in with a group of people who were every bit as different from him as those in the world outside. The teacher told him about a group of circus dwarves who had come to inhabit this section of the woods on account of mistreatment by a wicked ring leader. They’d killed him and hung him in the same clearing that the albino boy had always gone to for firewood. It was a dark time in their past. Like so many communities, their village had been built on blood. They didn’t want to face more of it, but they would if they had to. The world was getting smaller out beyond the village. There would come a time he would have to choose if he was a villager or someone from outside.

The boy had come to see a dozen summers in the village. He had come to be full height. He was at least twice as tall as any of the dwarves in the community. Some of them had started to mistrust him. He felt uneasy. He knew that he couldn’t go back to the world outside. He’d found his home and it was where he wanted to stay for the rest of his life. Why did some of them have to mar it by mistrusting him because of his height?

Fate had given the albino boy a rite of passage one deer hunting season. A couple of drunken hunters of the lowest caliber happened into the village and started shooting up the place. Lucky they were blind drunk and couldn’t hit worth a damned. Didn’t make it any easier rushing them and clobbering the hell out of them, but the albino did it. In so doing, somewhere in the process of that confrontation, he had become an albino man. There was no mistrust of him in the village anymore. The albino had proven his loyalty. More than that, he had proven his worth. The villagers unanimously decided to make the albino their protector.

The albino man picked up the shotguns and rifles of the fallen hunters and built himself a shack on the edge of Mystic Drive to scare off any unwanted visitors. They all come around here looking for what all the outsiders call “Hanunchyville”. Most ridiculous name I’ve ever heard. Around here we all just call it “the village”.

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and two daughters. His short fictions have appeared in Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination, among other places. He is the commander of The Internarrational Where Port.

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The Elephant in the Room

By Brenda Anderson

elephant in the waiting roomIn the waiting room elderly folk stared at the wallpaper. The elephant did a pirouette.

Keira slipped her hand into her fiance´’s.

“Let’s get married, go on a honeymoon, sing, dance … enjoy life,” Mark said.

The elephant did a somersault, landed on its hind legs and bowed. Keira squeezed Mark’s hand.

“I love you,” said Mark with an unsteady voice. “I love you so much.”

The elephant covered its eyes.

The receptionist escorted Keira and Mark into the specialist’s room. The elephant followed.

“Well, doctor?” said Keira.

The specialist shook his head.

With tears in its eyes, the elephant withdrew to the waiting room. Elderly patients looked away.

Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways, A cappella Zoo, Punchnel’s and Penumbra. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband and two children.

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