Tag Archives: short stories

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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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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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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Sugar-Coated Hairpin Curve

by Stephen V. Ramey

He-Man in the driver’s seat, She-Man by his side. The top is down, the wind a hurricane in their ears. In the back, Baby-Man drowses between liquid-sweet life and taffy-sweet dream. The car is a candy red 1969 Camaro, tires underinflated to cope with the crackle-crazed topping of this winding black road down into the valley.

The pedal on the right is pushed. Hard. Asphalt sprays up from the sudden spin, a scent-like burning licorice, lava lust, vodka in their morning mouths.

“Too fast,” She-Man proclaims from the watcher’s seat.

“Not fast enough,” He-Man yells. “We’re going to be late.” For what? For life in the valley, of course.

The car hits a hairpin curve, slews left, slews right. Rubber stretches, bites, skids. A guardrail crunches, and suddenly they are flying, the granular city melting before them like a sugar glaze. Windows wink, flat-roofed buildings stare.

In the back seat, Baby-Man giggles deep down in his chest. His naked head comes wobbling up. And for just that instant all is right in his sugar-coated world.

Stephen V. Ramey doesn’t always write about babies, but when he does he writes strange. He is the author of a previous baby story at Garden Gnome Publications titled “Pacifier“.

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Spoken By the Woman Who Works There

by Russ Bickerstaff

People know what they’re getting, but we don’t know what we’re selling. People see the ads for Blubbery Steel Kisses™. They know that they want them. Maybe it’s the way those ads make them feel. Maybe it’s the fact that the actor who was in that movie everyone liked is associated with them. It’s really none of our business to bother with knowing what we’re selling. We’re only here to give people what they want. People know what they’re getting, but they don’t know exactly what it is that we’re going to give them.

There’s a steady stream of people walking in the door coming in to buy. There’s a steady stream of people going out the back of the store who have bought. It’s part of the image. It’s also really practical.

When we opened on the first day we were offering Blubbery Steel Kisses™, there was a line straight out the front that coiled its way out of the mall. We never run out, so it’s okay. People come in. People pay. People walk through the curtain and around the corner. They walk out with little bags. We have no idea what’s happened to them, and we really don’t care.

People think we’re feigning ignorance. We’re not getting paid enough to do that. Really. I figure the company that launched Blubbery Steel Kisses™ probably has people who come around to re-stock. We’re just there to look attractive and keep people from being uncomfortable in a long line.

People scoff at us as they walk by. I sometimes wonder if they’re former customers. It’ll pass. They’ll move on. This week it’s Blubbery Steel Kisses™, last week it was Sinewy Silk Embraces™. The week before that it was Fluffy Cotton Hugs. There’s always something new.

This is not Russ Bickerstaff‘s first garden gnome rodeo.

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Bugs in the System

by Anita Cooper

“Robot love. What a beautiful thing”, Bitsy said, turning to look at Bob.

Bob shrugged. It wasn’t the first robot trade show he’d been to, and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

The robots’ designer stood next to his creations – male and female robots – droning on and on about their upgraded and lifelike exterior shells with more responsive emotion simulators.

Bob looked at his watch.

Honestly, he didn’t know what everyone got so worked up about. It’s not like love was that big of a deal.

It hadn’t been for him, anyway.

The product leaflet that came with his ZR-372 – marketed as Vivian – was supposed to be the real deal.

It wasn’t.

Sure, it performed all of the mechanical functions that came with sex, but he’d been led to believe it would have emotions and logic – that it would be better than a human female.

He read through the instruction booklet…even called the help desk, but they were no help. So he sold Vivian until something better came along.

Bitsy nudged him.

“Bob, he’s going to start the programming for his “love machines”. Isn’t that such a cute name?” Bitsy said. “OMG, I’ve got to get one…look at the muscles on the male – I wonder if I could special order the size of…”

Bob rolled his eyes.

The robots began to move, the male reaching for the female as if to kiss her. He embraced her, but once their lips met, something seemed to go wrong.

Horribly wrong.

Bob couldn’t stop watching. The female’s skin began to melt. The male continued with his programming, planting blubbery steel kisses on her face, impervious to the female’s skin dripping down her torso and pooling in a large mass of steaming plastic and wires.

Hmm, maybe he’d better try again to find a human girl.

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Doing it Wrong

by Schevus Osborne

Danny surveyed the convention room, looking for anyone that caught her eye. A cat. Pass. A wolf. Pass. All these people were so unoriginal, she thought, and so fake. The neon plush hair and oversized eyes made her sick. No one was as committed to the lifestyle as she was.

Finally, she saw a flash in the crowd. Pointed face and small round ears. A very long, bushy tail. Now this was something that interested her. She sauntered across the room, stopping to push a giggling pink bunny out of her way.

“Hey little weasel,” she said, tapping her target on the shoulder “want to spend some time with a real woman?”

The weasel turned around and jumped three feet in the air, crashing into the pair of cows he had been talking to. He cowered on the ground with his stubby forelimbs raised.

“D-d-don’t hurt me!” he squealed.

Danny noticed a dampening between the weasel’s hind legs. “Gah,” she snorted, disgusted. “I finally find something new — a freaking weasel! — and it can’t even be a toilet-trained weasel.”

She stormed off, sharp teeth scowling and claws click-clacking on the hard floor. There was no love for a hyper-realistic looking honey badger at a furry convention.

Schevus Osborne is a featured author in the Garden of Eden anthology from Garden Gnome Publications.

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Guardians of the Chimera

by Ruben Stemple

pet chimeraI was walking my Chimera when I ran into doofus extraordinaire Dylan Corbitt. His stupid hair stuck straight up, as if he was trying to hide a flight of pixies. I wished I could get Cindy to attack him for calling me New Kid at school, but Dad says we have to keep her a secret.

“Hey, Maxie, whatcha doing?” I hate Maxie more than New Kid, and the little shit knows it.

I imagined what he would look like smoldering from Cindy’s fire breath, and how much fun it would be to watch her stomp all over him before biting his head off. I didn’t really want him to be eaten, but the little bastard deserves it for pulling my hair at school.

“Go away shit-for-brains! I’m playing with Cindy.” I wanted to say, “If you don’t leave, I’ll let her eat you, and then I’ll deal with being grounded for a couple days.”

“Cindy.” He laughed. “That’s a dumb name for a dog!”

It’s an even dumber name for a Chimera. Dad named her after a sprite he knew when he was little. We’re guardians, protecting the secrecy and survival of animals and near humans. Where we used to live, there were three families with pet cryptids, but in Baltimore there are brown-shoe gnomes everywhere.

“You can play with her if you want. Here, throw the ball.”

Dad says I should be nice to kids at school, but I couldn’t get past the thought of Cindy munching on Dylan’s stupid freckles. I figured bouncing a sticky Chimera-spit tennis ball off his dirty sweatshirt was close enough.

“Don’t just hold it, jackass. You have to throw it. Or she’ll eat your face off to get it back.”

I forgot to bring extra fruitcake with me, so I checked the timer while Dylan and Cindy played fetch.

It’s not real fruitcake. That’s just what we call it because it’s brown and has a bunch of crap in it like the ones Grandma tries to make at Christmas. Its cloaking powers only work for about two hours, which gave me twenty minutes to get back home before Cindy turns into a fire breathing monster and make a meal out of my stupid classmate.

Cindy dropped the slobber ball with a friendly tail wag. Chimeras are good judges of character, so maybe the kid wasn’t all bad.

“We gotta run. Let’s go Cindy.”

“Come on Maxie! We were just starting to have fun!”

“No. My dad will get worried and I’ll get in trouble. And my dog will turn back into a Chimera and burn your pants off for calling me Maxie, you little ass hat.” I had to be firm.

There wasn’t quite enough time to get home, but I knew there were guardians on Fifth Street. I’d be in trouble for bothering a stranger when I should have had my fruitcake, but I had to protect the cryptid. “Goodbye,” I called, and walked away.

“Hey, Maxie, your house is that way!”

It’s just like this idiot to pay attention at the wrong time.

“I’m going to see my uncle. Go away. I’ll see you at school.”

I wished on all the fairy magic in the world, but the dumbass followed anyway. Cindy padded along beside us down a row of townhouses until I saw a brown-shoe gnome with an orange coat–a guardian house.

I knocked on the door. Nothing. I rang the bell.

“Nobody’s home. Come on, I’ll walk you back.”

“Go home, jerk face!” My timer was starting to glow red.

“Do you even know who lives here? This is dangerous!”

“You have no idea, asshole! Now go away!”

Cindy sensed my anger and growled. The growl was more chimera than chocolate lab, which made me extremely nervous. I gave Dylan a shove and yelled again. Before I got all the words out, Cindy changed. Dylan screamed and Cindy swiped a big Chimera paw just as everything went dark.

I woke up in the bathtub with someone screaming and shaking my shoulders. Standing over us was the biggest, hairiest thing I’ve ever seen. Sasquatch.

“Please don’t kill us! Please don’t eat us!”

Dumbass. Sasquatch are vegan.

“Shut up, jackass. I know this guy. He’s a big friend of my Aunt Friedas.” I hoped the squatch recognized the local code for guardians. “I don’t know why he has us in the bathtub, but I’m sure there’s a good reason.” I wanted to add I’m sorry mister for showing up on your doorstep with an out-of-fruitcake Chimera and a dumb-shit seventh grader, but I was out of options.

“You’re Maxine, right?” I nodded. “Your friend was hit pretty good.” I nodded, remembering the last few seconds before my blackout.

“Don’t hurt her, you freak! My dad’s a cop and he’ll be searching for us.” That was a lie. While he was yelling, Dylan slid himself between me and the Sasquatch. I was more than a little impressed.

“Relax, kid. I’m trying to help. You have no idea what happened, do you?”

The sasquatch looked at me. I wanted to say I was sorry for bringing a stupid kid here and sorry that Cindy had nearly ripped off his leg, but it seemed fine now and if Mr. Squatch could just let us out of the bathtub, that would be grand. Instead, I cried.

Dylan took my hand. He was starting to surprise me.

“I’m not going to hurt you, but you need to stay put. The Chimera broke at least two of your bones and you were bleeding pretty badly. The mixture in the tub is healing you.”

What?! Bullshit! I’m not bleeding, but you’re about to be.” My defender balled up his fists, but before he got another word out, he slumped down into the water.

“Help me! He’s drowning!” Tears streamed as I struggled and pulled, trying to drag his stupid fat head out of the water. The squatch pulled me, kicking and screaming, out of the large porcelain tub. Everything went dark again.

I woke up soaking wet and lying next to Dylan. My Dad and the Sasquatch were looking down at us.

“Is he … dead?”

“No, but he’s going to have a headache. I had to put him out four times.” Said the Squatch. “You’re both lucky.”

“We’ll see about that,” Dad said. “He’s seen things. We’ll need to have a serious talk with him, and maybe his family.”

“He’s a good kid, Dad. Worthy of the guardians.”

He could be a little shit, but he defended me. Besides, his being here was at least partially my fault. I’m only 13, but I know what happens to people who see things they shouldn’t.

Dad nodded to the Sasquatch, who waved a fur-covered hand toward the bed and quickly left the room.

“Dylan.” I spoke first. I needed my Dad to know that I was willing to help. “Dylan. It’s Maxine.”

“Hey, goofball.” His groggy green eyes looked into mine. “Why am I all wet?”

“You’re okay, but we need to talk. Do you trust me? I mean, really trust me?”

“Sure, Maxie. You know, you’ve never called me Dylan before.”

Ruben Stemple is a lifelong lover of all things written. He reads everything from Shakespeare to cereal boxes (yes, they still print stuff on them), and from Homer to the great Douglas Adams. He has written a few things for publication but would love to develop and hone the skills necessary to become part of the brotherhood of authors. He also teaches middle-school mathematics, which, though most would not consider it literary, has a beauty and an artistic sense of its own.

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Time Ends On The First Date

by Nathan Witkin

eggs on first date“I want to tell you,” I shout over the panorama of agony shrieking from the collapsing universe, “that I’m glad I found you before it all ended.”

“But it’s ending because we found each other,” she shouts back then averts her iridescently light-brown eyes, the color of coffee mixed with just the right amount of creamer. She feels a deep twinge of lameness for (a) squandering our near-psychic connection by telling me something I already know and (b) ending history on a downer.

With the infinite emptiness closing in like a violent stampede, she stops beating herself up over all of it and we simply hold hands as if unwilling to trade this moment for all of the moments that preceded it.

As the last two seconds look to each other before merging into a final moment that can only look back in silent reflection, I can’t help but compare the endless nothingness to the void I felt prior to meeting her.

In hindsight, I had always known that my fear of meeting new people wasn’t entirely irrational, but I didn’t expect these introverted tendencies to be protecting me (and everything else) from the apocalypse.

If there were an athletic competition in social-ineptitude called “The Anti-Socialympics,” then I would be Michael Phelps in all but the swimmer’s body. Despite this, I always felt like my soul mate was out there and that I’d find her if I could just get out of the shallow end of the dating pool.

Driven by my hapless search for a singularly kindred spirit, I had ventured out like a pre-Columbian explorer, ready to sail off the edge of the world. My ship was an online-dating website, each continent of potential treasure and treacherousness was an awkward first date, and the edge of the world turned out to be the actual edge of the world.

I first spot a hint of this precipice of reality, paradoxically, while trying to keep my sanity on a particularly bad first date.
“So, then the psychologist told me to stop emotionally unloading on my dog,” she scoffs, “that my so-called ‘negativity’ was causing her to have incontinence issues.”

While my mind wanders hurriedly away from her manic blather, she is responding to my waning attention by trying to talk even faster.

“But then I was like, ‘I don’t take orders from pet psychologists. Just prescribe Bella more doggie-Xanax or I’ll chew your face off.’”

Perhaps it’s my brain’s attempt to float above the situation, but I come to the sudden realization that this woman has the personality of my least favorite step-cousin. It’s as if one actress, with an uncanny ability to alter her appearance, was playing both my step-cousin and this one-date-wonder without changing a single quirk or mannerism in shifting between the two roles.

Desperate to distract me from my date’s verbal onslaught, the defensive firings of my under-siege neurons set off a chain of logic that would ensnare me like a noose:

How could anything as complex and nuanced as a human personality be repeated?

Which triggers the neural pathways forming the question:

What if personalities repeated across the population specifically because they are so complex?

Which then sparks the critical realization:

Maybe the universe is a simulation with a limited amount of memory, thereby requiring complicated aspects–such as human personality–to be constrained to a set number of possibilities that repeat within the simulation.

This thought becomes a life-consuming preoccupation, bringing me to seek out people in curiosity rather than loneliness. And what better way to analyze people in great breadth and depth than online profiles and first dates?

After having coffee with Xerox copies of my fifth grade teacher, Trish from Accounting, and the opinionated guy from my Thursday yoga class whose rants are very informative into just how annoying he is, I start tracking these souls in a field journal. It is also at this time that I get the feeling that I myself am being tracked.

Clinging to the delusion that my life isn’t under siege, I ignore my online dating profile being hacked and rationalize my apartment burning down. But when the shattering glass of the coffee shop’s storefront interrupts a date with a Follower Class-3 archetype and reveals a poorly-aimed bullet, I take off without the obligatory argument over the bill.

Navigating past personality types who would step aside and avoiding ones who would thoughtlessly run into me, I rush into a crowd. Spattering blood highlights more missing bullets and the expendablilty of the clones around me.

I turn a corner into a dead-end populated only by a shadowy figure in a trench coat that whips in the wind like smoke. When it shoots out at me, I expect the hand to deliver a blow permanently removing me from the simulation, but instead it wraps perfectly inside mine and guides me through the safety of an obscure door.

When the panic-inducing neurotransmitters subside and my eyes adjust, I am looking into milky brown eyes that are an intense mix of piercing beauty and guarded hope that teeters over life-shattering disappointment.

“I’ve been following you,” she mumbles, unnecessarily because we both instantly understand everything passing around and between us. Her shoulders sag under all of the other opening remarks she wishes she had tried, but lift with the swelling in my chest–hearing her voice is like a confirmation of my entire existence.

“Are there any others like us?” I ask in equal futility.

She shakes her head, keeping her bewildered eyes locked on mine, and I can see that she is just as scared as I am.

As we simultaneously lean in for a kiss that could only be transcendental, the dilapidated brick wall next to us explodes outward and, immediately, we are hand-in-hand fleeing in the other direction. Neither of us is guiding the other, but somehow we are making the same turns through the murky depths of a building that is lonely with neglect. It releases a groan from all around us that, we realize, could not be caused by our pursuers.

Sprinting out into the growing light around us just before the building lifts off from a cloud of debris like a space shuttle, we become suddenly paralyzed by the landscape visible through the settling dust. All matter is dismembering itself, from nearby vehicles tumbling in a trail of parts suspended in the air, to distant high-rises aimlessly drifting off as if confused by their newfound freedom, to the people everywhere in various stages of rupture and rapture. Sound and light stretch and ripple away from us as if we were splashing across reality’s otherwise calm surface.

We both look down at our entwined hands and up at each other. I feel the smile coming before it finds her lips.

“At least my sense that the universe was conspiring to keep me lonely is vindicated,” she says.

I consider that the connection between two people could be defined by the disconnection they feel with everyone and everything else. But then, observing the splintering reality we are happily strolling through, I dismiss this idea. Our rejection of this world, and its quite visible rejection of us, does not do justice to our love.

I respond, “Any universe that can’t handle our feelings for each other isn’t worth simulating.”

Nathan Witkin is a criminal defense and divorce attorney in Marion, Ohio, an innovator and guerrilla leader in the field of alternative dispute resolution, and an MMA cage-fighter. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Horror Zine, Schlock!, Infernal Ink, the Three Minute Futures competition, 365 Tomorrows, Fiction on the Web, Black Petals, Anotherealm, Euonia Review, The Rampallian, and Congruent Spaces.

practicing the presence of peaceThe November 2014 Flim-Flam Games are sponsored by Bear Jack Gebhardt, author of Practicing the Presence of Peace.

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