Tag Archives: short stories

Night of the Stalking Dread

by Sharon Diane King

It’s a hostess’ worst nightmare: What wine to serve at your last supper?

We were a sad assembly of refugees for New Year’s Eve. My home: triple-padlocked and alarm-secured. The neighborhood: razor-wired and electro-gated. But we knew we couldn’t stay inside these safe confines forever. Our microgreens were running low.

Still, a nod to holiday traditions tended to lift the spirits. Especially for those lifting spirits.

My gilt-edged china and crisp white linens were festive, but the folks seated around the dining room table were the real eye-catchers. We’d found that creature costumes temporarily confused our relentless pursuers. After all, they had no vested interest in T-Rexes or giant bumblebees. Only humans could give them what they wanted. Craved. Sought after with every fiber of their fixated beings.

So hiding out via cosplay worked, for a while. After that, the outfits sort of became second nature.

“She caught me just as I was leaving work,” the Easter Bunny explained to his neighbor, a bright green-and-orange day gecko, as he set down the blood-stained basket of eggs he’d been clutching. Bun gingerly patted his leg with its makeshift bandage and forked up a bite of glazed ham. “I made it to the car, but she slammed the door on my foot. Guess it serves me right,” he choked, wiping his eye with a dirty furry paw.

“You don’t mean that,” Merribel the Hello Meerkitty said, unsheathing her napkin from its crystal-studded ring and settling it over her fishnet stockings. Her claw-pads grappled with the silver server for the chicken chaud-froid. “You deserve better.”

“Course you do,” grumped my boss Hank from the head of the table. He was impressively attired as the Thanksgiving gobbler, though he was missing a few tailfeathers. After he cut off all contact with his ex-fiancée, she spotted him exiting his office building—she came by there every day—and figured out there just might be something a-lurky in that turkey. “You don’t owe her your life, after all. Pass the cranberry sauce.”

“Cran-kumquat relish, actually,” I blushed.

“It’ll do.”

I’d ended up as Donner the Reindeer. Somebody had already rented Rudolph. My nose kept getting in the way of my glass of viognier, and my rubber antlers occasionally scraped up against the gaslight chandelier, setting it swinging.

From outside it must have looked like we were having a lot more fun than we really were.

It was like a lady-drunk AA meeting. As the wine flowed, we swapped stories of the head-over-heels first days. The sudden change, usually overnight. Then the horrified realization, the fits of screaming, the hairbreadth escapes. The constant moving from place to place as they tracked us down. We’d all been there.

That was why we were here.

Over chia-seed rolls and white-truffled sweet potatoes, I got acquainted with the gecko guy next to me. Merribel had met him hiding out in a downtown basement the week before. A quiet accountant, he was still pretty traumatized by his partner Joe’s horrifying transformation.

“I never saw it coming,” he muttered bitterly, staring into his frisee-and-goat-cheese salad.

“It’s okay,” I told him, tipping a smidge more wine into his glass. “Nobody ever does.”

Have to say, though, I liked his style. Seemed Joe had always been creeped out by reptiles. Say hi to Gorton Gecko, Joe!

It grew late. I’d just brought the Baked Alaska to the table—to great acclaim—when we heard the door buzzer. We froze.

My ex. Had to be. He’d found my new country abode, had somehow found a way through the double gates. He knew all my passwords, the jerk.

And he was here to get his supply. From me.

We blew out the candles and crouched beneath the table. Silence wasn’t just golden at that moment; it was pure platinum. We even heard the meringue fall. The ringing went on, alternating with a furious pounding at the door.

We were trapped.

I glanced around at the downcast masks. Oh, the suits might confuse my ex initially but wouldn’t hold him off for long; he’d know I was in there somewhere. We could try ganging up and subduing him, of course. Hell of a way to end the year. And if he managed to get away….

But I’d thought ahead. Reaching inside my suit, I grabbed my cell and clumsily pressed a key. We heard his ringtone–the chorus of “Re:Your Brains”–loud and clear. He’d always loved that song.

I’d rigged a call–from a spoofed number, duh–promising I’d meet him in a little gazebo in the public park on New Year’s Day. I have to see you, don’t care what happens…. I knew he’d jump at the bait, even though I’d played this hand before: Got trapped at work. Give me another chance. You are SO important… irreplaceable…can’t live without you….

And he’d waited there for hours. Yup. That predictable.

Pathetic, really.

We heard a gurgle from the front porch, then a pause, then footsteps fading away. We started breathing again. We’d have time to clear out in the morning, find another hideout for a few days, maybe a week. Before the hordes tracked us down again.

We never resumed our places at table that night. We just relit a candle and lounged underneath, leaning against the table legs. Gobbles poured us a round of champagne. Somebody started humming “Auld Lang Syne”, and we all broke into whispered song, misty-eyed, as the clock ticked its way into the new year.

All at once I found myself weeping. I stood up unsteadily, nearly upsetting the hazelnut petit fours on the sideboard.

“Damn him,” I sniffled, grabbing a napkin and dabbing at my eyes through the costume’s eyeholes. “It never ends. He just won’t let go.”

“They can’t help it,” murmured the Easter Bun, patting my shoulder. “It’s their nature.”

“Narcissists,” Merribel nodded sadly. “They don’t take partners—”

“—they take prisoners,” I rejoined in a small voice. “I know.”

“You’ll get through it,” the gecko said. “We all will. We have to believe.”

And in the grey light of the year’s first dawn, we bravely stood up, cleared the table, put away the leftovers, and started up the dishwasher.

Sharon Diane King (Ph.D., Comparative Literature, UCLA) works as an actor for film and television. Publications include an essay in the critical anthology Of Bread, Blood and The Hunger Games (McFarland, 2012), a science fiction tale, “Follow The Music,” in the anthology Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails (Dragon’s Roost Press, 2014), and a fantasy story “Read Shift” in the autumn 2014 issue of the e-zine Kaleidotrope. Her theatrical troupe Les Enfans Sans Abri has for decades been performing short medieval and Renaissance comedies, including an original play, “A Knight To Remember,” for the Getty Family Festival (September 2014).

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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The Scent of Sin and Punishment

by J.P. Cianci

warmth by Kris VargaI drink deeply from my half-filled chalice, admiring the way the indelibly perfect, golden idol of Molech reflects the sunlight. I raise my goblet to Molech, my jewel-encrusted cup catching the brilliant rays of the sun, then I take another insatiable drink. I turn around to refill my cup when gentle fingertips run up and down my back.

“Adaron, how would you like to receive Molech’s blessing?” Sahar whispers seductively.

I smile, reveling in her touch, and close my eyes. I imagine all the delicious ways in which her body could satisfy the pressing fleshly urges her contact has aroused. “I would love to receive Molech’s blessing, but I cannot afford such a sanction,” I say, opening my eyes. I cup the temple prostitute’s breast and forcefully bring her in for a kiss.

She smacks me, but I laugh and grab her wrist.

“Come now, Sahar. I worship in here every day. I’m entirely devoted. Are you sure Molech wouldn’t want to bless a follower such as myself?”

“If you need money to afford his blessing, I know someone who would pay handsomely for the company of your daughter,” Sahar suggests.

I smack her quick and hard across the face, holding a finger to her—warning her—but I say nothing.

She slinks off to find another, no doubt richer, follower to seduce.

Incense wafts from silver plates beneath the idol and I try to forget Sahar and her remarks. I don’t need to pay to satisfy my desires. Many women, and even men, are happily drawn in by my sexual prowess.

I walk drunkenly back to the idol that is gloriously exposed to the sun by the open rooftop of the temple and fall to my knees in prayer. I slur my pleas and wishes for a few moments before my head bobs heavily from the wine. After an hour, I close my eyes to rest at the foot of Molech, basking in the afternoon sun.

“It’s too early to be this dark,” someone remarks a few minutes later.

“Quiet!” I bark. My eyes are still closed, but I do notice the almost imperceptible shift in light behind my eyelids. “It’s merely clouds passing in the sky.”

“What is that? A sandstorm?” someone else asks. The presence of a crowd gathering around me causes me to finally open my eyes.

“Gawk outside! Do not waste Molech’s temple for slack-jawed gaping!” I yell, but no one listens. I raise my head to the sky, which is shrouded in darkness. Plumes of smoke billow downward in waves, obscuring the sun.

“Sandstorms don’t move like that,” I say, shifting uneasily. People murmur excitedly all around me.

“It’s all right! I see light!”

“Yes! I see it too! It looks like the sun is coming toward us!”

“That’s not light, that’s fire! Run!”

“No! This is a sacred temple. We are safe here,” I assure them, but people take off to the streets. I kneel a few feet back from Molech and begin fervently praying. As the smoke surges closer, I cover my mouth and nose in disgust, but only for a moment. A ball of fire collides directly with my sacred idol. A stream of melted gold sprays in my direction, blinding me in one eye and cooling rapidly to my skin so that it’s encased in a painful, golden mask.

I moan in agony, turning to flee. “Oh Molech, Oh Molech. Why? Why?” I’m almost to the entrance of the temple when it collapses on top of me.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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It’s Raining Again, Let The Deluge Begin

Deluge: Stories of Survival & Tragedy in the Great FloodWhat would happen if a sudden torrential downpour destroyed all of America in the space of 40 days and 40 nights? What if a volcanic eruption on the moon Io resulted in a massive raining down of sodium chloride in which a future exploratory party from Earth was caught up and their space-to-surface vehicle destroyed? What if ….

Submissions Now Open For Deluge Anthology

The most asked question the garden gnomes have received in the past two months is, When will Deluge: Stories of Survival and Tragedy in the Great Flood come out? Sorry, but we’ve been dragging our feet–for a number of reasons (and not all of them bad).

But here’s the bottom line: We don’t have enough quality submissions yet to answer that question.

We have probably half the number of flash fiction stories I’d like to see and no poems or essays. Curiously, we received more short story submissions for this anthology than we did for either of the previous two–Garden of Eden or Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah. We’re not sure what that means.

What we didn’t get were any essays, nor did we receive any poems that we’d consider. So I’d like to talk about what we’d like to see and then open the door to possibilities.

Can A Poem Be Speculative?

If you have read Frederick Turner’s epic poem Genesis, then you might answer in the affirmative. But that poem is written in a formal style, and that’s not what we’re looking for. Although, you might say we’re interested in poems that deal with epic themes.

In a nutshell, these are the types of poems the garden gnomes enjoy:

  • Narrative – They may be lyrical, but they must be narrative. If you don’t know what this means, don’t submit.
  • Poetic – Sorry, but we have an aversion to prose poems, which may contain poetic elements, but they are prose. On an electronic reading device, most readers will not be able to tell the difference between a prose poem and a flash fiction or short story. Therefore, we’re more interested in poems that have a distinctive poetic form whether they be free verse or formal.
  • Speculative – The poem must deal with a “what if?” It can fall into a horror genre, fantasy, science fiction, a punk genre, or any of the other speculative fiction genres, but it should approach the subject matter with speculative awe.
  • Weird – Let it be weird. The weirder the better.
  • Literarily awesome – We’re not looking for literary poems. There are journals that will publish these. If it would fit into Poetry magazine or The New Yorker, we don’t want it. If you could submit it to Tin House, Rattle, or any poetry journal with the word “Review” in its title, then we don’t want it. If you’re not sure where you could send it to have it accepted, but you still believe it is high quality poetic limestone, then send it our way.
  • Flood-related – Address the anthology theme.
  • Long – We want at least 50 lines and up to 500. Lines. Not words, not characters.

We realize it is more challenging to pen a poem than a short story or flash fiction story. If you can’t do it, don’t try. This is a challenge for the poets. However, we reserve the right to move away from poetry if we can’t find what we’re looking for.

What’s a Speculative Essay?

We garden gnomes have always been surprised that we don’t get many attempts at essays. It’s not even hard to write one. And we’re not really asking for long ones. We’re just asking for essays that address the theme in a more creative way than an academic essay would answer anything (do they really answer anything?). Types of essays creative nonfiction we’re interested in include:

  • Reported essays – Take the theme, do some research, interview an expert or two, and write a damn good story, creatively. No stodginess.
  • Personal essays – Have you survived a flood? Do you know someone who has? Have a personal take on a flood? Take us there. Think Hunter S. Thompson meets Annie Dillard with an Edgar Allan Poe twist, or a dash of Philip K. Dick.
  • Creative essays – An essay generally starts with a statement or a question then proceeds to answer it. The use of facts, figures, anecdotes, etc. all serve to support the main idea. But we’re looking for something a little more creative. Not a linear logical argument, per se, but more of a journey through a maze that takes us from Point A to Point B and a personal discovery. Give us a denouement.
  • New Journalism – Gonzo, personal narrative where you are a part of a larger story. Combine fact with fictional technique.
  • Hybrid essays – Fact with a little fiction, as opposed to fiction with a little fact. Make a point, but don’t be afraid to stray from the thin lines of reality. If it’s interesting, we’ll consider it.

A speculative essay may start with a “what if” question or end with one. What if Hurricane Katrina had gone further inland? Could it have destroyed Baton Rouge the same way it took down New Orleans? What if it went west and destroyed Houston instead? What if global warming accelerated to the point where all world coastal cities were under water within ten years? What if the Great Flood was local and only affected those in present day Iraq.

There are a ton of directions you could go with a flood-related essay. Use your imagination. Tell us a story that could be reality TV.

Is Speculative Fiction Dead?

We still want flash fiction and short stories. If for some reason we don’t get enough publishable poetry or essays, we’ll fill up the anthology with more fiction. That can’t be bad, right?

You’re welcome to send us a novelette up to 20,000 words. If we like it, we’ll publish it and pay you for it. Otherwise, we are accepting additional short stories and flash fiction stories from 300 to 10,000 words. Read more on our BLAS anthologies guidelines page. For more specific information regarding Deluge: Stories of Survival & Tragedy in the Great Flood, check out the guidelines page for that anthology.

The deadline is midnight EST November 23, 2014.

Send your submissions to submissions @ gardengnomepubs.com. Send your questions to editor @ gardengnomepubs.com.

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Warmth

by Kris Varga

warmth by Kris VargaCold. The word shutters over the mind. Cold is the cobbled streets in the brink of winter, resonating with the season appropriately. Cold is the city under a dainty snowfall while fleeting teal sparks reach for the heavens. Cold is the sound of vacancy among Gomorrah, whose electricity has been discontinued via an electromagnetic pulse. Cold is the soul at the brink of survival.

Patrick was cold.

“The Day of Shock,” Patrick creatively coined it, left him immobile and incapable of returning to an energy pod to restore his battery. He computed a light chuckle in his thoughts, one that was innocent enough to maintain the positive attitude he was designed to omit. His bio-constructed flesh tingled as his eyes transfixed on snowy open vastness. Patrick had traveled this path many times, but this time he gained a new perspective, catching a glimpse of himself as if a stranger. He computed a silent sigh.

“Soon enough,” he speculated, “Evelyn will return.”

Evelyn always returned.

#

Four days, two hours, thirty-six minutes and fifty-seven seconds ago, Patrick and Evelyn had passed through the quieter outlets of the city’s boundaries: the grasslands, as they were referred to by the people of Gomorrah. Their weekly destination, however routine, pleased Patrick.

Beyond the bubble-shaped buildings and transcendent automobiles, emitting violent screeches to convey each individual’s animosity towards another, lay the incandescent fields, preserved for the rare produce proprietors who lived a “simpler life.” Twenty-four degrees above the Earth’s meeting with the sky rested the sun, whose lackadaisical clock reminded Patrick of the bells that would ring ever so briefly from Divine Intelligence’s control tower. The grocery bags in Patrick’s hands would only slow down their travels.

“Patrick, slow down! I wanna enjoy the sunset.”

“My dear, we must hurry—for time, you see, is dwindling. It is almost of the eve.”

“Sing me the Clair de Lune.” Her eyes smiled their childish embellishment. “Pretty please?”

Patrick halted and glanced cheerfully at the heart of the city, then at the enticing sun, then at Evelyn’s purity. Against all odds, Evelyn’s smile won out, and she placed her knapsack on the ground and rested cross-legged in the open field as Patrick hummed the tune to his best ability. Even though this was not a part of his programming, Evelyn seemed to enjoy the flawed sound he produced. “Human-like”, she would call it.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Morphic Resonance

by Bear Jack Gebhardt

morphic resonance and reality“I’ll be out of the office tomorrow, Gladys, so here’s my monthly report. I’ve footnoted the expenditures with a copy of my receipts so you can itemize how each was necessary and what line item it references for each of our projects.”

Gladys, sitting at the front desk, was looking up at Dr. Weingarten, not aware that her mouth was hanging open. Dr. Weingarten’s wide grin made his normally thin sunken cheeks puff out. He knew he’d surprised her, again.

“Thank you, Bruce,” Gladys said, meekly.

“My pleasure,” he said. “Just doing my job.” He almost clicked his heels as he turned smoothly, went through the doors, and disappeared.

“Something’s really changed with that guy,” Gladys turned and whispered to Belinda, her co-conspirator. “You think he’s on drugs?”

“Definitely,” Belinda responded. “And whatever he’s on, I want some.”

For the seven years he had been with the department, Dr. Bruce Weinstein was notorious for missing his monthly deadlines and quarterly summaries, so necessary for grant administration and renewal. It had been Gladys’ unhappy challenge to regularly coax and pry the reports from him.

“Some of us are actually too busy doing the real work,” was always his irritated excuse.

Not only was this the second month in a row that he had turned in his reports ahead of deadline, he had also found time to repair a long faulty drawer in one of the front desk filing cabinets, fix the leaky faucet in the sink in the break room, and transplant two African violets wilting and overcrowded that had been sitting forlorn in the administrator’s waiting room.

Gladys and Belinda were not the only ones who had noticed a change in his behavior.

“Bruce, my God, what have you done to your laboratory?” asked Dr. Murphy, the department chairman, one day in passing.

“Morphic resonance,” Bruce replied with a smile. “Every form evolves towards its ideal.”

“Don’t give me that crap,” Dr. Murphy said, obviously irritated. Bruce just shrugged and grinned. “Well, whatever it is, it looks good, even slightly professional, for a change.” Dr. Murphy continued on to his office.

Bruce Weinstein’s small genetics lab had been notorious for its disarray. Old coffee cups on top of the mass spectrometer, buried under journals and loose papers in no apparent order. Last year’s test tubes and beakers shoved aside to make room for this year’s new projects.

“Morphic resonance,” Bruce repeated after Dr. Murphy had disappeared down the hallway.

“Explain it to me again,” his wife Denise had begged. They were sitting on the newly cleaned patio with a glass of wine and salmon on the grill. This was a different man than the one she had known the previous twelve years. This new man was clean, tidy, and very adept.

“The magical germ crawled out of the test tube and into my brain,” he said, raising his glass to her.

“Bruce, quit talking in riddles. You’ve used that silly phrase before and I don’t know what it means or what the hell you’re talking about. Explain it to me again. What’s happened to you?”

“Morphic resonance,” Bruce said. “That’s the germ of the magical idea that I saw in the test tube. I saw that the higher level field modifies the probability structure of the lower level field.”

“I don’t get it,” Denise said. “Talk plain English.”

“Sorry, love, I really don’t mean to be flippant. It has to do with hierarchal structures. Every form in the universe is part of a field, with an ideal form towards which it is moving, or evolving.”

“English, Bruce, English,” Denise said, taking another sip of her wine, studying him, truly wanting to understand.

“Okay, take our patio,” Bruce said. “There’s a living field here. We could call it a patio field. Our patio wants to express its own unique version of every patio that has ever existed.”

“You’ve lost me.”

Bruce drank from his own wine. “Okay, let’s simplify. Take a stuck drawer in a filing cabinet. Because of morphic resonance…”

“What’s morphic resonance?“

“It means higher form, or field, rules the lower form, or field, or at least influences it. Big fish eats the little fish.”

“Okay, go ahead, but I don’t know how this relates to a stuck filing cabinet drawer.”

“The stuck drawer is a lower field. It actually wants to become unstuck and act like the other drawers in the bigger field. Drawers are designed to function. There’s an underlying harmony in the universe.“

“The drawer wants to become unstuck?”

“Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. But we are human beings. The human being field is inherently a very high field—an incredibly higher order field. Just being present, we influence our surroundings. So all outer forms and functions want to conform to the human field, or at least are willing to conform. The higher field influences the lower field.”

“Are you taking some kind of drug?” Denise interrupted. “The germ out of the test tube thing? Gives you energy? Makes you want to fix things? Did you cook something up there in your lab?”

Bruce laughed. “No, no, love. Not at all. I just finally understood, at least a little, how things come into existence. They do it through morphic resonance.”

“Sorry, but I just don’t get it,” Denise said. She took another sip of her wine, then held her glass back, studying it. “Where’d you get this stuff? This isn’t what we generally drink, out of the box. This is really, really good.”

Bruce looked at her, somewhat frightened, but understanding perfectly how it happened.

Bear Gebhardt is a freelance writer. His seventh book, The Potless Pot High: How to Get High, Clear and Spunky without Weed, was published last year by Seven Traditions Press. His fourth and favorite book—-Practicing the Presence of Peace— was published in 2009 by Pathbinder Press. He has fiction, non-fiction and poetry credits in a wide variety of national and international publications, including The Columbia Journalism Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Jive, Fitness, Modern Maturity, and Hallmark.

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Payment

by Gary Hewitt

payment by gary hewittTwo guards approached.

“Why are you here?”

“I have come to see if the stories are true.”

Two lowered rifles met the visitor’s chest.

“What have you heard?”

“The rich prosper and the poor are fucked.”

The elder of the sentries snorted and kept his gun level.

“Are you rich or target practice?”

“Check your records and look for Mr Kitchener.”

He made a call and put his weapon away.

“Go straight to Big Eddie. It’s up the end of the street.”

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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The Salt Pit

by JD DeHart

the salt pit by JD DeHartWhen Nephesh moved into the town, he was blown away by the vastness of the metropolis. Compared to the twin cities, his hometown was just a dot in the desert. There was a noticeable scent of brine in the air that never seemed to leave, burning the nostrils.

Perhaps it had addled the brains of the residents. Perhaps that was why they danced late into the night, their tattoos singing and their chains rattling, binding and wrapping each other. Perhaps that was why they had worshiped the beast, resting on its haunches in the middle of the cities, a smile on its face that said, “Welcome, have some fun, do not go away.”

The first night in the twin cities, Nephesh made the company of a bright young girl. Everyone else seemed to be giants bathed in ebony, but she was a light, wisp, paper-thin angel.

“Welcome,” she said to him in her lovely voice.

“What is all the ruckus about?” Nephesh had asked. Now, he knew.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Starlight

by Erin Vataris

starlight by erin vatarisGeula was afraid of the dark. She was afraid of the shadows that oozed out of the brick walls in the middle of the night and piled on the floor near her bed, thick and deep, waiting for her to step into them. She was afraid of the sound of the wind as it whistled past the windows in the darkness. She was afraid of the sound of the baked bricks cooling, the tick and crackle of the mortar between them, but most of all, she was afraid of the black empty dark.

Sometimes, when she hung her feet over the edges of the bed, the darkness climbed up them and made them disappear until she pulled them up and found them again. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, especially on the black dark nights when the clouds covered the stars and there was no moon, she thought she could feel it climbing up the side of the sleeping ledge, seeping into her sleeping mat and trying to make all of her disappear.

Geula didn’t want to disappear. She didn’t want the dark to eat her, so she stayed still on her mat and closed her eyes so she couldn’t see how dark it was. She squeezed them closed so tightly that the darkness couldn’t leak in, and then she pushed her fingers against her eyelids until she could see bright flashing spots even after she opened them again.

She did it again and again until she couldn’t see the darkness anymore, then sometimes she could sleep, but the darkness was still there. It was waiting for her to fall asleep so it could climb up the ledge and into her mat and eat her all gone.

Her legs hurt from where Immi had whipped her for falling asleep at the loom yesterday, so she wiggled them a little bit. Not much, or the mat would crackle and the darkness would know she was there. Her lungs hurt from trying not to breathe too loudly. Her eyes hurt from pushing on them. But she was still there. It hadn’t gotten her yet. Geula tried to think about staying awake, but she was so tired. She just wanted to go to sleep. She wished they would let her leave a lamp on, but oil was more precious than one silly little girl’s silly little fears.

Abbi had put an altar in the alcove of the sleeping room for her and traded Immi’s fine-woven linens for a statue of Asherah with a bronze crown that glittered. He sighed the whole while, but he put Asherah in the altar where the moonlight could shine in the window and catch her crown.

Asherah was a fine goddess to protect her. Geula knew that. She knew that Abbi gave her an altar and not another whipping because he loved her, just like Immi had whipped Geula’s legs out of love and didn’t want her to ruin a whole length of cloth by falling asleep and tangling the shuttle so it had to be all unwoven. Geula knew that.

When the moon shone in and the bronze crown sent stars dancing over the walls of the alcove, Geula could almost see Asherah moving. She could feel the goddess’s gaze on her while she shifted and pushed on her eyes and tried to sleep, and Geula was almost as afraid of that as she was of the shadows that filled up the alcove on cloudy nights. On cloudy nights—nights like tonight—she couldn’t see Asherah at all. She could just hear her moving in the darkness, and she knew, just as surely as she knew the darkness wanted to swallow her up, that Asherah was moving.

Asherah lived in the statue in the altar in the alcove, and Geula wasn’t quite sure whether Asherah wanted to help her or beat her for her childishness.

Asherah never helped her. She just stood there being stone and bronze during the daytime, and at night she roamed around her alcove where the altar was, eating the olives and honey milk they left for her and trying to get out. Sometimes on the darkest nights, the nights with no moon, Geula could hear her feet like raindrops, and she wondered what would happen if Asherah got out.

Those were the worst nights, where she laid on her mat and shivered, afraid of the darkness, afraid of Asherah. Those were the nights when she was so afraid that she couldn’t even make herself get up to pee, and she would lay in bed afraid until it all came spilling out of her in a hot wet stream that dried on her legs and made her mat stink. She got whipped when that happened, a big girl like her peeing in her bed, and Immi made her carry her own mat down to the river, heavy and reeking, to wash it. That was bad, but on the worst nights the darkness was worse than whippings. It was worse than washing her mat. It was worse than everything.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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[Untranslatable]

by E.S. Wynn

[untranslatable] by E.S. Wynn from Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & GomorrahTranscript SM-15746:

The only warning I received came in the form of the flash when [The Weapon] hit the center of Sodom. A handful of seconds. Five, maybe.

I am grateful for it.

I’m grateful, because it was more time than most were given.

[The Library] has been my home for almost fifty years, and now I fear it will become my tomb. If you’re familiar with Sodom as it was before the sudden strike that erased it from existence, surely you’ve seen [The Library]. It was beautiful once—a spiraling tower of gold-marbled hunchunite capped with a shining dome of polished platinum and perched amongst the trees at the southern edge of the city, just beyond the university district. I–I remember cursing how far I had to walk to get there sometimes, but now . . .

Now, I’m starting to think that maybe [The Library]’s distance from the city center was the only reason I survived.

Most of [The Library] is gone. Fifteen floors. [The Weapon]? [Untranslatable–]

How foolish war is. All of that knowledge. All of those texts—gone, lost, fused and melted, and shattered. Thousands of years of knowledge erased in an instant. All that’s left is this basement, these archives, these back-up copies of critical texts.

I never thought that [The Enemy] would use [The Weapon]. They always threatened our nation with it. War is like that. Threats, espionage, some fighting, little skirmishes, but never . . . never something like this. Never something capable of killing so many so quickly.

So many, so many dead. Even if Sodom is the only city that was attacked—even if Gomorrah or Admah or Zeboim still stand, even if our nation is still strong. . .

Millions. Millions called Sodom home. Millions.

[Untranslatable]

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An Old Homeless Monologue

by Robert S. King

If mistakes were dollars, I’d still be filthy rich, instead of just filthy. A mistake is dirty as a shadow and follows you around. I’ve got more shadows than I can scare away, and every one of them looks counterfeit. I guess my whole life’s a mistake, but at least I’ve learned where it hurts.

I’ve loved others about as well as they’ve loved me. I used to be hopeful about my kind.

Kind? Now there’s some irony to iron out. Now I think law, force, and guilt are the only reasons for charity. I’m only gums now, but those other kind that I used to smile at–their pearly white, perfect teeth bite hard. I wouldn’t hold out my hand.

Nothing dangerous or sharp about me now. I’d have to pinch you to death, but I can still get mad enough to try. Wipe that grin off your piehole!

Poor ol’ sour rag, nobody gives me a damn. They think I need snort money, but I’d settle for used gum, or even a frowning nod that I exist. Yet at my age desire has set hard as that gum or any wall that stops my passage to nowhere. Now, I’d say I don’t want anything, except something different. Truth is, I guess I want everything. That’s probably why I’m here in this scenic alley.

You’ll get a kick out of this. On school-day mornings I used to go to bus stops and steal lunch boxes. I’ve lost a lot of weight since then because I can’t run as fast.

Don’t look at me like that! I was nothing then. I had nothing but holes in my pockets. Now I’ve got shadows. Come to think of it, every shadow is ash, the child of greed.

Someone with really bad breath tried to steal from me the other night. He lifted the flaps of my cardboard mansion and started to frisk me for money, or at least I think that‘s what he was feeling for. I struck a match and burned the damn house down. I’m not sure if he was still in it.

He and I are more likely to be friends than you and me, boy. It’s easier for me to feel warm toward an enemy than someone I have to care for. The enemy is someone I’d invite for poker and find a way to make him play his credit card. So why does your momma let you hang around a trash barrel like me?

She’d hold her nose around me. But to my nose-hole, everything smells the same, and I don’t surprise myself anymore. You won’t catch me off-guard because I’m not trying to hide a bleeping thing.

You know, on casual Fridays I used to wear a designer noose with dollar signs around my neck, a green suit making a fine figure on Wall Street. I didn’t put much stock into those I stole from. Before those towers came all the way down, I was making calls to buy the lots at discount. Got Trumped, though.

No, I wasn’t a cynic in those days. I thought the gold-diggers smooching on me really loved my soul. Of course, I thought my soul was made of brand new money. I thought my dollars were worth more because I knew how to spend them. Some say it was the dollar that brought the towers down.

Well, it’s cold, and you’ve kept me long enough, boy. Time is money, and you’ve burned too much of it. I’m headin’ down to the tracks and the fire barrel. The people are warmer down there.

Robert S. King, a native Georgian, now lives in Lexington, Kentucky. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published four chapbooks (When Stars Fall Down as Snow, Garland Press 1976; Dream of the Electric Eel, Wolfsong Publications 1982; The Traveller’s Tale, Whistle Press 1998; and Diary of the Last Person on Earth, Sybaritic Press 2014). His full‐length collections are The Hunted River and The Gravedigger’s Roots, both in 2nd editions from FutureCycle Press, 2012; One Man’s Profit from Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013; and Developing a Photograph of God, Glass Lyre Press, 2014. His personal website is www.robertsking.com.

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