From intercession to love
The love removed
To the sun. Ends.
From intercession to love
The love removed
To the sun. Ends.
By. Karl Lykken
I see the fear in my eyes, and it tells me that I know I win. For a moment it takes the edge off my excitement until I watch myself reluctantly accept a knife from Anders while I unsheathe my own. Besides, that gash on my cheek must mean it will be my closet duel yet. But then, how could it not be? I feel my blood pulsing with the force of a typhoon even as I watch it drain from my face.
“You haven’t thought this through,” I hear myself say. “The thrill isn’t worth it. You’ll regret it as soon as it’s over. Believe me, I know. Please, don’t kill us.”
I’m disgusted with my cowardice. I decide to aim for my belly, as the shame brought on me calls for seppuku. Unless…
I smile in appreciation of my ingenuity. “You’re trying to get into my head, which would seem simple enough since it’s your head, too. But I’m afraid it won’t work. I won’t doubt myself; my self-regard only grows. Anders, count us off.”
Anders moves to the steps of the arena, and I look past him to the vast field containing all the unmarked graves of my previous opponents. This promises to be the first time my foe will prove worthy of a grave marker. Anders turns back to face me, his eagerness palpable. “Three,” he begins.
I look back into my eyes as my mouth speaks. “This isn’t a charade. I’m you, and I’m scared.”
“I admire your commitment to the bit,” I reply, raising my blade and squatting slightly. “I’d expect no less of myself.”
I leap forward only to see myself turn my back and take off in a sprint. What game is this? Obviously, I can’t catch myself on foot, so I come to a halt and grab my knife by the blade. I bring it behind my head, then whip it forward, sending it spinning right into my left hamstring.
I watch myself skid across the sandstone, acutely aware that while I am uninjured, I am also now unarmed. I rush forward, hoping that fall stunned me. I drop roughly to one knee and start reaching for my knife when I realize my body is flipping over. I try to fall backward out of its reach but–gah!
I feel the knife burn across my cheek, and I close my eyes for the briefest second. I reopen them just in time to see my right boot collide with my chest. I collapse backward onto the hard stone, and I feel my fingers on my throat.
This can’t be. I can’t die, not even by my hand. Oh God, this can’t be happening!
Maybe it’s not. I see the bloody knife in my hand, but in my eyes–only terror. There’s no glimmer of thrill, of triumph, of bloodlust. There’s just dread, pure and unbounded. In an instant I understand the thoughts that must be churning through my mind: if I die, then how could I go back and be right here, poised to kill?
It’s a poor time to get hung up on a paradox. I look from my frozen eyes to my unprotected throat, and I don’t hesitate. I strike, leaving myself gaging and gasping. I twist the knife out of my hand and in one swift motion jam it in the side of my neck.
I stare at my trembling, choking future self, and somewhere deep in the core of my being I feel the same horror that I see in my dying eyes. It spreads slowly through my blood, and I jump in fright like a small child at the harsh crack of Anders’ clapping.
“Well done, sir,” Anders says, sauntering gradually toward me. “That was something special to see. We should get you cleaned up, though. It’s almost time for your journey.”
His blithe expression stings worse than my cheek. How is my faithful companion of a decade so undisturbed by the sight of my own corpse lying not two feet from me? It’s more than I can take. I shake violently and vomit, emptying my stomach of everything except the expanding mass of unadulterated fear. I close my eyes and try my best to keep my voice even as I speak.
“Anders, I don’t want to die. I won’t go back. I won’t just walk into my own knife. I won’t do it. We’ll destroy the time machine.”
Anders smiles. “Sir, did you wonder why your future self was unconscious when you came out of the machine?” he asks, pulling a tranquilizer gun out of his coat. “Because I didn’t.”
“What are you doing, Anders? What the hell are you doing?” I try to crawl backward, but my arms have lost their strength. I lie helplessly on the ground as Anders steps up beside me.
“I admit, the fight didn’t live up to my expectations, but I still won’t deny myself the privilege of seeing it,” he says, taking aim at my frantically beating heart. “Honestly, you should feel lucky. That was a once in a lifetime experience, yet you’ll get to live it twice.”
Karl Lykken writes both stories and software in Texas. His flash fiction has appeared in Theme of Absence, The Flash Fiction Press, and Every Day Fiction.
Yosa Buson is a musician from Northern California.
By. Emma Grave
To Istred, silence was never awkward or dreaded, silence was comfortable and peaceful. It enveloped like a soft blanket and afforded the opportunity for imagining.
Istred’s father held a ball in his castle every fortnight, attempting to find a suitor that would capture her heart; to no avail.
Istred found it difficult to speak with those she met – she didn’t know what to say, or when to say it. She also found it difficult to look them in the eye – it felt strange, and made focusing on their words tougher.
Istred’s father scolded her and banned her vermilion dragonling, which rarely left her shoulder, from the balls. This made them insufferable; at least she’d had some company before, as Verm could communicate with people telepathically.
At one ball, held at the start of the summer, a potential suitor caught Istred’s eye. He had a sweet smile and a daring red suit almost as bright as Verm. Yet she felt as though she’d uttered foolish words in her nervous state and overcompensated by staring at his hazel eyes too much. She was sure she’d missed her chance.
But the next day, she spied him in the grounds of the castle. His carriage had been damaged and unable to take him home so he’d been offered a room for the night.
They strolled through the colourful, blooming garden together, with Verm acting as a go-between, passing messages from one to the other. Her potential suitor didn’t seem to mind this arrangement.
Things went well, they spent more time together, and they fell in love.
Istred spoke aloud occasionally, such as saying her vows before the large statues of The Three, and as the years passed by she grew more at ease with talking to him.
Her dragonling eventually became too big to carry on her shoulder and instead carried itself on wide red wings, but Verm never strayed far from its master.
Istred and her husband lived a happy life together. Sometimes they held a conversation verbally, with him staring into her eyes and her finding that staring back for a short while wasn’t all that bad. At other times they stared off in different directions, holding a conversation in silence.
Emma Grave is a British speculative fiction writer who lives with her husband and house rabbit near the forest of Cannock Chase. Her fiction has appeared in Speculative 66, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, and The Drabble.
Joshua Dumas is a composer from New York.
The planet circling Iota Piscium seemed peculiar;
misshapen, bulbous, and malformed;
the northern hemisphere a mass of tumorous bulges,
the southern flat and nearly devoid of marks,
while huge rifts and cracks girdled the equator.
Somehow, despite its irregular shape,
it harbored life, lush fungal jungles, but
seemed bereft of all higher animals—evolution
had defied the odds once more, it seemed.
Here, archaeologists sweated in envirosuits,
painstakingly brushing away layers
of organics-rich loam;
ground penetrating radar had told them
that a structure lurked here,
below the canopy of spreading gills
and the brilliant colors of the domed caps.
Drifting white spores fell like snow,
as one man’s gloved hand touched something
neither rock nor root—smooth, even, symmetrical,
a silver cylinder appeared
beneath his careful touch.
As it gleamed in the sunlight,
a shadow passed over his mind,
and he began to speak, his voice choked
constricted, as if he could barely breathe:
Heads turned, but he couldn’t see concerned faces,
but a city of crystal and silver spires all around,
streets paved in alabaster at his feet—
and in the sky, a gash, a void,
a sucking emptiness that pulled all light towards it.
Slia’gesi, os’gesi! His voice flayed itself
On alien syllables that human vocal cords
could only approximate, on guttural clicks
and wailing keens above the normal range
of human ears. A hundred years before,
his comrades might have thought
this glossolalia, the gift of tongues
from a beneficent god,
or some trick of the devil.
Hands caught him, dragged him to the safety
of a medical trailer, but they couldn’t wrest
the cylinder from his grip, while the visions
unfurled, unrolled around him, of the faceless people
who had inhabited this world,
neither angels nor demons,
using their instruments
to peer into other universes,
other places, other times—
We found a universe that looked back at us,
he tried to shriek, but the words wouldn’t form
outside of alien syllabary, Slia’juythe’ytozixni—
Concerned doctors assumed a suit-breach,
sedated him, treated for hallucination,
anaphylactic shock at his exposure
to the fungal jungle’s spores,
but still the vision came,
pouring out from the record
clutched in his hand.
It saw us as we saw it; the abyss gazed back
into our souls; we don’t know why
or how, but it broke the seals
between our worlds,
and poured through.
The words chanted through him,
pounding like a metronome,
searing through his brain,
with images of gravity
no longer working quite as it should,
the whole inner workings of a world,
disjointed by the breakage
of an invisible constant,
and since gravity’s grip bounded time,
the surface began to buckle and tear,
whole areas of the terrestrial globe
beginning to spin faster than the rest,
We tried to shut the door! he cried out,
putting his face into his hands, weeping
as he saw storms better suited to a gas giant
build on a horizon were volcanoes had birthed themselves,
saw the spires of his city collapse around him.
We tried, but some of that abyss
was caught on our side—it fractured.
He sought one of his doctor’s hands,
Desperately trying to explain,
It’s still here, they’re still here,
but he couldn’t convey more than osm’msihh’laxa,
a meaningless cacophony of syllables,
as the doctor frowned down at him,
oblivious to the pulse of not-color
hovering behind his head
in a whorl of tangled space and no-time.
Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Reno, Nevada, but she received her MA in English from Penn State. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. For more about her work, please see www.edda-earth.com.
The Mood Swings are a band from Shaland, Oregon.
By. Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
He shook his dog’s paw and said, How’s life in the dog world today? He had already inquired after the health of his parakeet and the hedgehog who’d been tearing apart the stone foundation of his barn just for something to do.
There are wild birds that inhabit these valleys. They do not understand the human obsession with virginity. They do not understand the relationship between virginity and purity.
The hedgehog was bored. Life in the country was as dull for him as it was for the human whose barn he was slowly destroying. The slow destruction vexed the man but made his life less boring because it gave him a problem to work on. He worked on it for quite a while because the hedgehog was a very clever creature and refused to be caught, no matter what new trap the human tried.
Vladimir Putin, ruler of Russia lost his virginity early. He forced himself on a young woman who had blond pigtails and had dreams of becoming a concert violinist. After Putin raped her, she gave up that dream. She felt that any music she played would be sullied, that the notes would bend in obscene ways. There was no social consciousness of rape and of women’s rights in Russia in those days.
Finally the hedgehog decided to go somewhere else, to travel, because he’d heard it said that travel broadens one, opens one’s mind, and he was hopeful that this was true.
Nowadays, in America, we have a lot of consciousness, and rape is also entertainment on television shows featuring police work. The birds understand none of this. Most of the birds only understand Chinese. Their birdcalls are in Chinese. They sing an opera about Romeo and Juliet in Chinese. They like eating crumbs of leftover Chinese food and fortune cookies. They like tearing apart the messages in fortune cookies and using them to build their nests.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over thirteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.
Antibióticos is a band from Córdoba, Argentina
By. Dennis Mombauer
Skalep rested, his hands and legs braced against the smooth wetness of the walls. The waterpark slide was covered with curved plexiglass, high enough to stand upright, but too milky to make out details on the other side.
There were intricate gold emblems embedded in regular intervals, and a slow trickle of water ran toward Skalep. He didn’t know how high the slide went, but he had been scaling it for hours, and although he could very acutely imagine how it curved through the air, he had no idea what might be surrounding it.
Skalep resumed his climb, careful not to slip, his legs aching from the continued struggle against the steep, watery incline. There was something dark before him, something that blocked the amorphous brightness from above, and he saw a woman clothed in white, staring at him with her right hand upraised: “Why did you ascend here to search for me?”
Skalep sprinted toward her, but before he had made more than a few steps, he heard a rushing sound. The woman smiled sadly, and a swell of water came streaming down at Skalep, carried him off his feet and down the slide. The flood washed through the curved tunnel, then threw Skalep out into a shallow basin before it died down to a trickle again.
The basin was the termination point for several round slides, contained inside a domed chamber that was connected to other areas through tiled hallways. Skalep could sometimes hear a distorted voice from the distance, like announcements from an antiquated speaker system, and suddenly, it transformed into something comprehensible.
“Are you still searching for me?” It was the woman’s voice, but Skalep couldn’t locate its origin. He started in a random direction, away from the basin, his naked feet slapping over the wet floor. He crossed a high room with opaque plexiglass walls, engulfed by a diffuse illumination that could just as well come from natural or artificial light sources.
“One room leads to another, but why should their sequence lead to me?” He followed the abandoned halls of the waterpark, which seemed to continue forever in a series of identical rooms and pools, like drops from a leaking faucet. There was no sign of the woman here, and Skalep finally decided to go back.
It wasn’t hard to return to the domed chamber, it just took some time to get there, although not nearly as much as the outbound trip had taken. The scenery was unchanged, the shallow basin still being fed by the trickling water slides, and Skalep began climbing another one. He ascended through the plastic tube with its semi-transparent upper half, looking for the woman that he hoped was really there and not just an apparition created from his own mind.
The slide began to level out, then curved around horizontally until it declined again.
Skalep briefly wondered where the water came from, but it just seemed to drip from the ceiling and ran down the walls to flow in both directions, the way he came and the way he was going.
Skalep descended with spread legs and hands on the wall, hesitant to sit down and skid, until he finally reached the domed chamber again. The water continued to flow into the basin, the tiled hallways still stretched away into the distance, and the distorted speaker system suddenly came to life: “Why do you always start here? Do you genuinely believe that this is the right place, or do you just lack an alternative?”
Suddenly, Skalep heard the voice from every slide: “I’m nowhere you search, and you will never reach me. I am forever beyond your grasp, can’t you accept that?” Women in white smiled at him like a circular multitude of mirages, then they ran away upward with gliding motions. They had sounded disappointed, but what choice did Skalep have?
He looked around, chose another slide and began climbing … after all, the woman had to be somewhere, and he was going to find her.
DENNIS MOMBAUER, *1984, currently lives between Cologne & Colombo & works as a theatre agent & freelance author. He writes weird fiction, textual experiments & English poetry acculturated with German.
Rockeys Duo is a group from Canada.
By. DL Shirey
Day clicked on and the city was about its business. Perpendicular streets, buildings in workaday beige, multistory windows with gray reflections of smudged, flat sky. Block upon uniform block, an automatic map I followed from here to there without thinking.
Then came a movement from above; two movements, from opposite edges of sky.
These were not clouds. They were too dark and well above where clouds should be. Huge, elongated shapes were suddenly moving toward each other at incredible speed. As space closed between them, their silhouettes bent, knuckling together like the letter C. And when the open tips collided, I expected a cataclysmic boom. It didn’t come.
All this occurred in two seconds, and the suddenness of the event made pedestrians cower. Dozens of people on the sidewalk around me dropped briefcases and coffees. I raised my own arms in reflex as if my bony wrists and splayed fingers might protect me from shadowy apocalypse.
I saw what happened next quite clearly. I was on Front Street with only a flat stretch of park between the river and me when, what I could only describe as the Hand of God, touched ground on the other side of the water. I don’t know which made me fall to the sidewalk first, that the ground shook violently at impact or because I was overwhelmed by the colossal size of Her thumb and finger. They blotted out distant mountains the instant they landed, but were gone just as quickly, racing sidelong to opposite horizons in the blink of an eye.
My brain had barely a moment to register what I’d witnessed, the impossibility of it all. Two gigantic digits, each a mile wide and their length stretched endlessly from above. A second later they were gone, fingertips raking the ground away from each other.
That’s when gravity changed.
Our world thrust upward and I could feel myself pressed to the sidewalk, like the city had pulled closer to the sky. Something tectonic had definitely occurred, although there was no fracturing of pavement or rumble under ground. The force of movement was completely silent, but the reactions on the street were not: cars screeched to a halt, and those that didn’t collided with the stopped vehicles. People picked themselves up, screaming in panic, and ran in every direction.
I was dazed, urging myself to wake from this dream. But no, another shadow filled the sky. The tip of an index finger hovered directly overhead, drawing closer and closer. It struck the ground in the middle of the manicured lawn in the park next to me. The impact was soundless, the vibration nauseating. But the finger didn’t linger, instantly retracting from where it came.
Just a glint of light anticipated the object which next slammed into the grass. In the exact spot where the finger had pointed a huge metallic cylinder knifed its way into the turf. I don’t know how much of it was buried, but it stood three stories from the ground. It was capped by something twice that height, a mammoth red ball.
It had only been a few seconds since the finger had come and gone, but there was an unsettling permanence to this giant orb; its mere presence seemed indomitable, yet it neither moved nor made noise. In fact the only sound I could hear was my pulse pounding in my ears. As my heartbeat slowed and my heaving lungs finally found enough air, I noticed hushed conversations around me. Instead of fleeing, people were being drawn to the object, as if its invincibility was magnetic.
Everyone around me began walking toward it, but I hesitated. In twos and threes they brushed past me, awestruck, eyes gazing up at the monumental sphere. Crowds began to fill the park, drawn to the huge folds of grass that surrounded the half-buried marker.
I just shook my head and began backing slowly, taking small, scared steps, bumping into the waves of people being blindly pulled to the center of the park. Behind me someone yelled, “Are you all crazy?” putting voice to the growing panic inside me.
I turned to run, but too late.
The sky dimmed again and an enormous face domed the heavens. A lipsticked grin parted over orthodontically-wired teeth and a deafening, shrill voice filled the world, “Hey Siri, give me directions to Starbucks.”
DL Shirey lives in Portland, Oregon, writing fiction, by and large, unless it’s small. He has been caught flashing at Café Aphra, 365 Tomorrows, ZeroFlash, Fewer Than 500 and others listed at www.dlshirey.com.
A Series of Pipes is a Nashville, TN based musician.
By. Gary Beck
It has always been cold. We never could afford a stove, so we tried to keep warm wearing the leavings of one hundred strangers. But if we never quite succeeded in losing the chill that made our fingers stiff and clumsy, there were times when life was rich and full. One of these times was when I was five years old. A man knocked on the door. My mother opened the door and asked what he wanted. He said that he represented the welfare agency of the city, and that our name had been given to them in order to provide us with assistance. At this, my father, who was listening from the bedroom, mustered the little dignity that remained to him and said: “Sir, I have made many mistakes in my life, but I have never permitted myself the degradation of accepting charity.” He returned to the bedroom with the haunting thoughts of pride and his children, who were never warm.
The man turned to go and then he noticed me. “Are you cold, son?” He lifted me and placed me on his knee. “I’m going to tell you a story,” he said. “Once there was a family who lived in a great big black stove. They ate coal and wood, and drank kerosene. Sometimes they were hungry, but generally they had enough to eat. One day, though, there was a great noise and the stove shook and fell on its side. After that it was carried away somewhere and dropped with a terrible thump. The family was very frightened. Soon they began to grow hungry. They waited for a long time, becoming hungrier and hungrier, when suddenly the door to the stove opened and someone gave them food.” At this point he looked at his watch, muttered something, put on his coat and said: “I’ll have to finish the story another time,” and went out the door.
Three months later I contracted pneumonia. The doctor told Mommy that I was going to die. My brother Jimmy came to see me and told me that when I died they would put me in an oven. Then I could live in a stove and be warm, just like in the story.
Gary Beck resides in New York City.
Biocratic is a musician from New York City.
By. Linda M. Crate
Her usually green eyes were shining red in her rage beneath the sunset. She was the third vampire made in existence and the true Queen of the Vampires. Her best friend and her husband had betrayed her, leaving her for what they believed was dead. But she hadn’t been dead just injured, and for a long while she had been sleeping.
Now Frika was awake, and she wasn’t taking any prisoners. She would have vengeance on all those who attempted to take her kingdom from her. Who the hell did they think they were?
She pushed red hair from her dark skin. Her mother had been black but her father had been white. She had gotten his hair and his eyes but her mother’s skin and features including the shape of her eyes which was large and almond shaped in appearance.
Frika was recognized by her distinctive characteristics when she rose from the place where her husband and once friend had left her. Some were terrified and ran to warn the king and queen but she had set them on fire before they could warn her husband and the new lover he took.
She was going to reclaim her throne whether or not they liked it. She was the rightful owner of this place, after all.
Frentenia needed her, she noticed, as she walked through the quiet streets. Her husband was working the poor mortals to the bone, and taking more gold than he could ever possibly spend undoing the good relationship her parents had with the common mortal that allowed them to rule over them without fearing death by their hands.
“Frika lives, oh, God forgive us, Frika, he said you were dead,” came a voice of a vampire elder she had not seen in years.
“My anger is not for you, Antonio. It is for Lincoln and Livia. They both shall pay for their insolence. But first I need allies. Can I trust you, old friend?”
“Always, my lady.”
“I need the element of surprise on my side. Few vampires can walk in the light as you and I. Find the old ones and see who is willing to help our cause. If they are not willing then sacrifice them to the earth because I have no need of traitors.”
“Of course, my lady, and gladly so. It does my heart good to see you again. Lincoln is ruining everything.”
“I know I’ve slept too long, but I couldn’t will my eyes open sooner than this. I will undo every damage he has done, mark my words. Now go. We are wasting precious time here.”
Time was of the essence. She had to strike tonight. She knew that. Frika hoped she still had allies. Antonio had always loved her, and she hadn’t given him the time of day when she was younger. She regretted that now. Clearly, he would have made a better husband than Lincoln.
Vengeance, whilst a human emotion and something she felt rather futile in most circumstances, would be hers. She was not weak and easily broken as the limbs of an old tree. She was fierce as fire, stronger than the mighty eroding arm of the ocean, and had more songs than the wind. The sun couldn’t shine as brightly as the rage that coursed through her veins.
She felt the thirst prickling at her, serving to irritate her further.
Patience, Frika, patience, she told herself.
Antonio returned to her some time later with four men and one woman. This was a disappointing turnout she had to admit, but it was good to know that some still honored loyalty to their queen.
“When shall we strike, my lady?”
“Excellent, I’ve been looking to spill those bloodlings little veins. They have not the strength or the wisdom of us, Queen Frika. They are frail as human babies, and I want to dash their brains for their insolence.”
“Fret not, Venus, you shall do just that. However, Lincoln and Livia are mine. Their deaths are mine and mine alone. Understood?”
All six of the figures bowed at Antonio’s simple agreement.
“You are the strongest and wisest of us all, Queen Frika.”
“Not to mention oldest,” she added, eyes twinkling. “But even I still have a lot to learn. There is a lot of wisdom in the world that we have to learn. It is arrogant to assume we are gods jut because we are blessed with these gifts and eternal beauty. Because even we rely on the blood of others to survive.”
“And we can die, too.”
“Yes, but tonight we shall live,” Frika said, turning her eyes to the castle. “Today I will reclaim what is mine.”
Frika walked so quickly that the others had a hard time keeping up with her.
She walked to the courtyard setting several of the younger vampires on fire until even their ashes couldn’t find anything other than wind to scatter them so they could not return. She then jumped to where she saw Livia’s face full of horror glancing down at her.
“Frika! It wasn’t my idea. It was his.”
“Still you helped him to betray me, and so you must die, too,” Frika scowled. “No excuse will save you from my wrath.” She then bit deeply into Livia’s throat, draining her of all her blood. She then set her on fire making sure she scattered the ashes of the woman before the wind got a chance.
Lincoln seemed to hear Livia’s screams, but was all too late.
Frika smirked, with a twisted grin, Livia’s blood still on her lips. “You will succumb to my power, you weak worm!”
Before Lincoln could respond she had tackled him to the ground, and was pinning him down to the ground. Her fangs were mere inches from his throat. “Die fool!” she snarled before she drained his blood and set him on fire, too.
Now her kingdom was hers again even if there was work to be done.
Linda M. Crate’s works have appeared in many anthologies and magazines both online and in print. She is the author of three published chapbooks and the Magic Series.
Pearl Charles is a musician from Los Angeles, California.