Dispossessed by Kristin Garth

Flash Fiction, Kristin Garth

POWDER BLUE

Powder blue velvet ribbon he loops gracefully about your nape.  Grazes virgin skin perpetually hidden by the lush brunette tufts he has brushed to the side.  Nothing is rushed.  Same strange fingers he plies you have observed for years wrapped about an axe.  Peered

curiously through branches after midsummer naps of your adolescence, adrift from your  bed.  Beyond the boundaries of your father’s dominion, you, often, are led to this log cabin abutting the property lines. 

You are thirteen the first time you spy the smoke from its chimney amidst the dense long leaf pines.  Tiptoe one day, like prey, wide eyed, to what you might find.  Comfort and innocence you leave behind, with your mind, all ideas of who you will be.  You stumble on sticks, caressed by a beneficent breeze until you see it, at last, set against a sky, powder blue — the chimney of smoke, a log cabin, too, and a man, ax in his hand, which swings, indifferent to you, towards a ring of dead tree deftly split in two.

Raven hair roughed up by air of his potent swing, the pink of one cheek, in profile, glistening as he works, oblivious to you.  Wait helpless there, a fawn in the dew until he is finished and walks straight away. Not even quite certain he sees you that day.  He puts down his axe, without pause, and withdraws to a front door he will, unceremoniously, close.   How many nights you wake up in sweaty smocked rose bedclothes.

You wander back towards this cabin for years.  Last time you watch from a distance, eyes brimming with tears, after a marriage proposal that would take you away from your father’s grand home, this secret place where you stray. 

Today he takes notice.  Looks you in the eye.  Your flesh is immovable save tremors that trail up your thighs to that place you disgrace yourself, closed eyes, in bed since you were led to his cabin to wait.  Spread yourself wide in the dark.  Steal from your father’s kitchen a serrated blade to trace places you would offer to a woodsman, when bade – a marked succubus inside the untouched form of the seraphim. 

After he makes a study of your dark eyes, he will turn away towards his cabin as he has eons of yesterdays.  Heart aches even more, ignored, than it did, unnoticed, before until you realize he has left it wide open, his log cabin door.  Legs follow without hesitation, clumsy on stairs.  He demands removal of clothes right then and there.  Brushes your hair.  Loops the powder blue velvet ribbon against the nape of your neck, ties it, high, in a bow.  Lays you back on a table, spread wide, to inspect a guilt he will nurture in his humble chateau – marked by his hand with a powder blue bow.

DOLLHOUSE

There are paintings of dolls over some of his walls, powder blue bows, entreating eyeballs.  Wide, pleading irises in complimentary hues stare at their new sister he has brought them in you.  On the far side of the room, he reaches for a switch from a collection of intimidating accouterments— paddles of wood carved by his skill hand. Whips and ropes on hooks you will wail from, be expected to withstand.  He leans over to hold you then growls in your ear.  “If you stay I will hurt you, but I will not keep you here.”

You try to respond with a nod, but he says you must speak.  Manage, “Yes, sir,” as he tastes a tear from your cheek.  Tells you to turn over – his switch tickling your thighs.  Hold onto the table; squeeze shut your eyes, but your ears still hear his swing in the air before your ass feels the strike.  The howl you make is your original animal fright though somehow you stay quite still for three strikes more. 

The body betrays when he gets to four, constricts your limbs.  Becomes as miniscule as it can.  He coaxes it open with magnanimous hands.  Fingers in furrows make you forget anything not powder blue, the sting of his punishment, your purported virtue.  Hear yourself begging for things you don’t know.   He whispers in your small ear while he strokes you slow.  “I can’t cum inside you until I have one more blow.”

He pulls out sodden fingers to cover your mouth. Red tremulous flesh you trade for pleasures you can no longer breathe without.  He offers no mercy with this last bow.  It cuts your spirit in two, but both of you know it is worth it when he pushes inside.  Moan into his chest as a new pain sanctifies each hole which he enters as you suffer true. 

To think you once paraded in kitten heeled shoes before boys who would breed you when daddy will choose. Felt a silent power gestating inside you each one you peruse, deny the upturn corners of lips you would not smile or part — glowering with pride.  Yet for this stranger you would tear them apart if he would be satisfied.  Split the tight corners of a stunted child’s smile, you should have long since outgrown becoming fertile.  Widen it hopelessly around his vicious cock, your hair in his hands, down your throat a shock of something unexpected that makes you shudder and choke. 

He carries you after to a plush rug by the fire.  Your eyes strain to stay open while he retires to his chair to smoke, speak of demons who float in the powder blue air, beasts he fought in this forest while you nod off somewhere to your first ever peace – released by his hand.

When you wake, he will bathe you and dress you for return, to avoid your father’s reprimand, in a once favorite frock for which, now, you care not the least.   Only the powder blue velvet ribbon he straightens brings any relief.  “Wear it as long as you belong to me.”

“May I come tomorrow?  I will find a way.”

He says in a powder blue velvet ribbon you can come everyday. 

TEA PARTY

Wake the next morning in a canopy bed, same curtained monstrosity where you have laid your head each naive night of your Lilliputian life, hidden in orgiastic dreams until you become wife.  It seems, now, only a prison of satin and lace scratching your welts, holding you in place.  The only comfort here is the bow, powder blue, on the top of your head, slightly askew from tortured sleep in your childhood bed — the girl it once belonged to only yesterday dead.

Your immodest corpse foregoes a petticoat, settles upon a pastel red dress, easy to unbutton, flesh to express – you aspire always to be a considerate guest.  Make hurried excuses to the staff on the stairs.  Scurry to the woods before father’s aware.  Run through the forest, your skirt balled up in each hand. 

When you reach his cabin, there is no sign of the man.  Still unbutton your dress as soon as your spy the open door.  Strip on the porch.  Throw clothes on the floor. Hurry towards the fire where he sits, near, in his tufted gentleman’s chair.  He smiles as you realize he is not alone there.

The clink of a teacup alerts you to her violet stare.  Fingertips attempt to cover pert nipples,

the pubic hair no other human but the stranger has seen.  Before you realize your error, you hear in your ear, mean, the order for you to drop your hands. 

“You can leave right now. If you stay, understand, anyone here is our invited guest.”

He squeezes your neck.  You move your trembling head yes.

“You’ve come just in time to serve us more tea.”

You refill each cup conscientiously — first the stranger’s, then his violet-eyed company.  Her strokes of your welts on your ass are an anodyne.  Tells you to put down the teapot.  Turn off your mind.  Lean over the settee.  Do it as quick as you can and as stoically.  Your head to one side, angled to him.  Feel her cool lips tracing your well-wounded skin, then a wet tongue disappearing into a place that makes you whimper and writhe.  Her fingers he tastes.  She turns you over and opens you wide while he scoots closer to see. 

“Make her beg you for more.”

She makes you crawl on the ground and into a small saucer pours you some tea with a dollop of cream.  

“Lick it up like a kitty and we will make you scream.”

Breathless and restless for what will be done, you lap it gracelessly down with a desperate pink tongue.  Then the mistress beseeches, rubbing circles with her fingertips.  Crawl quickly towards her though midway you slip.  Hear both their lewd laughter that makes you blush. 

“Do not scare her, Paul.  She’s feeling the rush.”

Though it’s hard to move, you reach the sanctuary of her spread lap.  Could crawl on top, curl up for a nap, but she pushes your goosebumped form low on his parquet floor.  By the nape of your neck, she trains you, slow, to adore her with your small kitten mouth — tongue deep in her holes until she is prone on the couch.  No longer the mentor but only maiden who moans. 

The commands you receive now come from the master alone – a drone of demands in a deep baritone that quiver your bones even when they grow faint.  When he covers your eyes, you risk no complaint – a fabric in pitch through which you can’t see.  He lifts you from the floor almost reverently. Plants a kiss on your forehead as he carries you, like a bride, to the sunshine outside.  Heat on your skin makes you wetter inside.

Beneath the blindfold the world rocks to and fro.  Lays you down upon flannel and enters you slow near the pink muhly grass that tickles your flailing toe — the sounds of your pleasure echoing surrounding sparrows.  Fingers push into your mouth, more clutch at your breasts.  Gasp at the knowledge there are too many hands and a chorus of breaths.  He removes the blindfold so you can see how many strangers have come to his licentious party. Through the tea party haze, at first it seems a half dozen — those it is only three, two women, one men, all touching and tasting what the master has brought.

He strokes your powder blue bow, absent all thoughts, while he cums on your chest, a treat quickly devoured by his most rapacious guests who take their time and their pleasure with the master’s new toy.  Stay until dusk, exhausted with joy your privileged life never offered before.  Delay, as long as you may, your return to your father’s door.  But the master says you must — if you might come again. 

As he helps you into your dress, you stroke the powder blue ribbon.  You walk arm in arm to the edge of woods while he redefines, for you, the meaning of “good.”  Watches while you walk the rest of the way dressed like the unhappy girl you were only yesterday.  Sneak in a back door hoping no one will see how late you have been gone, how much you changed, the new powder blue bow, always so meticulously arranged. 

Run into your father on the way up the stairs. 

“Will you not join us for dinner?”

You cannot meet his inquisitive stare.

“Not feeling well I’m afraid.  Better just sleep.” 

Hurry past him towards your room to hide in carnation pink sheets.  Touch every used part .  Count each rabid heartbeat until blood moonbeams deliver your enslaved spirit to him in his log cabin again.  Even your unconscious young mind waits in attendance to service his feral whims.

ASH

You wake the next morning to the odor of smoke from a dream in which a Burmese python inched its pale yellow girth down your widening throat — not at all where you hoped to be led prone and hypnotic in your canopy bed.  Dread so real you shudder, until, by curiosity, you are lead toward the scent and descent of a thin trail of smoke to the open window.  Surely noon by the breadth of the sunbeams followed.  Is it any wonder you slept late after yesterday’s extremes? Pull on a quilted mint cloak to find out what the smoldering means.  

As you walk to the window, your skeleton shakes though its openings tingle with promise of a season of enchanting new aches.  Pull the powder blue ribbon to make sure it lies straight. Look towards the woods where you cannot wait to be.  See a dark cloud above that makes your eyes overflow with a bottomless grief your brief little life never bequeathed before.  Run in only the cloak your through your father’s door all the way to the edge of the woods, promising demons you will never be good one damned day of a life, not that long, if today you could only be wrong.  But each step closer to the cabin, the smell of smolder becomes ever more strong.

Arrive to the place where the log cabin stood when you left at dusk — now some smoldering ash in a clearing of mauve-colored brush, woods where your lust was laid bare.   Some pieces of burnished rubble remain that might be the sette or the chair.   Fall to your knees wondering is he somewhere in there?  Would he burn it down with the switches, the paintings of dolls?  You gave him everything — maybe things you do not even recall through the haze of the tea you happily sipped to become finally alive.   Would he have just burned it all down?   Or did he not survive? 

Could it have been your father who recognized it in you — your eyes on the floor, the bow, powder blue?  Did he send men, maybe the would-be fiance, to burn down this peculiar joy while you slept yesterday?  

You run to the center of the smoldering dirt. Throw yourself onto embers craving something to hurt on the outside as much this loss does within — rubbing any remainders into your useless young skin.  Could it be part of him this ash you press into your pores — a piece of the switch which transformed you, one perfect day, into one of his powder blue whores? 

No more will you be — but neither a provincial girl.  Belong more to this dirt than any faux civilized world of your father who maybe murdered you here.   Scream for a sign until you see through dirty tears a glint of silver near the stump by the magnolia tree.   It is the axe he once held, the way he did you, with such authority and a silver shovel that looks like an answer to you.

Throw off the mint cloak before you begin.   Stand inside what once was the log cabin with your exposed skin the way he demanded and you would learn, so soon, to comply.   Does your skin glisten as pink as his when you watched nearby as he used the axe for years before he used you?   Dare not think of the reason you dig throughout the afternoon.   Only stop when it’s deep enough for you forever to hide.  Drop yourself in with the shovel — the accepted procedure for everything that has died.  Use it to pour enough dirt to knock you on your back.   A powder blue sky goes, for you, forever black.  But you know, one way or the other, you will remain surrounded by him.  Push the ashes and dirt of this sacred place everywhere he has been.  Open your mouth, though it hurts to breathe.  Soil and the ash are the last tortures he leaves.   Hurts more to go on outside of this cabin you grieve.   Every breath that you take contains a piece of wood he carved, the rug where he placed you, sated, once starved, to rest — in peace, for the first time.  Rather lie down in his shrine than die dispossessed.



Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net 2020 finalist.  Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of many books of poetry including The Stakes (Really Serious Literature) and a short story collection You Don’t Want This.  She is the editor of seven anthologies and the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter:  (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com

LAST TEXTS OF DA NITE BY DUVAY KNOX

Flash Fiction

SHEE whudden SCARED anymo.

Shee was 2 Tired to B scared any mo. 

It was 2am in da morning.

The TEARS rolled down her face as Shee sat in her old/brown/Chevy Nova….

A WOMANS car da nigga hoo sold it 2 her had kalled it.

Shee had 2 kinda smile cuz da old ass engine wit all dem dam Miles on it was idling quietly as fuck.

Her Lites were on. 

Shee felt safe becuz shee was in an area shee knew well.

Shee took her cellphone outta her fake Gucci purse.

Dem Koreans had gave her such a good deal at da Flea Market shee cood not pass it up.

& 1 thang erry Bitch LIVES fo–is a BARGAIN.

********

Shee knew hoo was going to git her 1st text.

Her only DAUGHTER and her were on the Outs over dem Grandbabies.

Shee spoke up n sed sum shit her daughter aint like.

They argued n shit got outta hand. 

They even Fought.

Came to BLOWS n shit. 

It was UGLY.

& now its 2 late 2 repair thangs.  

Or is it? 

Hoo knows?

Shee didden.

U were rite & I was rong butt maybe we kan still B friends tho baby??

Shee hit SEND. 

******** 

2am in da Morning is da right time 2 send texts 2 peeps U kared bout–or peeple U HATED.

They wood B sleep.

Usually — and could read dem in da Morning.

ERRYBODY was gittin this werk 2nite.

********

Shee located Him in her contacts.

Shee wanted her EX to be EXTRA when he read da text & try to ack like shee hadden even sent it.

But shee knew hee wood not ignore it becuz hee was  2 much of a Bitch Ass Nigga fo dat.

Shee wondered: How U meet sumbody & instantly fall in love wit em?  

& then-just a few years later U cant stand they ass — and THEY caint stand u either?!

Why cum I caint Tell-A-BITCH Nigga frum a REAL Nigga?

Shee always picked Bitch ass Niggaz!!

I was in love & then I WHUDDEN in love wit a Man I thawt I wood never NOT Love.

Im Konfused.

I dont even know wut Im sayin sumtimes.

Hell-ALL da time it seemed lately.

It didden matter no mo.

What we had was a Sad excuse 4 a Relationship. I dont HATE U.  I hate MAHSELF 4 not being able to Hate U like I shooda had. 

Shee hit Send. 

********

Shee saw where QUARLETON-her youngest son had sent her a recent text.

Hee was mad at her 2.

Becuz he fount out dat His Daddy whudden his Daddy.

Shee had 2 Baby Daddies.

Butt shitttt….Wut Black Woman growin up/runnin like wile chile in da HOOD n tryna survive in it didden tho?!

Wut made thangs werse tho was Q–as shee kalled him–didden hear bout hoo was his real daddy from her tho.

So Hee had cum at her hollerin like sum damn banshee–outta his god-dam mind.

Shee had 2 put her baby outta da House when hee had got a little 2 close 2 puttin his hands on her.

Shee useta call Her baby BAR-B-Q when hee was a baby to make fun of him. 

Now-shee couldnt kall him at all.

Hee didden wanna talk 2 her AT. ALL.

Hee jes wanted to Text all da time. 

Sumpen is rong wit these kids nowdays.

They barely like talkin on da phone.

Always wanna jes text.

Welp-so B it.

Im blowin up er body phone 2nite.

Least now u kno da truth Q/Im not Sorry butt I do apologize for mah Actions. 

Shee laffed at da irony.

Shee got dem werds frum Church.

Cuz U memba Whenever U fucked up U wood cum back & beg da chuch forgiveness by sayin I APOLOGIZE FOR MAH ACTIONS?

Maybe YOU dont memba dat.

Butt SHEE grew up wit dat shit.

Anyway-Niggaz would jes go back out n do da same Sinful/Hypocritikal shit again.

Shee sent da text. 

********

Da distant Sirens made her jump.

Shee knew usually it was an ambulance being followed by da police.

Boff of em driving faster than da law allow.

This late at nite usually meant anutha Young/Black Man was dead sumwhere in da City.

Or sum old fool on a fixed income had done set himself on fire in one of dem cramped/slum-lorded apartments da city always jammin em in.

Oh well.

Long as they aint lookin for Mee.

Mah Emergency passed long ago.

Now Im jes cleaning house.

********

Dear BITCH.

Shee erased dat.

Mama. U did sum Foul shit. Butt guess wha? I 4give U. I kno U jus gone say I aint got no respect 4 U. But U R rong. I do hv sum respeck & I hope this text finds u doing well. I still got yo blood pressure medisin u left in mah car.

Afta her Father had Died shee couldnt git along with her Mama no more.

Aint DAT sum shit?!

Here it is HER daughter couldnt git along with HER and SHEE couldnt git along with her Own Mama either.

Runs in da family I guess.

Shee paused — and hit Send.

********

Shee wished shee could send her Daddy a message.

Whudden no shame in her game.

Shee was a Daddys Girl.

Hee gone up & Die and leave mee all by mahself!!

Wut happened 2 God know yo heart n shit?!

Cuz my heart desire was for mah Daddy to live long as hell–butt he go n die frum sum shit dat prolly cooda been Cured wit sum plain ole Epsom Salts or Apple Cider Vinegar Water.

Well-like they say: its da thawt dat counts.

& I know hee feels mee thinking bout him.

********

Shee was quiet a long time.

Shee looked thru her contacts.

********

Shee knew Mrs Jenkins wouldnt like how shee spelled sertain words n wutnot.

Once-a-Teacher always TEACHING–I guess.

Dear Mrs Jenkins–U was always mah fave Teacher. I hope U hear bak frum da Social Security Office bout Yo Disability. I heard they reject people on da first time round tho. They dont make em like u no mo Mrs Jenkins.

Shee hit Send.

********

Shee looked at RORY HUNTER name.

Y did shee even have him in her contacts when hee had been jes a Bully all her life?!

When they was in elementary Da Nigga useta chase her home frum class erry day/throw her down n finga her pussy.

One half of her LIKED it & da otha half of her HATED it.

So shee never tole nobody cuz shee aint kno how 2 FEEL.

Shee ran into him by accident years later in a Walmart/hit it off wit him–and had slept wit him before shee realized hee was Da Nigga hoo had bullied her all dem years ago in gradeskool: a TERRORIST frum her childhood DATS hoo dat Muthafucka was.

Hee had claimed hee recognized her as somebody else 2.

I betcha U did-Nigga.

It aint matter.

DA sex was good.

No use lyin about it.

Butt hee jes caught her at da rite time of her sexual frustration.

& one thang led 2 anutha–and B4 shee knew it shee had let him DICK Her DOWN.

Shee could Fuck all nite when shee was frustrated.

Cuz shee would be tryin to fuck all her hopes n dreams into CUMMING.

Butt dat Slick Nigga caught Her on da rebound.

Its water under da bridge now tho.

FUCK U RO!! I still remember grade school!!

Shee hit send. 

And FUCK U TOO Bitch!!

Hee answered back immediately.

Shee was caught off guard fo a moment.

BITCH NIGGA!!!! FUCK YO MAMA n FUCK Yo COUCH!!!!

She hit send. 

Then shee BLOCKED his number so hee cood not respond.

I git da last word on this muthafucka!!!!

Shee looked at his name.

Cussed him some mo unda her breaf.

*******

Shee took a gulp of water frum da Gallon Bottle of Distilled Water she always kept in da car.

Shee thawt: they say da body is 80% water & Im all cried out.

Her phone was showing a 10% percent charge left.

Seems like shee cood never keep da dam thang fully charged.

It was enough to finish tho.

Imma keep em short anyway.

********

Was it worth to text her BIG SIS?

Shee of all people would take Her leaving da hardest.

Big Sis. Im glad u hv been part of mah Life ALL mah life U always hv da best solutions 2 mah problems. 

Shee hit send. 

Shee typed something she forgot. 

Got sumpen 4 U. Shld b arriving in da mail 2moro.

Shee texted her Sista again.

********

Shee scrolled thru her texts–and stopped at GOD name.

Shee knew peeple who would think shee was Krazy fo keepin God name in her Contacts.

Butt FUCK DEM they didden kno her like dat!!

Shee would often pretend like shee was talking to R texting God on da phone at her most stressful times.

It had becum a habit fo her.

Shee never told nobody bout butt her Big Sis.

Her Sista knew.

Her Sista knew EVER-REE-THANG.

Well-Almost Ever-Ree-Thang.

Butt yeah She was strange like dat.

So Wut Bitches?!

It was a better way 2 Her than Praying. 

Anyway–shee aint wanna hear shit bout no Prayer.

Dats sum obsolete shit as far as shee was koncerned.

Shee had prayed til her eyes & ears hurt for her Daddy & it aint Keep him here.

Dats Y Ion want muthafuckaz praying for me either shee thought.

Shee started her text:

God: if U kan save Me. Then Save Me. Frum Me.

Then–shee let da phone rest in her lap.

& took da gun outta her purse. 

Shee wondered a hot second:

Hoo was gone clean up DA BLOOD??



DuVay Knox aka the King of the Underground Black Pulp Fiction Novel is the Delta Louisiana/Mississippi-born author of The SOUL COLLECTOR (Creative Onion Press) & The PUSSY DETECTIVE (Clash Books). He specializes in writing gritty/black pulp fiction/black exploitation-themed short stories n novels.

Fluid Highway by James Jenkins

Flash Fiction

The path ahead dictates my route. Snaking between the ever-expanding mounds of dog shit. A few are lucky to find themselves impervious to mother nature. Sealed in plastic bags, grotesque time capsules – an offering to our future selves. The neglected path spits me out onto the walkway and yet again – the river. The water line is mercifully high, I’m spared the rusted treasures she possesses beneath her surface. The discarded push-bikes, bed frames and shopping trolleys. They hibernate down in the silt invisible to the passer by. I should know – responsible for a few in my younger years.


They used to sail boats right through it. A twisting, rising, vibrant umbilical cord. A network of distribution that went way beyond our little old town. These days it’s just a natural stain on the hearts of the citizens. Our dirty little secret. An eyesore to be avoided by those suited cunts from the local council. Blindly allowing it to breed all sorts of trouble, and as I follow its impoverished path I’m reminded why – ‘FUCK OFF’ – greets me in bright red paint. Hardly a fucking Banksy, unlike the mural it defaced. Now, that’s a work of art! It must take time to spray something that callosal. Its beauty lost on the high school stoners and midnight crack heads. I should know – we were all young once.


The sun’s radiance draws me out of the concrete cerement and I’m free again. Free to follow the fetid water from the sanctuary of the bank. The water is still except from the occasional ripple. Native rodents providing a solution to the discarded fast food. There’s a sluice gate up this way – fuck knows why. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I’m sure it provides some purpose. If I look above the path and river, I can see the overbearing offices and derelict flat blocks. They remind us of what our town tried to be and what it is now. Those working in multiple insurance companies. Their office space overlooking this once fluid highway. They don’t come by anymore. Don’t want to be reminded of the horror they share with this polluted neighbour. The crumbling piss eroded stairs lead me up over the gate and I carry on. You don’t see many people beyond this point – not these days. The overgrown brambles cover this part of the river, hiding its modesty like a barbed gown. This is where they pulled the body out. I should know – the numbers turned out that day. I struggled to get a good vantage point when the divers dragged her out.


Tarmac gives way to beaten soil – a narrow lane resisting the relentless grass. Only the rare dog walker desperate to leave behind the congested traffic comes this far. The river’s surface dusted with a layer of stagnant algae. No current. Dead. My hands fondle a combination of lace and cotton – a memento. In another mile I could be out of the town and on my way through the brook. No. I don’t go that way anymore. Not since that girl was murdered. The life drained from her soul after the last ounce of modesty was dragged from her. Her immobile body almost impossible to manipulate towards the water’s edge. The remains snagging every obstacle before rolling into the murky depths. The perpetrator’s exposed flesh bloodied from the scratching. Muscles bent out of shape from the protesting victim. His clothes beyond cleaning burned in another place far away. I should know.


James Jenkins is a Suffolk based writer of gritty noir fiction. He has work published or forthcoming in Bristol Noir, Punch-Riot Mag, Bullshit Lit and A Thin Slice of Anxiety. One of his short stories is due to appear in Grinning Skull Press Anthology – Deathlehem. He has recently signed with Alien Buddha to release his debut novel Parochial Pigs.
Follow James @ https://twitter.com/JamesCJenkins4
Jamesjenkinswriter.wordpress.com  

A Christmas Wish by Katy Naylor

Flash Fiction, Katy Naylor, Punk Noir Magazine

A Christmas Wish

Does anyone truly remember what they came from? What spark in the soil created them? I certainly don’t. The force that chose this spot in the earth, that planted the seed and brought it to germination, is unknown to me.

My first memory is of a damp and comfortable darkness. The slow stretch of my roots into the loam, the bliss of water beneath. As I grew, so did my spirit, breaking the surface of the soil and stretching towards the light.

In the peace of the forest, I flourished. I was surrounded by brothers and sisters. We reached toward the light together, as the days lengthened and the air grew warm. We spoke to each other in a tongue you wouldn’t understand. Echoing wind through branches and sun rippling along needles was all we needed to sing out our joy. Below the earth we spoke in deeper tongues. A webbed mycelium that pulsed through the soil in unshakeable harmony.

It was hard to measure the passing of time then, but I can say with certainty that the days of warmth had passed, the air was turning sharp and sour, the soil cold and hard, when I saw the first of the creatures that would take me away from my family.

I saw that it was taller than the scampering things that sometimes scurried over my roots, and it did not fly like the feathered things that perch on my branches. Its trunk was crowned by a ball that screamed and chattered. It seemed that the creature did not meet its needs for water and nutrients gently and gradually as we do, but instead consumed everything it wanted through the screaming ball, in one terrible ravening gulp.

The roots of the creature were above ground, and it moved quickly on them, swinging each one ahead in turn. It possessed a single pair of jointed branches, with a fringed fleshy leaf on the end of each, which it used to manipulate the world. Its sap ran clear and glistened on its bald, smooth bark. It stank of dead things kept from their rightful place in the soil.

The creature covered its trunk with red and black, and had coarse blue over its roots. It arrived in a growling grey beast, with four great round nuts that carried it along, made of something hard that shone like rock after rain.

It carried the means of our destruction. A flashing sharp that tore the air with its cries, harsher than the crow and louder than any rending storm. I watched it rip my brothers and sisters from the ground. I watched them piled high on top of the growling grey hard-wet-rock beast, their roots trussed and cupped in something soft. And then it came for me.

It’s hard to describe, the desolation that settles on you when you are severed from your home soil. To be ripped from the gentle web of connections that bind you to your fellows. My roots may have remained, confined in a small expanse of dirt, but without the grounding of their own earth, they could not help me. I was lost.

A bump and a roar and chaos as the hard-wet-rock beast rattled us away from our home. I was deaf and dumb. I could feel the bark of my brothers and sisters under me. We did not have the connection of the soil, the language of wind and sun, and so we could not speak.

Finally we were released from the hard-wet-rock beast, propped up on a thin patch of grass next to dead grey ground, where more of the beasts screamed past us.

Every now and again more bald fleshy things, different colours over their bark, would come and take one of my brothers or sisters away. Then, as the sun shone weakly through the foul smoke of the late afternoon, my turn came.

The fleshy creature that took me from that place seemed a little taller than many of its fellows, and broader around the trunk. It stooped slightly, like my brothers and sisters do when they’ve been battered in the storm. It hefted me up, and so began my journey Indoors.

I learnt so much during my time Indoors. I learnt that the fleshy creature lived with another, who looked much the same. There were others too: two pink saplings that squeaked and burbled excitedly when I arrived. Hung with sharp and glittering vines, and shining round pinecones, I gathered that my coming was somehow special to them. I was given plenty of water, and a large pot of soil in which to rest my roots. I stretched and drank my fill. It might not have been home, but it was something.

The time that followed was a one of relative peace. The strange soil-less ground beyond my pot, the squeals of the saplings one morning, when they all gathered round me, passing each other brightly coloured objects. The direct nature of the light in the little hollow Indoors. All of it fascinated me. I missed the forest and my brothers and sisters, but I let myself stand content in the kind beam of sunlight that shone directly onto me when the sun was low.

But there was a sense in my sap that it couldn’t last. The heat of Indoors was oppressive, and though I did not wish to, I found that a few more of my needles fell from my branches each day. Soon, it ended. I was ripped once again from the soil. This time I was taken out into the cold, back to the strange grey ground, and thrown into a cold yellow pit, filled with unfamiliar edges and scents. From root to crown I screamed. I didn’t want to die.

I don’t know how long I Iay there in the yellow pit, feeling myself dry, drop by drop. I do know that just when my hope was almost gone, and I felt my senses dim, I felt a presence, like nothing I had ever felt before.

He took the form of my brothers and sisters, but he wasn’t truly one of us. He was made of smoke, pressed and compacted and the deep blue of the sky on a summer night. He swirled around my trunk and caressed my roots with the blessed clarity of water.

He spoke to me. His voice carried the rustle of the coolest winds and the bliss of the very sweetest rain. What do you want? he asked. He said I could have anything, anything at all.

In that moment I saw visions. Of the little hollow Indoors where the fleshy things lived, engulfed in flames. Of little Indoor hollows like theirs, where my brothers and sisters had been taken. A dancing inferno that would bring them suffering, such as they had made us endure.

But then, as clearly as light though leaves, I saw something else. I saw my brothers and sisters, restored again to their full glory. I saw us all in the forest, back together in blissful union.

The deep blue smoke curled friendly around me. He whispered: why not more? He was right.

The vision shone with the clarity of an undeniable truth. I saw our home shift and grow. Vines wrapping around the little hollow and all others like it. Roots bursting up through this grey ground, turning it back to good earth. The roaring hard-wet-rock beasts drowned by a tidal wave of leaves and twigs and tendrils, as their kingdom comes back to us. I, the blue smoke whispered, could do this. I could bring it home.

I don’t know now what you may have thought, if you had seen me lying prone in the yellow pit. Maybe you would have seen the tremor that ran through me and believed it was the night wind.

But you will know, you will know sooner than you can imagine, that what moved me was not the breeze, but the thrill of justice rising like sap as every part of me, from root to crown, whispered yes.


Katy Naylor lives by the sea, in a little town on the south coast of England. She has had work published in places including Expat Press, Rejection Letters and The Bear Creek Gazette. She is EIC of interactive arts mag @_voidspace_zine
and can be found on twitter @voidskrawl
. Partial to eggnog.

The Testimony of the Late Arthur Young  by Blake Johnson

Flash Fiction, Poetry

Order. Order. The Dead Assembly will now hear

the testimony of the late Arthur Young—who claims

he found beauty in cowardice.

 

I paced back and forth in a small bedroom 

made infinite by midnight darkness

spilling through the windows faster than light 

ever had. The floorboards churned

while I stepped from plank to plank, wobbled

so much that I doubted their ability

to keep me from falling through the ground

into an entirely different hemisphere 

where no one knew not to call an ambulance

because my temporary insurance had run out

the day before.

 

Tin-can remedy in one hand, ballooning 

gut in the other, I sipped and shuffled—pausing

only at the bathroom threshold to imagine 

intestines flying out of my mouth like a can of snakes—

when suddenly manifold images floated  

out of the dark like phantom movie projections.

 

My fellow corpses, I confess, 

these visions unspooled all at once.

Yet I remember them all: 

 

Memories floated by—

the budget healer reiterated disregard

as I plead in pathetic tones. Help me,

it’s been a week since I’ve eaten, mend me,

or prescribe drugs. We’d only met the once,

but she spoke as if she knew me: are you sure

it’s not just anxiety? Maybe she was right

to ask the question. When a single word

defines a life, the word cannot be overlooked—

how could I rebut? I,

whose adrenal mechanisms had long been locked

in perpetual fight-or-flight; I, who flinch 

at the clatter of dishes and still dream 

of basement sanctuaries housing bearded men,

jabbing at the ground with pointed fingers, testifying

to flames forever lurking beneath our feet. She saw

me as I was. She shrugged and referred me elsewhere,

but there is no use lingering on that failed attempt 

at healing when yet stranger projections flared

up with absurd revelations—draped in a wool-

trench coat, cigarette dangling between amused lips,

a man stood gazing with the intent to keep

silent, occasionally gesturing at the smoke 

pouring out of his mouth, as if trying to illustrate

what ghosts looked like before dissipating

into stardust. Behind me, a disembodied baritone

claimed there was nothing

to be afraid of—when you’re dead

you aren’t aware of death or dying, so what

do you care? I turned to see who spoke

but there was only a desert stretch so barren

that every mile repeated itself in infinite

cycles of sunburnt earth. I did not embark. 

I did not move. I had once known a soldier

who spent years in such a place, how he spat

bullets—blooming pinpricks of light 

flung from the dunes like hurled stars—and laid bare 

the utter ridiculousness of war at the expense of himself 

and holy places. I couldn’t be sure

the desert was where all things ended, 

 

I couldn’t disbelieve in an afterlife, terrifying 

in its spectral secrecy; it suddenly seemed likely

God was displeased with me. His smoldering gaze

might reveal that he hated everything I had ever done,

just as the basement men had warned. Even the penitent

thief was presumably saved at the last moment,

so I, too, made a final gambit and cried out

for salvation and spent agonizing moments

guessing at the thoughts of my sudden patron

saint as he suffocated publicly, dangling above

crowds bored by the spectacle’s slowness. 

 

The astral projections faded

but I did not perish. Not then, not yet. I lived

past that fevered night, trapped beneath

the question of how to die without fear. 

In the intervening days, I crept quietly

among serene enclaves, courageous blowhards, 

and chaotic dreamers, observing their loneliest moments.

Before dawn, I stole into my city’s temple—

ancient in appearance for tourists’ pleasure—to watch

the monk’s pray. I hid beneath the floorboards;

light spilled through the cracks like planetary fissures

until bent knees and silent footfalls passed over

the light in prayerful eclipses. Chants spilled 

from throats like a rising mist, filling

the air with hushed precepts. Among these faithful

one had taken a vow of silence. Esteemed for his age

and devotion, he was called on to hold vigil

from sunrise to sunrise. The room emptied,

leaving him with no one to bear witness 

to his integrity save for a body unseen

beneath his feet. The ground rattled

as the monk slammed his fists 

over the very place I lay hidden,

and for a harrowing moment, I believed 

I’d been discovered, but he did not tear

away the floorboards and expose me 

to the enlightened air, only wept, then spoke

loud enough for me to hear. A terrible instinct

caused me to slam my palms over my ears—

still, I heard the first word of his broken vow: 

 

empty.

 

When I emerged, shoving aside the loose planks,

fleeing like a spider over whom a boot hovers, 

the monk merely wiped his eyes and pointed 

at my heart with a tear-stained finger. Two days

later, still having not slept, I drifted 

through downtown, in and out of bars

wedged between tenements past redemption,

where a grizzled traveler wearing rags

as filthy as my own spun around in his stool

and offered stories in exchange for anything

fermented. He laid a bizarre memento

on the counter—a fang as big as my thumb.

He claimed that he had been slain by dragons

         in a past life,

all for the love of a king who did not know

his name. No terror in the now, he claimed,

thumping his chest. Not when you have fallen

as I have fallen. And yet, as his trembling

fingers clutched a drained glass, I saw 

his eyes clouded by dragon’s breath, pluming dread.

I knew then he had nothing to offer beyond life

already lived, and that my burden was his own.

Who was left to turn to if not heroic reincarnations?

I snatched the fang from the counter and hurled

the trophy over the heads of brooding patrons

and morose dancers. The traveler sighed and disappeared

into the bar’s shadowy fringes to retrieve the relic—

I tried to follow, or at least I remember trying to follow,

 

but past this moment, I lost my grip on time’s passing.

I drifted like vapor from strangeness to strangeness,

unable to distinguish hours from days—how long

did the buildings shake like quivering limbs

until I collapsed in a street gutter? So many

faces hovered over me like confused constellations

doubting their portents. I do not remember 

their features, only their arrangement 

as they held a frantic debate 

over how to cradle the body of a stranger. 

Blink once and surge through garish tunnels

where disinfected air scythes through every breath.

Cords, incessant beeping, dapper gentlemen

radiating cold. Blink again and the glare of neon

crosses at your back will paint the raindrops red.

 

Admitted, discharged, admitted, discharged—with no end

in sight to the senseless shuffle. My eyes turned inward

and gazed at my guts, shriveled coils and broken tubes

carrying nothing but the faintest traces of virulent blood.

Yes, my vision darkened, or perhaps was renewed; I believed

shadows cast bodies and that all light was an illusion

perpetrated by the self. I prayed no longer, but screamed

their inverse, shouting at streetlamps spilling lies 

all over the road in flickering pools, hoping God

himself would meet me on the nighttime road, if only

to shut me up with all the searing brightness I disbelieved in,

 

but there was only the necropolis, emerging out of nowhere

like some long ignored promise. Surrounded by gravestones

poking through the earth, the tomb I now know is no tomb,

but an entrance to your hallowed undercity, sat moldering

like any other I had wondered at as a child. 

I would have ignored the crypt 

had it not been for the cloaked figure crouched

in front of its iron door, pouring over a heavy tome,

incanting deep-throated syllables. Creaking,

the door swung open, and the figure stood, arms outstretched

as if to receive an army. And you did come forth, 

not to obey any spell-weaver’s summons, but to avenge

the presumption that any among you might be controlled.

 

The magician did not think to stand his ground.

He fled from the tattered mass 

surging from the tomb’s mouth, cloak billowing, escaping

with his life. 

I did not move so quickly. In fetid hands

you carried me off, where we roam

underpasses and catacombs, discussing 

grim histories, as if all life amounts to demise. 

 

Now my memory meets the present moment.

My late friends, I’ve heard so many testimonies 

in the name of fifth-stage acquiescence—noble,

dignified, many of you exemplify strength

of spirit, but I will not remain with you. I reject

unlife below. I will call out the hated ones

           lurking in this pallid crowd:

Hades and Hel, I defy you, death-driven

harbingers in the lowest spaces, I defy you,

clamoring voices shrieking let go, let go,

I defy you. 

 

No monk or hero or waking vision

healed my fear. Only the spell-weaver

made me understand that I sought fearlessness

as if it were an escape hatch, that my disease 

was in seeking a cure. Have I gone beyond

simile and metaphor? Has speech failed, at last?

Then I will show you what the magus taught me.

 

I will show you the beauty of a coward

pivoting on a heel, fleeing to the surface

of his beloved earth.

 

###

Coffee Planet by Joe Haward

Flash Fiction

I hate coffee. Can’t stand the fucking stuff. It’s not the taste I hate. Granted, some of it feels as though it’s smashing your brain to a pulp whilst leaving your tongue coated in tar. But the taste really isn’t my problem. 

 

The other day a friend invited me out, and we ended up going to one of these generic coffee houses, all reds (or was it greens?), dark wood, and the unspoken acknowledgement that we’re all being ripped off. It’s expensive, shitty tasting, and boring, but we all keep going back. Why? Why the fuck not? Life’s dull, the world’s out of control, so fuck it; have a overpriced crappy cup of coffee and pretend like where you’re sitting isn’t going to be under water in twenty years. What else are we gonna do in an emergency? 

 

But none of that is the reason why I hate coffee.

 

My friend tells me he’s buying. I order a flat white, and the barista asks us if we want to try the special blend.

“What’s special about it?” I ask.

“Well, with every cup you buy, we donate 10% to charity.”

“What charity?”

“To fight global warming.”

 

You. Are. Kidding. Me.

 

Let me get this straight: I can now say I’ve done my bit to care about the planet via the purchase of a corporate-burn-the-world-never-pay-tax cup of coffee? It’s ingenious. On we go, telling the planet to fuck itself, assuaging our conscience of all responsibility by continuing to do the very things that got us into this apocalyptic nightmare in the first place, but now guilt free? The world will drown in non-recyclable coffee cups and plastic, choking on the emissions required to get the coffee across the world, the seas boiling like frothed milk on an espresso machine, but I’m in the clear, because I tried that new coffee blend. It’s ballsy, I’ll give them that.

 

I look around, and then laugh, realising that none of us have any idea how expensive this coffee really is. My mate asks me what’s funny? I try to explain, but he loses interest at “capitalism keeps mugging us off.”

 

We sit down, with our lukewarm mugs of morality cleanse, and I glaze over in our conversation, imagining a world where these coffee corporations build giant, floating coffee cups to rescue people from the floods. But, like some sort of capitalist Noah, they’ll charge you for a seat. Your six stamps for a free coffee won’t mean fuck all then. 

 

That’s why I fucking hate coffee.


Rev Joe Haward is an author, poet, and heretic.
As a freelance journalist his work challenges political, societal, and religious corruption, with articles regularly featured in the national news site, Byline Times
His work has featured in a variety of places, including Outcast PressCinnabar Moth PublishingNo Sell Out Productions, and A Thin Slice of Anxiety.
His debut noir novel, Burning the Folded Page (Cinnabar Moth Publishing) will be released in 2023. You can find him on Twitter @RevJoeHaward

Gem’s final tour in the world-saving vanguard by Lucy Goldring

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

Doubtless an article on the six stages of climate denial had the potential to be a little dry. Gemma could appreciate why Debs had asked her to cook up ‘a super-hot take' – though was less sympathetic to the snorts of laughter that followed her boss’s ‘totes unintentional!’ pun. Their readership, supposedly, were seasoned global warming acceptors. However she presented it, they would enjoy smugging their mugs at the dumb-dumbs who hadn’t yet grasped the threat of annihilation. Yep, no probs, Debs could expect a draft by close of play.

 

Gemma read the wiki entry, rewarding herself with a slurp of coffee after each section. She wrote ‘what’s my hook?’ and ‘how about different animals?’ before drawing three sets of cock and balls of varying artistry.

 

Getting in the zone was getting to be a problem. Gemma was swivelling wildly on her chair now, making her signature galloping pony noise. The tongue-pony had only jumped a couple of fences before Jasps from Sponsorship cleared his throat from across the aisle. It didn’t matter; Gem already had something. She mouthed a sheepish ‘sorry’ and set to bashing out her concept.   

 

 

6 STAGES OF CLIMATE DENIAL – DRAFT FOR DEBS

 

You’ve clocked a Climate Denier but just what kind of ignoramus are you dealing with? Unbelievably the climate ostrich still lurks among us. Gemma paused to wonder if an electively immobile creature could be said to ‘lurk’. But just how deep have they stuck their head in the sands of denial? Call them out with the help of our fun music-based guide:  

 

Are they Fleetwood Mac’ed?
 “Greenhouse gas emissions are not actually increasing.”

 

‘Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies,’ The Mac famously implored. Encouraged by a handful of climate crackpots, Trump and his ilk have made it more fashionable than ever to ignore the scientists and deny the data. Altogether now: ‘Close your, close your, close your eyes…’

 

 

Yes, this is a solid idea, thought Gemma. Will do verr-ree nicely, in fact. Sure, she would need to develop the intro a bit (the ostrich metaphor was a tad laboured) but check out the alliteration on ‘climate crackpots’ not to mention the neat incorporation of the song’s second refrain. Identifying suitable tracks would be the challenge, but she had two hours and, according to Debs – who approached Google as if she were tossing titbits into a crocodile enclosure – ‘an ingenious way with search terms’.

 

*

Are they Simon and Garfunkel’ed? 

“Even if CO2 levels are increasing, there’s no evidence of warming.”

 

Some deniers still conflate weather and climate, refusing to engage with the bigger picture. Like the much-loved duo they may ask us to look out the window because the ‘leaves are brown and the sky is a hazy shade of winter’. Global warming?? It’s bloody freezing out there!

 

Are they Billy Joel’ed?

“If global warming’s happening, it’s due to natural causes.”

 

For a small but significant minority, acceptance stops here. Okay, the planet may be warming but like Bill-Bills says, ‘we didn’t start the fire’. Changes in the climate are just part of the natural cycle. You’ve heard of The Ice Age, yer? 

 

Are they Gina G.’ed?

“Even if some warming is caused by humans, the changes will be minor.”

 

A surprising number of people seem to have stalled at this point. So, climate change might be ‘(oo ah) just a little bit’ our fault but it will only involve small incremental changes – so what’s the big deal? We can ad’just a little bit’ (sorry – ed.). 

 

 

The piece was sizzling now. Debs would almost certainly declare herself supes-excited while doing her wide-eyed rigor mortis grin. She might even describe Gemma as ‘a real wit’, then Gemma would say ‘you mean a twit with a silent ‘t’?’, because she was amusingly self-deprecating like that.  

 

Gemma looked out the window and saw an Easyjet ad for £24.99 flights to Ibiza. In the other direction Burger King was promoting a £1.99 Whopper Deal. Her stomach rumbled and her mind emptied, as if shaking off the heft of its contents.

 

Directly ahead, a group of emos filed into Primark. They looked purposeful but wary – like a murder of crows hopping toward a discarded loaf of bread. With each passing year the memory of her own adolescence, with its standard blend of mindlessness and heartbreak, felt more and more like someone else’s dream.

 

 

Are they Roy Ayers’ed?

“Even if the climate warms, we can turn it to our advantage.”

 

Haven’t you heard?: ‘Everybody loves the sunshine’. What’s more folks get down in the sunshine. Many people accept global warming is real but imagine we’re headed for a tropical paradise.  Gemma tried to tune out the sadness humming in her guts. They seem deaf to the catastrophic impacts that runaway climate change will bring for ALL LIFE ON EARTH – FOR THE VIABILTY OF CIVILISATION. 

 

 

The use of caps lock was temporary of course. Just a tactical release of pressure, much like screaming into a cushion. The emos were spilling out of Primark now, laughing and shoving each other in a shy but playful way. Any effort to look pained by twenty-first century existence had been abandoned in-store. The black apparel and facial piercings had been neutralised by a profusion of recyclable beige bags.

 

 

DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND WE MUST ACT NOW OR FRY… ???????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

 

*

The ‘workplace de-stress’ meditation had proven quite effective recently. It was short enough for Gemma to accomplish in the toilet without attracting concern. And, although not exactly calming, it snapped her out of it – like giving a dodgy appliance a hearty thwack.

 

 

Are they Bonnie Tyler’ed?

“Yes, global warming will be life-changing but we can adapt, innovate.”


 It’s comforting to think we can work it out as we go along, or ‘hold out for a hero’ in the form of new tech. But where climate’s concerned, Bonnie’s appeal to the gods may be more apt. If we don’t get our house in order ASAP, nothing less than divine intervention will save us from 

 

WHEN WILL THESE FUCKERS REALISE WE ARE USHERING IN THE APOCALYPSE?

WHEN WILL THESE FUCKERS REALISE WE ARE USHERING IN THE APOCALYPSE?

WHEN WILL THESE FUCKERS REALISE WE ARE USHERING IN THE APOCALYPSE?

 

 

Gemma wheeled away from her desk. Supposedly, the charity was all about winning hearts and minds, but here she was clearly losing hers in the process. She recalled that two months into the job, an ex-colleague had talked cryptically about ‘the saturation point’.

 

What was the point of this self-congratulatory bollocks anyway? Shouldn’t they be encouraging these so-called ‘early adopters’ to fly less or something? She hit save and laughed cheerlessly at the idea of Debs having to hang on ‘oo ah, a little bit more’ for her precious article. The realisation that one of her favourite songs was ruined forever layered on further gloom.

 

Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’ tinkled dismally in Gemma’s ears as she exited the building with no destination in mind.  

 

 

*

As a paid-up vegetarian, Gemma was surprised to find herself sitting on the planet’s least ergonomic bench chomping on a thick, meaty Whopper. The strains of ‘It’s the end of the world of we know it’ assaulted her from above as she took in the lurid environs of the mall. Once upon a time, Gemma had experienced this song as a blast of life-loving abandon. Wedging her greasy burger wrapper into the bin hole – a burning-forest-melting-iceberg-plastic-island montage looping in her head – her sentiments could not have been more opposite.

 

Before REM there was Bonnie Tyler. Striding towards the lifts, Gem thought back to blasting out ‘Holding out for a Hero’ while Mum and Dad were out shopping. How her and Siobhan would compete to emote that titular line as they threw themselves round the furniture. How, with outstretched arms, they would appeal to Superman to save them from some imaginary menace.

 

Inside the lift, a bright blue poster advertised the escape rooms on level four. They were recruiting for ‘Game Hosts’. Gemma had heard the pay was rubbish but the benefits were out of this world. She pressed the button and it lit up like a black hole.

 

 


Lucy Goldring is a Northerner hiding in Bristol. She has been shortlisted by the National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD), Flash 500, Retreat West and The Propelling Pencil and won Lunate Fiction’s monthly flash competition in 2020. Lucy was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020 by both NFFD and 100 Word Story. She writes a lot about climate angst while trying not to get overwhelmed by her own. www.livingallover.com @livingallover

Mala beads by Laura Stamps

Flash Fiction, Laura Stamps, Punk Noir Magazine

“Richard Gere was wearing them in a YouTube video about Buddhism,” Janice explains to the man. “They were wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet.” Mala beads. That’s what they were. The prayer beads Buddhists use when they meditate and chant a mantra. The man behind the counter at the bead shop shrugs. “All we have are these, but they’re not Buddhist,” he says pointing to a wicker basket full of beaded bracelets. Janice picks through the basket until she finds one that wraps around her wrist twice like the bracelet Richard Gere was wearing. “This one will do,” she says and pays for her purchase, slipping the bracelet into her pocket. Walking back to her office, Janice stops at a juice bar for a quick lunch. After she orders a protein smoothie, she checks her messages and discovers one from her son. He needs money. Again. He can’t pay his rent this month. Again. Last year she emptied her savings account to send him to a drug rehab. And it worked. For a while. But then he relapsed. Again. Sometimes the world feels so heavy. Too heavy. A frigid breeze whips through her hair as she walks back to her office. December can be brutal in Chicago. Janice shoves her hands into her pockets to warm them, and her fingers wrap around the smooth wooden beads of the bracelet. When she googled mala beads, one article said a mantra can be as simple as any word that expresses what your soul needs at that moment. “Peace,” Janice whispers, her fingers beginning to slide from bead to bead. Peace, peace, peace. She enters the office building, walks to an elevator, and presses the button. Peace, peace, peace. By now the beads are warm from her touch. By now the world doesn’t feel so heavy anymore.


Comic relief by Kyle Seibel

Flash Fiction

I was told later it had been three weeks, but to me it was like no time at all. I remember riding my bike and then the feeling of disconnecting, of lifting and dropping, and then I am waking up in the hospital and my mom gets the nurse and the nurse gets the doctor and when they take all the tubes out and I’m able to talk, I sit up and say, “Bitch what happened?” and everyone laughs.

That’s the story I tell, anyway. What I don’t include is what I remember in between what happened and waking up in the hospital. After falling off my bike and landing head first on a rock, I opened my eyes to find myself sitting on a couch, a loveseat, a loveseat in a living room, a living room in the daytime.

Instinctively I knew it to be San Francisco, a city where I’ve never been, but I knew this room, this house and what tipped me off was sitting across from me with his hands folded primly in his lap and that person was Robin Williams dressed as his character from Mrs. Doubtfire. I was in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, sitting across from Mrs. Doubtfire, who is Robin Williams, who was smiling and looking at me with sad eyes that said, I’m sorry we have to meet like this.

Before I could ask what was going on, the door punched in and a team of uniformed men spread out into the room and one stood between us and looked down at a clipboard. He looked up at me, then back down, then at me again, then at Robin Williams, and then at the clipboard one last time. He nodded at me, which was a signal to the rest of them and the uniformed men converged on the loveseat, not in a mean way, in a brusque—a routine way, like they have done so many of these already today and they have so many more to do.

They grabbed me and I felt the sensation of disconnecting again, of lifting and falling, and they were taking me out into the alien white sun of the East Bay morning, or were before Mrs. Doubtfire rose and placed a hairy knuckled hand on the shoulder of the uniformed man with the clipboard.

“It’s me you want,” he said in the Scottish sing-song voice he used for the movie.

The uniformed man consulted the clipboard. He shook his head.

“It’s a mistake,” Robin Williams said in his regular voice. “Everyone makes mistakes. Take it from me. Ever see Patch Adams?” The uniformed man shook his head again. “Exactly my point,” Robin Williams said.

The uniformed man with the clipboard held up one finger and then another. He wanted both of us.

Robin Williams shook his head. “Only me, sport.” You could see his resolve from beneath the prosthetics and an unfriendly moment passed in the living room.

The uniformed man with the clipboard blinked first. With a nod, they placed me back on the loveseat. The uniformed men swarmed Robin Williams and carried him out the door. It slammed shut behind them and that’s when my eyes opened in the hospital room. A week later I would learn that the day I woke up from the coma was the day Robin Williams killed himself.

Never told anyone, because how could I? What would I say? They’d expect me to make sense of it and that’s something I’ve never been able to do.

The closest I got was on a blind date a few months after I woke up, a date with someone I would go on to sleep with and then never see again. I got to the bar early because I was nervous as hell and had three cocktails before she arrived, upon which I proceeded to have two more before splitting a bottle of wine. I just had this sense that it was going to come out of me, so when she asked about the scar on my head, I grabbed her hand and blurted out, “Robin Williams saved my life!”

I thought she would wait for me to explain, but what I didn’t know then and what she would whisper to me later in the dark of the motel room was that she watched Good Will Hunting every night during her first friendless year at college so before I could say anything else, she smiled at me so, so sweetly, squeezed my hand and said, “Me too.”


The Mask by Sybil Rain

Flash Fiction

 

          Bemused but never incredulous, he guides you gently onward, coaxing out the sickest specifics of your exquisite, corrupt chronicle. The catalogue of miseries, despairs and dreadful delights that twisted together form the pure substance of you: your essence, the eye of your hurricane, the cruel, majestic force of nature that is you. 

 

You think:

 

I’m…

 

 

so…

 

                                                                       fucking…

 

 

 

                              high…

 

          In the stall of the diner bathroom you curl the charger cable round your sleeve, flex and slap the forearm’s skin ‘till POP! – the vein extrudes its sweet blood, your precious liquid prolapse erupting up the needle’s point, the bloody chamber brimming over with your rich incarnadine brew. The DNA of your father’s father, your eternal ancestral admixture mingling with the needle’s perfect poison. Even before you depress the plunger you gasp, concentric circles radiating outwards from your heart, your flesh, every single part becoming rich, infinite, vast. You feel the hum of the God-vibration skull-fuck your eardrum, crunching down each vertebra, from the thymus along the scapula, down the bones of your body’s arms and up its legs, twisting down and up the spine to the sacrum and back, from the chunks of gloss-encrusted skin flaking and falling from your lips like late October leaves down to the curled and quivering tarsals, the thin strip of rare, bloody meat in the tips of your toes. Your pupils bulge and expand to the size of the universe, great sucking whirlpools that attract and absorb all things in your orbit, whole dimensions curling inwards at their edges and collapsing, universes dissolving and colliding in your mind. Everything is everything, and you are one with this unity. You feel life expand and contract like the soft, spongy lining of Satan’s lung, pussy pink like the inside surface of some long-sleeping tentaculoid, a scarlet, serrated hagfish, a cannibal crow with crystalline plumage. You are flayed by its teeth, boa constricted by its infinite suction cup arms, your flesh turned outside-in ‘till the bones wither and crack in the scorched desert of a long-dead Earth.

 

 

 

*

 

          Something else is in here with me. I feel it every time I slam. It shares my body. It looks out through my eyes. It laps up my soul with its many-toothed tongue. It melts down my brain stem and steeps my spirit in the juices.

 

          Something soft and forever and wicked, like me.

 

          It fills me, becomes me.

 

          It takes me in its loving arms and sucks the life through all my holes. Mouth, anus, eye socket, urethra: I die, and am reborn. I die again. It eats me. I am destroyed. Torn apart, tossed away, and finally, fatefully, emergent.

 

          I’ve never been so in love in all my life.

 

          “You girls sure love your bathroom time,” Kareem says. If he knows I’m high he doesn’t show it. “How about we get out of here? I’ve got something I want to show you. A special place. I think you’re going to love it. No, it’s not my bedroom. Not yet, anyway. I want to get to know you first. You’re a real special girl, Miss Sybil Rain. I like you. Just might like you a lot. So what do you say? Come with me? Blow this dive? I’ll grab the check…”

 

*

 

          He sees it in your eyes. How could he not? He’s a cop, an officer of the law. They’re trained for this, aren’t they? To be able to tell what’s what and who’s who? But think – all the cops you’ve fooled, all the times you’ve spoken to them and lied. Did they really believe you, or did they just not care? One more spoiled little rich girl, about to get sprung from the pen with a phone call from Daddy’s lawyers. Why book her when she’ll be out again in an hour? But this is different. This is personal. Exciting. Dangerous. Can he tell? If he can, he’s good at hiding it. A gifted actor, perhaps. But what part is he playing? What’s his angle? He pays for the food and you bounce, you in the passenger seat of the cruiser, classic rock on the radio turned up full blast: Don Henley’s ode to his brown-skinned summer muse. He turns on the cop car’s flashing lights and you cruise down the BQE doing a hundred, windows rolled down, your blonde hair flapping across your face. Have you ever felt so free? He steers with one hand, places the other on your thigh, his skin rough, his grip steady. You picture him squeezing you in his muscled arms, lifting you up, smashing you hard against a wall. Devouring you with kisses. His hand slides up your thigh beneath your dress and stops. You look down, lay your hand over his. Your two skins look perfect together, the contrast in color. You fly over the Brooklyn Bridge and up the FDR. The construction lights from half-built high rises across the water glistening like constellations. You breathe in the moon and exhale madness.

 

*

 

          “You’re going to love this place,” he says. “I just know it.”

 

*

 

          His smell – pink pepper, bergamot, lemon. Musk, sweat and shaving soap. He smells like a real man, not like these fuckboys you’ve been dealing with, the boys at school, the hotel room junkies, the wannabe pimps. They smell like babies, like talcum powder, shit stains and B.O. Not like real men. Not like him. He leads you by the hand through the lights of Times Square. You spin in circles past the hundred thousand tourists, the bright flashing billboard lights. You pass down a dark alley, a place you’ve never seen. One of New York City’s last remaining mysteries. You’re going back in time. To when Times Square was a different place, electric with danger, madness, sex and death. You pass through a heavy door and up a dingy flight of stairs, then another and another. He pushes the shop door open and you enter.

 

*

 

          “Not many people know about this place anymore,” he says. “I’m excited to show it to you.”

 

*

 

          You pass down the aisles of the shop, past all the tools and technologies of perfect perversion – leather and lace, rubber, latex, rose red and obsidian black. Stiletto heels and fleshlights, animal face masks, poppers, thousands of bottles of slick, sweet lubricant. Anal beads and dildos, filthy books, magazines, VHS tapes and DVDs. Kareem parts the perverts in the shop like Moses did the Red Sea. They all want to stare, and some can’t resist, but whether because of his badge or simply in deference to the radiant, powerful aura the two of you exude, the shop’s customers cast furtive glances then sneak, shuffling, away.  

 

*

 

          “I only want to help you,” he says. “That’s all I’m here for. I know a lot of things have happened in your life, Sybil. Bad things, horrible things. And all those bad things have gotten inside you. Changed you. Made you think that somehow you’re bad, too. But I’ve seen bad, and babygirl, you ain’t it. You’re a good girl, Sybil Rain. I just know it. All that pain and violence. You have to transform it. To find the right place to put it. I can help you, if you let me. What do you say? Let’s figure it out together. Take control of your destiny. You deserve the world, Sybil. And not just the world, either. You deserve the moon and the stars. Will you let me get them for you? Will you give yourself that chance?”

 

*

 

          Heeeere, pig pig pig. If your girlfriends could see you now. Sybil Rain, copfucker. But isn’t that what makes it special? What gives it that edge? When we exhaust all available transgressions we must create our own new taboos. Sure, we’re all supposed to hate the cops. That’s what’s in fashion. That’s whats en vogue. Is that what makes this feel so good? Maybe it’s part of it. But there’s something more to him as well, a sinister layer deeper down. He has a deep end, an edge, one he’s careful to conceal. He’s disturbed. He’s bad. People say Times Square has lost its grit, all the character stripped away. All the criminals locked up, the perverts beating off to Internet porn alone now in their apartments. But the energy of a place doesn’t change so easy. Times Square will always haunted by the ghosts of its former self. You’re unsure how, or in what way, but you know Kareem is at home in that element. He’s of a piece with the grit, the puke, the porno house and the street corner hustler. You know there’s something sinister there, though you can’t pin it down. All you know is you need to find out more. 

 

*

 

          “Here,” he says. “Try this on. It may turn out to be just the thing.”

 

 

          The latex feels cold against your skin as he pulls the mask over your head, gently pulling back and tucking your hair up beneath. From inside, you see the world anew. Colors become brighter. The air within your aura grows crisp, defined. The sounds of the shop and the city outside sharpen at first, then fade and finally give way to a low, throbbing hum. Your energy crackles with intuitive clarity. A transformation is occurring, at once subtle and all-pervasive. You know now what you have to do. You know who you are. What you were meant for. 

 

*

 

          “What do you think, Miss Sybil? Does it speak to you? Is this your mask?”

 

*

 

          You look at your reflection in the shop’s full-length mirror and barely recognize the girl looking back. The eyes peering out from inside the latex mask are perfect, their pupils enormous. You see through them to distant galaxies, a space whisper away, a billion light years distant, whole generations of alien terror, wickedness, war, unfathomable love and despair, tender tentacular embraces and exotic new ways to torture, dismember and decapitate. You were born to separate spirits from flesh suits. You think: What am I? You think: Am I fucking alien? In your little black dress you might be anything: a harpy, an angel, the devil herself. There’s no way to tell when you’re wearing the mask. 

 

*

 

          “Will you let me in, Miss Sybil?” he says. “Into those big black eyes? Will you let me see the girl behind the mask?”

 

*

 

          He wants to devour you. This much is clear. But you’re hungry, too. There’s a long-dormant part of you that’s positively famished. Lately you feel like you could eat the whole world. But who eats who first? That’s the question. That’s the game. 

 

          And there’s nothing you hate more than losing. 

 

          Trust. 

 

*

 

          We stop at a cocktail lounge on 48th Street before heading to the hotel where we’ll spend our first night together. I sit at a high table on a stool while Kareem orders drinks at the bar. I check my phone. There’s a new message on SnapChat from ItGuy2020. I don’t remember following any ItGuy, but I open the message anyway. 

 

          I can barely make out the outline of a face through the raw static and eerie glow the  screen emits, the picture blurry, out of focus. The voice is garbled like it’s coming through a scrambler, deep and feral and raw. It wheezes like a dying oxygen machine pumping one last breath into a corpse. An ecstatic shiver runs up my spine. 


          Hey baby, the voice says, it’s me. Can you hear me? I love you. I loved watching you tonight with the cop. You two look great together. So sexy. Can’t wait to see more. I love to watch you make it with other guys. Just don’t forget your number one. Remember how I’ve always taken such good care of you. See you soon, baby. I love you. 

 

          For a second the image on the screen sharpens, just long enough for me to see a gray, wet slug face with slits where the eyes, nostrils and mouth should be. The mouth slops open and closed a few times, the clicking soft tongue puffed and greasy within. An oily saliva drizzle collects at the corner of the mouth-slit as the face splits open and shut like a sock puppet burn victim. Smack, smack, slop, goes the mouth. 

 

          Kiss kiss, says the voice.

 

          Then the screen goes blank.  


Sybil Rain is a writer from New York. She currently lives in Hell.