DECORATIONS NOT INCLUDED by Anthony Kane Evans @AnthonyKaneEva1

Punk Noir Magazine

 

I was getting nowhere fast with my article on the film soundtracks of Frank Skinner, so I thought I’d pop over to Colin’s, grab a beer with him and talk some football. When I got there, I found him reading an ad in his favourite paper, seems like they were giving away free Christmas trees. He seemed to be mulling it over. It was part of the Laura Ashley Winter Collection.

“Is it a costume?” I asked.

“No, it’s a genuine tree,” Colin replied. “Norwegian spruce.”

Carol came in from the kitchen, she was baking something out there, it smelt damn good, some kind of chicken tart, I pecked her on the cheek. She’s a Catholic, Carol, and rumour has it that her birth had been a tricky one. They thought they would lose her. They’d had to baptize her inside the womb but the priest who was called in hadn’t accepted the Resolution of the Doctors of Sorbonne (1733), which states that you can simply inject some holy water up inside the womb in case of possible miscarriage, so Carol’s mum’s midwife had had to fish around up there until she had caught hold of a limb. It was Carol’s left hand that was grabbed and subesequently baptized, and that’s maybe why she’s so good in the kichen.

“It says here,” Colin continued, “that the trees will be dispatched between December the sixth and the fifteenth.”

“Does that mean cut down or sent off?” I queried.

“That’s what I’m wondering,” Colin said. “It says they will arrive at your home neatly packaged in a sturdy box by December the nineteenth.”

“Well, that sounds alright.”

“Yeah, but there’s a footnote: After that date please call the delivery line during office hours with any queries relating to the delivery of your free tree.”

“But how can you do that if you’ve already got it?”

“It’s that bit that’s got me worried.”

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “How can it be a free tree if you have to pay for it?”

I’d just noticed those old runic symbols you’re supposed to fill out with your Visa/Access card number. It’s nice to know the Celts were good for something.

“It’s just the postage you have to pay for,” Carol put in.

So, it was her scheme, this Laura Ashley free tree. I’d bought Colin a DVD, The Osterman Weekend, for Christmas and I’d be damned if I was going to put that early Rutger Hauer classic under some Laura Ashley number.

“How much?” I asked.

“Four quid,” Colin replied.

“Three ninety-nine,” Carol put in.

“And what’s this then,” I had taken over the paper by this time, the printer’s ink besmirching my nice clean hands. “Token number fourteen?”

“Yeah, well you have to collect twelve tokens as well,” Colin said.

“Don’t tell me you’re buying this rag every day? I thought you just got it on the weekends?”

“It’s a good offer!” Carol exclaimed.

“Jesus!” I said. “This misbegotten excuse for a newspaper costs thirty-five p!”

Then I started to calculate: twelve tokens at thirty-five pence each made, hang on a sec, four pounds twenty plus four pounds for postage.

“That’s eight pounds and twenty pence you’re forking out for that free tree,” I said.

“Eight pounds and nineteen pence,” Carol corrected. “And besides our Col can keep up with the football results, can’t you Col.”

Colin nodded.

“And all that clipping out,” I said, my hand mimicking a pair of scissors. “Why you can get a good tree on the corner for twelve quid, and he’d probably throw in some ferns for nothing.”

“What about United losing to Sunderland in the Worthington Cup,” Colin said, shaking his head as though he had the football blues, as though he really cared about that second-rate competition; talk of desperately trying to change the subject.

“I’m not putting my Christmas present under no Laura Ashley tree,” I said, “and that’s final!”

“I’m in the kitchen if you want me, our Col,” Carol said, slamming the door hard behind her. It creaked back open again, they’d never got the hinges fixed since she’d thrown her last fit.

“Now look what you’ve gone and done,” Colin said. “If I end up having to eat burnt pie because of you …”

“Supposing that tree doesn’t arrive,” I said, getting back to the subject in hand. “You’re going to look a right unmanned berk when Carol’s parents come over on Christmas Eve, aren’t you? You should buy a tree on the corner, that’s what you should do, I’ll help you carry it.”

He ummed and arrhed a bit but there was no moving the bugger. He could be as stubborn as a mule when he was under Carol’s yoke.

​Two days later Colin rang my bell. My flats up on the second floor. I buzzed him in. It took him a surprisingly long time to get up those stairs. He had a black eye and was trailing an eight-foot tree.

“Jesus!” I said. “Whatever happened to you?”

“A combination of three things,” he began. “One, your lame-brained advice; two, my own inconceivable stupidy for following it; and, three, a boxing glove Carol brought for our Darren.”

Darren was Colin’s nephew. I saw, once again, in my mind’s eye, Carol’s premature, baby-sized left hand being baptized. The priest must have done a damn good job.

“Well, don’t just stand there! You better come in.”

I went into the kitchen and got us a couple of Sol beers from the fridge.

“I’ve only got the Mexicans left.” I said, “Merry Christmas!”

Colin sat down heavily on the sofa, I eased myself into an armchair. The tree lay between us, it had nice brown markings on the trunk. The genuine article. Colin looked up at me slowly.

“Decorations not included,” he said.

 

END

Spaceships Over Glasgow by Stuart Braithwaite — A Punk Noir Book Review by Scott Cumming @tummidge

Punk Noir Magazine

Until recently, Stuart Barithwaite probably sat at number one on the list of rock stars I love and have seen in the wild, but not had the temerity to speak to. I saw him in Forbidden Planet in Glasgow at the till as I purchased another volume of Scott Pilgrim for my train journey home.

His autobiography has confirmed for me that I had nothing to fear as he is still someone who views the music world through the eyes of a fan when it comes to his own heroes and appears never afraid to introduce himself. The supposed seriousness of their music probably put the fear in me too, but another myth dispelled in the book is how serious musicians and bands are probably the hardest partiers and so it would seem with Mogwai.

The book tracks an ordinary life lived in rock and roll as Braithwaite indulges in youthful antics with his love of music sitting at the forefront of his life and education written off. The ascent of Mogwai happens quickly with the members of the band simultaneously enjoying it, even too much at times and being too in the moment to enjoy it properly.

Following on from there, we have the inevitable crossroads of growing up and as the book comes to its conclusion, life overtakes things more and more as Braithwaite deals with despair and tragedy.

Few rock autobiographies I’ve read have had me living in the agony and ecstasy of a life with the latter part of the book bringing forth genuine emotion. There’s a down to earthness about this book in which the author isn’t afraid to point out his flaws and regrets throughout the years and isn’t just a mere celebration of the fame he’s found at the end of a guitar.

I have puttered away at a couple of guitars down the years and marvel at how musicians can make the noise that they do and in some ways even though he’s been able to make amazing music himself Braithwaite marvels at the bands who made him who he is even as he finds himself sharing the same stages as them.

There’s great stories featuring venues I’ve been to in Scotland, which perhaps made it easier to envision his life watching bands and then finding himself playing the same venues. Plus I found myself playing Mogwai songs in my head as I was reading.

All in all, this is everything you could want from a rock bio with Braithwaite taking us through the magical teenage period of discovery beautifully before it quickly segues into being in his own band and the highs and lows that come with becoming a proper full time band and the temptations and chaos that arise from such a life.

ALL SAINTS BY ALEN TEN-HOEVE A STORY IN 3 PARTS

Horror, Short Stories

PART 3

The laxative I’d eaten after school had just taken effect. I’d been down the street begging for candy from behind a hockey mask when my stomach made that first unmistakable gurgle. I almost didn’t make it home in time.

While my insides emptied into the bowl and the stink rose around me, I heard trick-or-treaters on the street outside, laughing and whooping as they went from house to house, filling their bags and pillow cases, and remembered something Father Mognahan had said that week during his sermon: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.”

When the next morning arrived, I was one of only a few students who didn’t dress up for All Saints’ Day. My school uniform stuck out in a sea of fake beards, robes, and head coverings. The air was filled with the giddy anticipation that comes with any change to the usual, drab schedule. At lunchtime, kids shared and traded their Halloween candy from the night before. Piled it on the table in front of them to see who had the biggest haul. I opened my brown bag, set one single chocolate bar on the table beside my sandwich, and waited.

Saint Francis of Assisi and his disciples emerged from the crowd of other saints. They eyeballed the mounds of brightly wrapped candy on the tables and took anything they wanted. I didn’t watch, but I could feel Todd getting closer. As if we were connected by something spiritual. When he snatched my foil wrapped bar he slapped me so hard on the back I could feel it in my chest.

“Nice!” he said. “I was getting tired of those brownies.”

The smell of styling mousse and bad breath lingered as I watched Todd finish his rounds then sit with his buddies in the corner where they divvied up their take. One of the other saints reached for my chocolate bar. Todd smacked his hand away. I watched him rip off the foil, pull down his fake beard, and eat the whole bar, all twelve cubes in three big bites.

I unwrapped my sandwich and tried not to smile.

Next period I was sitting with my class in the church five pews from the front. The first row was reserved for those giving speeches. Mrs. Bonner, the organist, played a slow, indistinct tune as the saints, cloaked in the smoke of burning incense and led by Father Mognahan, slowly made their way down the aisle.

My body buzzed with anticipation. But I had to be patient. Father Mognahan talked for a long time. He read from Revelations, John, and Matthew. He gave a homily. And there were a lot of psalms and prayers to get through, a lot of standing and kneeling. More than in a regular mass. My ass went numb. It felt like it wasn’t there. I had no ass. I wondered if anyone else felt like they had no ass. I imagined leaning toward Sister Mary Ellen, loudly whispering, “Do you have an ass?” and tried not to laugh.

Finally it was time for the speeches.

Many of the girls had chosen to dress up as Joan Of Arc. They approached the pulpit wearing cardboard armor, hair tied up or hidden under short, dark wigs. It was hard to tell the boys apart. Saints didn’t care about individual style. Lots of robes, halos, beards and mumbling. The stained glass was dull. No sun. I watched the old Italian women light candles and pray.

Todd, the star of the show, went last.

I had watched the back of Todd’s head through the whole mass. He seemed calm. I started to worry something had gone wrong, but when he got up to give his speech, I saw the strained look on his face and forgot all about my numb ass. Beads of sweat trailed down Todd’s forehead as he read through the same script as the last two years. It dripped into his eyes and beard. Rolled down the long fake hairs. He wiped it away and knocked his halo crooked. The stigmata rubbed off, leaving a bright red smear on his forehead. He tried to read his speech faster but lost his place, stumbled over words. By the time Todd came to the part about how Saint Francis could tame wolves and flocks of birds, he was leaning on the pulpit like it was the only thing holding him up. Father Mognahan and the altar boys frowned at each other but didn’t move. Giggles bubbled up from the pews, followed by shushing sounds from nuns.

Todd came to the end. He talked about how Saint Francis died singing Psalm 141 and, breathing hard into the microphone, recited the words through gritted teeth, pausing longer and longer between each line. When he finished, “Guard me from the trap they have set for me, from the snares of evildoers,”he stopped short and clutched his arms around his stomach as a long, wet fart ripped through the silent church. The place erupted in screams and laughter that drowned out any shushing. Todd moaned into the microphone, backed away from the pulpit, and crumpled to the floor, ripping more farts on the way down. He tried to crawl away. A dark spot spread on the back of his robe. Something ran down his legs, into his stupid sandals. Then the smell crashed over everyone like an invisible wave.

“Todd shit himself!” someone called out.

Saints scattered from the pews. Todd’s buddies trampled each other to get away. Father Mognahan ran off into the sacristy with his stole pressed to his nose. A couple of nuns waddled up to Todd, tried to lift him to his feet and drag him away, their heads turned from the smell, faces pinched in disgust. Todd farted every time they tugged. A bird fell off his shoulder.

I stood up. Savored the tingling sensation as feeling returned to my ass cheeks. Looked around the church. Everyone fleeing. Retching. Laughing. Everyone except the old Italian women, who went about their business. Like nothing different was happening.


Alan ten-Hoeve wrote Notes from a Wood-Paneled Basement (Gob Pile Press), Burn-KLR10
(Malarkey Books), Bob and Me-From Parts Unknown Anthology (Daily Drunk Magazine).
Tweets @alantenhoeve

Gas Station by Margot Stillings

Flash Fiction

As Penny held the gas pump, she felt a man approaching. She reached for her phone in her hoodie pocket, as if her friend was physically there; like a hand to grab. She froze, realizing Max was 604 miles away and could not do a damned thing to stop this man approaching. She started to feel it as her breathing changed, shallow and slow. She started to sweat, all of her body responded like muscle memory.

The man got inches closer to her and asked if he could help fill her tank. She calmly said, “Nope. All good.” Before she could take a breath he said, “I bet you are. Good.” He inched even closer. She backed up, but the car stopped her. She was cornered. He grabbed for her shoulder and smiled. His touch damp, hot, thick. She dodged to the side losing her footing on oil. He followed her to the car door, opening it for her. She looked around noticing how isolated she was in this gas station. She reached for her phone again. It was buzzing. Vibrating texts from Max.

Penny pulled her phone out. The action spooked him. He walked backwards away from her car. He walked backwards so that he could keep looking at her with an expression that made her stomach churn. He got in his pickup truck and drove away, smiling at her. Penny felt nauseous. Bile rising up in her throat. And then release.

She got back into her car, locked the door, took a breath that turned into a cry when the fury washed over her. She watched as the man pulled away and, before she could process, she texted. Telling Max all the details, unformed sentences, emotional punctuation, tears streaming down her face. She was shaking too much to speak when he called. She raged on about every instance when a man had approached her like that, touched her, rubbed past her, luridly commented on her very existence as if it was theirs to comment on. These incidents happened always in public, in the open, where anyone could hear or see. Penny complained about it like there would be an answer Max could give her about why men do this. There wasn’t. Max was silent. He let her sob and thunder. He asked her if she was safe, where was she now? Max calmly took a breath, and said one word, “GODDAMMIT.”

Taking deep, meditative breathes to calm herself in rhythm with music she could feel but not hear, Penny drove back home and made her family a baked spaghetti casserole for supper.


Margot Stillings is a storyteller, cocktail napkin poet, and photographer. She is a reader/editor at Roi Fainéant Press and an absolutely ridiculous human being.

Dr Ryan and the Presence on the Stairs by Lorraine Murphy

Flash Fiction, Horror

Evelyn Ryan made a cup of tea and put her cat out. Taking her newspaper and mobile phone, she climbed the creaky staircase to bed. Living in the small but comfortable flat above the clinic was handy, modest living a choice for the conservative family doctor. A doctor who prided herself on never providing family planning services of any description under any circumstance.

Behind her, a stair creaked and she wobbled, scalding her hand with the tea. She hurried into her warm bedroom and closed her door, blowing on the emerging redness then undressed, slipping a long cotton nightie over her head. There was no mirror in the room; vanity had no place in a devout life. Kneeling on the white carpet, she joined her hands in prayer, and closed her eyes.

“Hail Mary –”

Something crashed downstairs and she called Anne, her receptionist.

“Doctor, it’s late.”

“Anne, I believe there is someone in my flat. Will you stay on the line while I investigate?”

“Doctor, I’m hanging up. Ring 999.”

“No Anne, I’m probably over-reacting. Just stay on the line. Please.”

Evelyn turned the wooden knob on her bedroom door into complete blackness. She was almost sure she left the light on. She flicked the switch and the bulb lit brightly before exploding, plunging the landing back into darkness.

“Doctor? What the fuck was that noise?”

Evelyn peered into the darkness when something moved, making her gasp.

“Doctor, go back to your room and lock the door. Now!”

Something lunged at her face from the blackness. She screamed from the pit of her stomach, as it scratched her face. Salem.

“Oh Anne, it’s the cat. I thought I put him out; must be going senile.”

“Not a chance, you are the sharpest woman I know… Look, will I come over?”

How Evelyn wanted to say yes. “Not at all Anne, I will be fine.”

Returning to her knees, she composed herself and finished saying her prayers while Salem lay purring on the bed licking his black paws. She climbed in and snuggled his jet-black body. He’d nearly killed her with the fright, but right now he was warm, furry, and safe company.

As she drifted off to sleep, she thought of Wendy Williams. Wendy, who forty years ago, had turned up at the clinic, bloody, bruised and begging for help. Wendy, who, when turned away, promised to exact revenge on the day she died. Wendy, who died this morning.   

She pulled Salem closer and it was in that exact position Evelyn was found dead the following morning by her neighbour, calling to let the cat in.


 Lorraine Murphy is the author of a psychological thriller entitled Into the Woods and many published flash fiction stories. She loves to take everyday situations and twist them, then twist them again. As a teenager, she adored Stephen King and later found herself on the jury of Ireland’s longest Murder Trial. She lives in Westmeath, Ireland with her husband Brendan and three taller children.

Exploding Head Syndrome Imploding by Ren ElisaBeth

Flash Fiction

When Cara first heard her dead grandmother yell her name, she was scared. When she heard pounding on doors only to see no one waiting for her outside, she was uneasy. But eventually Cara realized that the booms and shouts she heard were only in her head. She knew, because she asked, that no one else heard the same things.

She knew that when the shock of a loud door slam reverberated through her skull, there were actually no doors being shut, no sounds being made outside of her own mind.

Or that when a garbled moan, like an underwater scream muffled by an abyss of darkness made her whip her head around, there was absolutely no gaping mouth from whence the noise came except the one she imagined.

She often cried as she asked who or what was making the sounds she heard. Yes, they were in her head, but she heard them clearly so they had to come from somewhere, right?

Did they crawl out from the dark recesses she sunk into when she couldn’t stand to process the waking nightmare that was her life?

Were they from a place she didn’t even know existed, so deep inside her that even if she were to peel back her own layers and muddy herself with sinew and fat to dig them out, they’d still be long buried, forever out of reach?

Cara had considered, too, that the noises her mind created weren’t made up at all; that there were worlds within her with multitudes of beings and while she plodded through her mundane every day, these things screamed to escape. She contemplated letting them free, for she contained universes and the pounding at the door to the cosmos was nearly too much to bear.


Ren ElisaBeth (she/her) enjoys exploring various themes in the form of short fiction. Find her work and follow her journey on Twitter @renelisabeth 

Boating Day by M.E. Proctor

Flash Fiction, Humour

Wally was passed out drunk, under the collapsed bimini top.

“I thought you fixed the bimini,” I said.

Marco was rummaging under the central console. He pulled out a length of rope. “I did. The cabrón managed to rip it off the frame. Good that we weren’t going super-fast. The whole gear could have ended in the drink. That fucking moron tried to raise the top while the boat was going.”

I missed the incident. I was struggling to stay upright on my skis at the end of the tow rope when it happened. First time I tried that stuff. The picture of the flying bimini gave me a shiver of delayed dread. The contraption could have slammed into me, Final Destination-style.

“Give me hand,” Marco said.

I stood on the bench between Wally’s fat legs. Marco balanced on the edge of the boat. After copious sweating the canvas was tied up. Enough to give us shade. It beats down hard on a still July day in the Gulf of Mexico.

We’d been fishing an oil rig close to Galveston, caught enough, and decided to have a bit of fun with the skis. Marco’s good and I wanted to have a go. The water was so flat it was an invitation. Wally didn’t ski, he drank.

“I feel a nap coming,” I said, yawning.

Marco tossed me a beer. “Let’s drop the floating anchor. An hour, then we head home.”

He stretched in the pilot chair. I laid on the floor with a stack of life jackets as a pillow.

#

The crunch of boots on dead leaves. My feet didn’t make the noise. I wasn’t moving. I turned around and there was Dad with the gun resting on his shoulder, smiling. “You saw something?” he said. I wasn’t sure. “Whatever it is, I don’t want to shoot it.” Dad put an arm around my shoulders and we walked into the forest. Leaves and fallen branches cracked under our feet. Deep in the woods, there was a boom, like a tree falling under the ax of a lumberjack. Boom.

#

I woke up.

Boom.

I rolled off the pile of life vests. The boat was trembling as if a hand slapped it.

I saw Marco standing in the front, he was looking at the water. The sea was in turmoil. I looked up. The sky was as clear as before, Not a lick of wind.

Boom.

“We gotta go,” Marco said. “They gonna crack us.” He was pale.

“What is it?”

“Tiburón.”

I grabbed my filet knife and pulled a 3-foot wahoo from the live well. I slashed its side. Marco cut off the anchor. He gave me a nod. I swung the fish over the side.

I saw fins and teeth in the foaming sea. I think I saw a black eye, staring at me for a second, then we were off. Wally was still snoring.


M.E. Proctor is currently writing a series of contemporary detective novels. The first book in the series “Street Song” will come out from TouchPoint Press in 2023. Her short stories have been published in Vautrin, Bristol Noir, Pulp Modern, Mystery Tribune, The Bookends Review, Shotgun Honey and others. She lives in Livingston, Texas. Twitter: @MEProctor3

The Haunted Pitch by Jim Ruland

Flash Fiction, Horror

How he died isn’t important. Well, actually, it is. Monaghan was up all night drinking and doing blow and his heart exploded twenty-seven minutes into the match. Don’t interrupt. You asked for a story and a story is what you’ll get. Now the important thing is that it exploded while he was doing what he loved best. Well, hurling, of course, but he did love his Coors Light. Imagine those excruciating twenty-seven minutes before his demise. Running, leaping, striking the ball with his heart going rabitty and strange, and every second wondering if it would be his last. Did he know? I think he did. Pity Monaghan didn’t last another three minutes or he’d still be here, keeping barmen in business. He did love the game. That cannot be denied. He loved it something fierce. I’m getting to the ghosty part, don’t you worry. Monaghan’s passion for the sport was so powerful that those who pass by the pitch late at night swear they can hear the pock pock pock of his stick striking the ball. One blustery evening, long after the season was over, a local fellow, yes it was the butcher, no it wasn’t McAllister’s, the one we don’t go to anymore since ma took ill. It’s not important. The butcher took a shortcut across the pitch and heard the sound of Monahan warming up—pock pock pock, pock pock pock—even though the field was empty and the sky was as dark as a dungeon. As our man was crossing the middle of the pitch he felt something come up against his foot. No, it didn’t hurt, it was just a nudge, and when he looked down he saw a ball at his feet so he did. He picked it up and gave it a gander but it wasn’t a ball at all but a mass of skin and hair and teeth that gave the poor fellow—yes, the butcher—a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. Well, of course, he was used to looking at bits of meat and bone and other oddments from his work at the butcher’s shop but when he looked down to see what it was he held in his hand he beheld an eye beholding him. Monaghan’s eye. Now I don’t need to tell you that… No, just the one eye. It doesn’t matter what color the eye was because… It was brown, yes, like your mother’s, the very same. Yes, of course, I miss her, sure I do, but she’s… With Monaghan? Ah, no, she’s… No, no, no, she’s not at the pitch with Monaghan. She’d have no reason to be there. My eyes? There’s nothing the matter with my eyes, son. They’re as dry as… What’s this? A tooth! In my eye! My toothy eye! Now quit your squealing and get yourself to sleep…  


Jim Ruland is the LA Times bestselling author of Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records. He also co-authored My Damage with Keith Morris, the founding vocalist of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and OFF! and Do What You Want with Bad Religion. Ruland has won awards from Reader’s Digest and the National Endowment for the Arts and his work has appeared in many magazines. His new novel, Make It Stop, which will be published by Rare Bird Books in April 2023.

Sound of Silence by Stephen McGowan

Punk Noir Magazine

“Hi Rita, how’s your father?”

Rita was moving through the market, lost in thought. She turned to the speaker – a small balding man behind a stall of old books.

“Hi Colin.” she said.

“Dad’s his usual self. We’re keeping him home, but he’s taken a couple of swings at the nurse with his cane. We’ve got a meeting tomorrow about going into care.”

Colin’s eyes slipped past her, over her shoulder. He frowned.

“But…isn’t he there?” he said.

Rita turned and saw her father hobbling through the crowded market, past the fish stalls, the knock off clothing stalls, and the cheap toy stalls. He didn’t react when Rita caught his arm. Didn’t answer when she called his name. He stared past the stalls, past the crowds, past the docks and the sea beyond. He squinted and held a hand up to his eyes.

“Dad?” Rita said.

“Dad we’ve got to get you home.”

Her father didn’t look at her. He pointed to the sea with his cane, swaying slightly.

“There.” he said.

“What are you looking at Dad?” asked Rita.

He jabbed the cane.

“There.” he said fiercely.

“What do…” Rita’s words failed.

So did everybody else’s. The bustling marketplace had become silent. People grasped their throats, opened their mouths wide but nothing at all came out. Like a wave, they realised that words were not the only things that had lost their sound. The seagulls weren’t squawking at forgotten food. The dogs weren’t barking at their owners. The sea wasn’t lapping at the shore. Rita took the cane from his unresisting hands and hit it against the metal poles of a stall. Nothing.

People ran, they flapped their hands as they did so, screaming silence from useless lips. Rita turned to grab her father’s arm again. This time the old man looked at her. He mouthed something to her with urgency in his wild eyes. He shook his arms out of her grasp and knelt, clasping his hands over his ears tightly. He lowered his head to ground. Rita stood there unsure and scared. She bent to pull him up and then it hit.

A wall of sound that bowled her over. It was almost tangible, like a hurricane that swept through the market. It rattled the stalls and shattered car windows, and suddenly Rita could hear. Every sound that was missing had come back all at once and it was too much. It grew in intensity and Rita saw that others were kneeling too and rocking back and forth. Blood was leaking from their ears, and nose, and lips. She looked at her father. He wasn’t moving but rivulets of scarlet flowed from him. Rita looked out to sea. She could feel her bones rattle and her tongue tasted of copper. She raised a hand to her lips. There was blood there.

The second wave hit. But no-one was left to hear it.


Stephen McGowan is an emerging poet and author from the North East UK. He is currently studying creative writing as a mature student at Northumbria University. He is yet to be published for his fiction. His poetry has been published by the university’s OnEdge Magazine. 

Jed by Justin Lee

Flash Fiction, Horror

I wake up every morning to Jed looking down on me. The lights are off. The bright screen from a monitor illuminates Jed’s grin. He sits down in the chair next to my bed. I think he sits so close so he can tell me things.

I don’t know how long I’ve been in this hospital room. Nor do I know why I can’t talk. How I wish I could. I think I would just scream. Scream until I can’t anymore.

Jed leans in close.

“I’m so lucky to have gotten you assigned to me. You are such a great listener.” Jed said as he turned the TV on.

“Let me tell you what I did to Sally. I’ve been putting up with so much from her. Do you know what henpecked means? I feel like she has pecked me to damn death and back.” Jed stops to a drink from the water my nurse brought me and sits the cup back down on my bedside table.

“So today was the day. I sold her.”

He laughs.

“I mean, straight-up put her on Backpage and sold her to some fella from Gainesville. I just told him to come get her while I was out. Thank God for that. Thank God for you too.”

Jed sits back in his chair. He is still smiling.

I haven’t felt anything from my neck down in a while, but I felt cold everywhere.

“When are they getting you out of here? Is it because of your tongue or your foot?”

He chuckled a bit as he rose out of the chair.

“I guess I should go to my next little lame duck. I don’t get to talk to them like I do you. Shame.”

 I only had one chance at this. I jerked both arms toward my cup and knocked the water down on the floor.

“Shit, I didn’t know you could do all that! I guess you’re gonna need some more of that, pal.” Jed picked up my cup and walked out of the room.

I dragged my hand across the bed towards the phone. It feels like it weighs a hundred pounds. I dial 911 and pray.

“911. What is your emergency?”

I tried to say something but it just sounded like a moan.

“Sir, could you please repeat that?”

I tried again but this time all I could do was moan louder.

The door opened and Jed was standing there. He eased the door shut and walked to my bed. He hung up the phone.

“Why would you do a stupid thing like that?”, Jed said. His eyes never leave mine.

“Now, what am I supposed to do with you?”

He is standing over me again. His grin is bigger now than I have ever seen. He grabbed a pillow from the foot of the bed and held it over my face. My body convulsed.

The last thing I heard was, “Your daughter is going to love that Gainesville boy.”


Justin Lee lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two sons. He is an ex-correctional officer
and is working towards becoming a Social Worker. His writing has appeared in Punk Noir
Magazine and Reckon Review.