Welcome to today. But wait, it's different.
The platform beneath my shoes vibrates with the approach of a train, though none is scheduled for the next three minutes. Curious, I lean forward to look down the track; the other occupants of the platform are too absorbed in their cell phones to notice. A cold breeze stirs the pleated hem of my skirt and chills my knees.
Two lights appear around the bend, strangely dim and greenish. The roar intensifies, breeze flashing from cold to hot and smelling faintly of tea and spices. My parents adopted the skeleton when I was ten. It was normal to have a skeleton by then, resurrected from an animal, or a combo, that were dead for at least fifteen years. Don't even try to resurrect something that still had skin. That's why the guy who invented the process was dead. At least that's what my teacher said. So now they just resurrect bones, and the little bit of feeling and memories or whatever inside them that was left. They were honestly kind of dopey, she said. Sometimes you got the feeling that they wanted to say something, but that was just projection. They don't, she said.
Anyway, they got me one when I got sick. Actually they got me one when I was sick enough to have to stay in bed. I guess I'd been sick for a while. It was about the size of a bear, and was probably mostly a bear, though its head was big and it had a tail. They brought it to my bed like I should be excited, but I wasn't. It's not cool to have the newest pet if you don't go outside to show it off. It was just creepy. It didn't even play fetch or shake or roll over. It just sat by my bed. Its hinges and wires glittered and it made weird creaking and knocking noises when it walked around. It wandered around my room like a huge, tired dog. The vegetable woman at the Saturday farmer's market is completely mad.
She laughs for no reason at all, and her dirty fingernails and Brillo hair make her look like a street person; but her romaine, her leeks and peas, are the largest and sweetest in the entire market. So we buy from her, my girlfriends and I, nodding politely at her bizarre mutterings, scurrying away with our change and our bags of goodies. Max had the worst malady any middle school kid could have: he was different. Not different in a visible way; teachers at least tried to quash that kind of teasing. They were less proactive about protecting students that could see into the future, even a mere ten seconds.
Ten seconds of precognition was hardly the most useful gift in the world. Max could predict the answers to questions the teacher asked during class, but not on tests. Knowing where the kickball was going didn't keep him from being picked last every time. And being innately difficult to prank only made him a favorite target. I twist the tiny cog into place, my old-too-soon fingers gnarled, golden brown and cracked, but true. Complete, I turn the miniature dog over in my hands, the brass and copper of its construction shining in the late afternoon sun. I lift it to my lips, breathe softly into its mechanized heart and it stirs, shifts, and wags.
The girl reaches out a greedy hand, eyes alight with wonder and I smile, place the wriggling clockwork puppy on her palm. She hugs it to herself, teeth white in a smile of innocence and immediate love. "I'm so sorry."
As the words slipped from Jane's mouth, another blue Line of Apology on her arm disappeared in a searing--but brief--slice of pain. She only had ten Apology Lines left. Most people her age had blue streaks marking their arms all the way to shoulder. The smallest witch hung over the banister, her whole body forming an arc of yearning, as the first of her mother's friends arrived for their annual feast.
I have three uncles, but one of them is dead.
He's the funny one. The cloud dragon ate red balloons and was angry. That a beast of his stature should have to rend paltry rubber when soccer fields everywhere rolled with earnest boys... the dragon itself roiled in anguish. His very substance was forever buoyed above the morsel heads he craved, perpetually positioned with an excellent view of the denied buffet--the cloud dragon would hover over playgrounds and eviscerate himself into a thousand white feathers as blithe boys monkeyed on swings, obliviously competing to place their sandy toes within his ephemeral jaws. The wispy shards of his being would scatter in frustration to reconvene elsewhere, someplace principled and resolutely unpeopled, usually far above frosty seas or sober Alps. High in the stratosphere the cloud dragon would assemble the shifting flakes of his scales. Drifting back toward land, coiling and uncoiling the mist of his long, reptilian shape in mute hostility, whiskers steaming, the dragon wished again for the weight of silver teeth.
I was working on a still-life when I discovered the paint in my veins.
My grandmother disappeared one hot summer afternoon into the movie screen at the Alhambra Theater. She was watching the Shirley Temple movie, Bright Eyes, and connected with the movie so deeply, just had to up and join in all its wholesome fun. Casting off her winter coat, she vacated her red velvet theater seat and walked right up to and through the great silver screen into a new life, all her troubles left behind.
An uncle of mine, a confirmed bachelor, loved watching baseball on his TV. He daydreamed about being a part of the big show; fielding flies from Jensen and Williams, launching fast balls out of the park like the Babe, laughing it up in the dugout when Yogi spouted one of his -isms; finally making the pros after all his years of sand-lot failure. So one rainy Sunday afternoon, he jumped out of his favorite wingback chair and climbed right inside the black and white Sylvania Console, leaving a smoldering cigar and half empty beer bottle behind, and his neighbors none the wiser. The first time you got lost, I thought you were just light-headed with the heat. We laughed it off as I drove you home. When you forgot our neighbor's name, I just shrugged. Wasn't it hard for a man your age to keep track of the names of everyone he knew? When you forgot our son's, I said it was nothing. But we both knew we couldn't keep lying.
Just one more hill and I would be home. As I topped the rise, the county sheriff's car filled my vision, parked in my driveway. My 14-year-old was babysitting his sister for the first time. What happened?
I pulled onto the grass, jumped out of the car, and sprinted toward the house. The door opened as I approached. "You snagged this place for 250k? In the city?" Selma runs her index finger along my sleek granite countertops, then practically fondles the pullout sprayer in my farmhouse sink. "It's got everything!"
"You're gonna die when you see my walk-in closet." I swallow the smug smile I'm giving my BFF. Or at least I try to. "It's got mahogany built-ins and--" Anthony Nance glares at me like my hair is on fire and I've got worms coming out of my ears. I toss him a smug grin, then stir my finger around the stale ice cube melting in my glass of Bombay Sapphire and Diet Orange Shasta.
"That's an abomination," he says. I asked Tommy again about the zombies in his basement. He snorted so hard I thought boogers would fly out of his short, ugly, freckled nose.
"They ain't so bad," he sneered, "Mostly they just shuffle around in circles, but sometimes Ma has 'em doing laundry." He wiped at his nose using the sleeve of his flannel shirt. "What you got?" I looked up from my bio notes to see some blonde girl grinning at me.
"Yo, Moria!" she said. "Fancy meeting you here." Felix bumps into me and I drop my rock. An embarrassing sound caws from my stupid throat. Over a rock. But I can't help it. I need my rock. Mom calls it a worry stone. I have a bunch of them--different worries, different shapes. Different colors. The one Felix knocked from my grasp is gray with black spots: my Dalmatian rock. I use it to make me invisible to kids like Felix. Perhaps it worked too well. Felix kicks my rock down the hallway, sneers. Says, "Freak," and pushes past me. I chase after my treasure, wipe it clean on my jeans and tuck it in my pocket. By the time I reach English class, the rock is back in my palm, my fingers curled around its curves, my thumb rubbing soothing circles on its favorite facet. I zone out, forget about Felix, let the rock work its magic. My spell isn't a complete success. Mr. Hathaway wants to see me after class. It's about my Robert Louis Stevenson essay.
"There aren't any dragons in Treasure Island." Mr. Hathaway's eyes are confused: the right one is concerned; the left suspicious. Hasagawa pressed the paper against the table with a delicate precision, creating a clean diagonal fold. The square of paper seemed to morph in front of him as he carefully turned, folded and crimped it between his dexterous fingers. Beside him his grandson, Taro, gazed on with the sincere awe only young children are capable of.
A distant explosion shook the foundations of Hasegawa's small house, rocking the table at which he worked. They were getting more frequent these days and alarmingly, he was becoming accustomed to them. It started with a sudden surge of emergency-room visits: broken collarbones, severe abrasions to faces, knees, and elbows. Media attention became acute when the Prime Minister of Australia, a man both fit and environmentally aware, was flung to the bike path after his pants cuff became snarled in the chain of his mountain bike as he rode to work. Freakishly, the cuff was released at exactly the right moment to allow his momentum to carry him into the chilly July waters of Lake Burley Griffin.
The conflict quickly escalated. Cars were found dented and scratched, headlights broken, the tracks of thin tires making mocking patterns across windscreens and bonnets. Packs of feral bicycles rose from landfills and creek beds and rolled, lawless, through suburban towns, terrorizing pedestrians and turning rush-hour commutes into battlegrounds. Every family has a secret magic tucked away in a dusty attic or hidden between the words of a handed-down story. This box is ours. It doesn't look like much, but it's been in our family for a long time. After my mother's death, I found it in her attic with a notebook inside. Now I'll leave the box for Rebecca. I hope she won't just think it an old woman's fancy.
My mother kept scraps of fabric. I was surprised to see neither a trace of fading nor a moth hole. The tiny bits could have been snipped free from their dresses yesterday. I will confess. I didn't believe her words, until I touched one of the pieces. I won't tell Rebecca what I saw. I'll let her discover that herself. Hope grabbed at the railing as the surge of people pushed her off-balance. She hung on as she made her way down the rain-slick subway stairs, exhaling with relief at the bottom. The crowd carried her into the station, where she stuck her token in the turnstile and headed toward the A-train track.
Another dull, tedious cubicle day, another nasty bit in a crowd of smelly strangers--and the same commute back to that boring old apartment. Hope sighed as her thoughts spun. The train thundered in with a rush of stale air, and she stepped through the doors as they shushed open. Greta sat cross-legged on the attic floor, the pink balloon tugging upward at her wrist as she stared slit-eyed at the age-grayed wooden door. Per the regulations, it was barred from the outside by a beam no less than three inches thick, held in place with a shiny gray combination lock. Her clock, the one from her bedroom that was shaped like an elephant, carved away seconds with almost-silent ticks. In thirteen hours and thirty-two minutes, Greta's birthday would be over and she would be allowed to leave.
Late morning light yawned between the bars over the attic's tiny window, throwing narrow slats across the carpet, over a pile of books Greta had read long ago, against the face of a refrigerator filled with snacks and drinks. The refrigerator didn't contain any cake. It didn't contain any candles. It certainly didn't contain any matches. The living room had the usual appearance of Christmas aftermath, as though a herd of many-trunked elephants had rushed through, grabbed anything wrapped in paper, ripped the paper off, tossed it on the floor, then stomped on it. The multi-colored twinkly lights on the Christmas tree reflected from scraps of foil paper and the firework bursts of discarded metallic ribbon.
Emma's older sister Alice had carried her new supply of glam clothes and trending devices up to her room. Emma's younger brothers Oliver and Lowell had raced outside with their new Razor electric scooters, leaving the rest of their gifts in staggering stacks by the couch where they had unwrapped them. Ben sat at the bar, eyes drifting drunkenly across couples sitting at darkened booths. Odds flicked through his head, some more rapidly than others, and numbers practically overlaid the couples he watched. He took another sip of bourbon, hoping to burn them away.
The bartender tipped his head toward him, the question plain. Ben raised a finger and nodded. Another glass of the cheap, honey-colored bourbon appeared, neat. No use watering it down. As I was sailing the Wine-Faced Sea, I found myself passing an island which appeared on no charts. I asked a woman who sat on the beach where I was.
"This is the Isle of the Ones that Got Away," she told me. "Whenever anyone thinks of an old flame, and wonders what that old flame is doing now, the answer is that they have ended up here, and are living a life of bliss." Prints made Monet's work look flat. Inside the museum, the thick paint shimmered with roundness and ripples.
Inside the painting, I was drowning. When the Sandman returns, Susan knows it. On Tuesday night, after she puts Liam to bed and slips under the duvet beside Neil (already snoring, bless him), she dreams of a swan. The bird's feathers are silver-bright, and it glides down a current of crystal-clear water, and in the distance a boat is waiting.
She wakes in the morning with an ache in her heart, and dust in the corners of her eyes. I bring back photos of my dreams--a crumbling well, a four-winged bird, a city made of glass. I find them in my phone the next morning. It's always been this way.
You were the only person I told. I remember that Sunday afternoon, when you scrolled through your pictures and showed me your friends. My heart was a chambered round. It was coming. But that's how I knew you were the one: when I showed you the photos of the red-sand beach, where people tall as houses and slender as storks play their games with sticks and dice, you only sighed and whispered, Show me more. I figured the new boy would have trouble making friends. He sat alone on a swing, holding his open sketchbook and chewing on a yellow pencil. Around him, other children played tag, climbed on the jungle gym, or scrambled aboard the school's pride--an elaborate wooden fort with towers, rope ladders, and a playhouse. The whole community had built the fort with locally donated funds, and it still smelled like new wood. The boy squinted, looked at the fort, and started drawing. He reminded me of myself years ago, on other playgrounds in dozens of places.
I wasn't usually a playground monitor. The art teacher was out with chicken pox, of all things, so I'd volunteered for her shift. I felt awkward with older kids. The fifth and sixth graders grew up a lot faster than I remembered. Three of the girls wore mascara, and I'd already stopped a bra-snapping incident involving ten-year-olds. When the game of tag turned into tackle, I broke it up, wishing for the safety of my kindergartners' finger painting. I unscrewed the bulb from the lamp. It rattled. "It's dead."
"What's dead?" my daughter asked. Yan patted down the coffee and slotted it into the machine. He put his hand on the emotional filter plate and tried to think gentle thoughts through the hiss of steam. The customer had asked for soothing, normally one of Yan's specialties, but it was hard to keep calm with the air conditioning broken and the orders rushing in.
He wrinkled his face as sweat beaded at the tip of his nose. She sits in a dusty corner of the glass and chrome spaceport, offering solace to everyone. Beings of all shapes and sizes bustle past. Most are tired, lonely. All have need of what she offers.
She holds solace in a delicate porcelain bowl, fine and fragile between her palms. The sweet, clear liquid steams. It smells different to everyone. To her, it smells like roses and chocolate and cool spring rain. He twitches when she sets the tip of her pen against his naked flesh, almost as if he knows what she's about to do to him. But of course that's impossible. She has never told anyone about this. About how she looks at a person, looks at him, and all she can see are words. Right there. Right under the skin. His skin, which she scratches with a long, slow line until her pen hooks the end of the word she's after. She writes it, one looping letter at a time, pulling it right out of him and onto his shoulder. Just the one word. It has been stuck in him for a long time, in a place where he had probably thought he could hide it.
She doesn't mean to go on. From the very start, when she first suggested she would like to write on him, it had always been about finding that one single word and showing it to him, proving she knew it had been there all along, like a secret self. One word that defined him completely, encompassing every aspect of his being. But the first word pulls a second behind it, a partner, no less meaningful than its companion, no less pertinent to who he is, so she writes it as well. Then the two bear a third. She can't ignore it. She adds it. She doesn't even have to lift the pen. She's not afraid of him--he can smell it on her, the lack of fear. He's bigger than a regular dog, his fur matted in places, his eyes too bright and teeth too sharp. He is, in a word, a huge ugly dog. But she doesn't care.
He is used to being feared: people scream when he comes near. This is new. We knew the witch was dead when her cat showed up on our doorstep. Mom found him sitting patiently beside the morning's milk delivery, like he was waiting for his share of the cream. She only called to Dad, but the tone of her voice got us both up from the breakfast table until we all stood in the entryway to stare at the cat.
"You poor thing," Mom said, wrapping both the cat and his former mistress up in one expression of pity. "Won't you come in?" The cat took the invitation and stepped over the threshold of our house, weaving between Mom's ankles in a figure eight of appreciation. My father leaned down to pet him, and I heard the murmur of his voice as he spoke to the cat. Whatever he said seemed to satisfy the cat, who then made his way to me. I reached down and ran my hand along his back, which struck up a low, deep purr from his chest. Mom gathered up the milk bottles, Dad closed the front door, and the two of them shared a look. Bobby is the first off the school bus. He always sits in the front seat on the right; first, because the driver can offer some protection, and second, because he can get out quickly.
He does not look behind him. He can feel their gazes. Every year, I get two letters from Nainai, my grandmother: one for my birthday, one for Christmas.
A disk-shaped crystal sits on my desk: about an inch in diameter, a quarter of an inch thick, heavier than it looks. In the four o'clock sun on this New England winter afternoon, it scatters the light in rainbow-hued bands to the ceiling and dark corners of the room. Charlie picked up a pencil and drew a tree. The tree spread wide over a desert and Charlie sensed that animals off the edge of the page craved that shade. So he made them. Not just sketched their shapes but created them. He reached down to that part of him that tweaked each time he grabbed a pen and drew the animals into animation, actual moving beings with a motivation all their own. Pencil elephants, cheetahs--and there, a lizard--trampled the hard ground, padded across hot sand, skittered over flat rocks. The boy watched, fascinated, as they hurried across his notebook paper to huddle under the tree. The tree that he drew, that he imagined.
In an adjacent room with a thick glass window, the boy's parents stood. They were like bees at the honeycomb, vibrating and crowding each other. The mother put her hand on the father's arm and he looked at her through his glasses. Simon regarded the present his Gran had sent him for his fifteenth birthday. The little jar was filled with a sticky-looking grayish paste. He twisted the lid hard to get it off, and took a tentative sniff. The stuff smelled of old-person, although running underneath that was something faintly sweet, like lily perhaps. It reminded him of Laura--the lily part, not the old-person part.
Foot cream? That would be a new low in the present stakes even for Gran. Gran never forgot a birthday, and a parcel always turned up from wherever in the world she happened to be (this one was postmarked Patagonia), but her presents had become increasingly bizarre. Last year it had been a box of tissues, beautifully wrapped. Awesome. The year before she'd sent matchbox cars, obviously forgetting how old Simon really was. Gran was a hundred and five now, so Simon guessed it was par for the geriatric course. Maybe it was pimple-cream? Unfortunately, that at least would be a useful present. Public Alley 434 hides secrets. Boxes full of former lives guard the entrance, cloaking magic in the mundane. It is here the Magician of Words plies his trade, hidden between the back walls of the old brownstones, behind the facades of things that are what they seem to be.
You think to seek him out, be other than you are? Beware what he can do--you cannot know what you will get, where the spell will take you. Are you not content with your lot? But contentment has nothing to do with it; it is the spell itself which draws you, the magic of illusion. Demons have been coming to our home for some time now. At first it was terrifying, but now it's just a nuisance--like squat and scarified Jehovah's Witnesses.
Charles was pretty rattled by it. He demanded an explanation and having no one else to turn to, directed this demand at me. Maybe he looked to me because I just sort of took it in stride. They have him mislabeled as "mixed-breed" at the shelter, but you recognize him for what he is. More importantly, he recognizes you. The other dogs are doing tricks and throwing themselves at the people walking past. They're begging for attention. He hangs back, waiting, but when you pass his enclosure he gets up to leave as if it's already decided.
He's too arthritic to jump into your car, so you lift him. He sits on the back seat and braces against the movement. You open the window partway since there's no danger of him jumping out. He leans his head on the sill and breathes deeply, taking in the smells. At home, you count his fatty tumors, feed him supplements for his joints. He leans his white head against your leg. He's too deaf to hear that you're calling him Merlin, Merle for short. My first total eclipse, Munich International Airport. A fortunate layover on a hectic business trip to Europe.
The moon has already carved an enormous black bite from the disc of the sun, leaving a thin, white crescent that slowly shrinks as I watch. Just before the crescent vanishes completely, it flares up in four bright dots--Bailey's Beads--which wink out, one by one, in quick succession. The last spills a hot circle of light around the silhouette of the moon before it, too, sputters out and the corona appears, dancing and flickering like the ghost of the sun. "Most people can't even see this place." The alley librarian leaned against a five-foot-high stack of wooden pallets like a makeshift counter. He wore a lumpy no-color knit cap pulled low on his forehead, and he had the sallow skin of a meth addict and bloodshot eyes the color of weak tea, but when he grinned, he showed off a headful of shiny white teeth. "They just walk right by."
I stood dazzled, gazing at the books filling the trash bins and piled on the ground all around us, stacked sideways on makeshift shelves constructed from crushed beer cans and empty milk cartons. The volumes were all different sizes, but otherwise had much in common: greasy-looking black covers and titles written in lines of fire that writhed. "So... why can I see it, then?" The cubicle witch lives on the thirteenth floor of my office building deep within the accounting section. I think she may have been an accountant once, but those days are long behind her. Her 10x10 gray-carpeted workspace is filled with owl beaks, bat ears, dodo eggs, and mermaid tears. Instead of a computer she has a cauldron filled with bubbling green liquid that smells like expired miso soup but supposedly tastes like Sprite. She trades spells, good luck charms, and hexes for things you might not want to give.
Before he was The Great Bellini he was just plain old Malcolm Bell. He had a knack for magic tricks--illusions, he called them--and what had been a hobby became a profession. He met Patricia when he selected her from the audience to assist with a trick, married her within a month, and remained passionately in love with her until the auto accident took her from him a decade later.
It was when Mordecai the Magnificent came over from England and began drawing huge audiences--audiences that used to pay to see Bellini--that he reconstructed Mordecai's greatest illusions, performed them on television, and then, ostensibly to prove that there was truly nothing magical about them, showed the viewers exactly how they worked. This is what everybody knows about the Midnight Knock:
It doesn't always come at midnight. We call it the Midnight Knock out of tradition. Or laziness, which amounts to the same thing. Night air rushed through hard-fingered trees. Branches tap-tap-tapped at Jenny's window almost as Jack used to, before the war.
Melancholy, she raised the sash as she had back then, half expecting him to clamber over the sill, laughing, defying her sisters. He flinches at the touch of sharp, cool metal against his shoulder. Only once and then he stills, holding himself motionless for her. She begins slowly, dragging the nib over his skin, leaving tracks that chill him as the ink dries. He shuts his eyes and focuses on the movement of the pen upon his flesh, but he can't be sure of the letters she's writing.
A shudder runs down his spine as she finishes the first word with a flourish, a strange sensation of relief like the purging of a wound as she pulls it from him and lays it out on his skin. "This is your problem, right here." The plumber's deep voice resounded from beneath the maintenance hatch by the main pool at Cascade Reef waterpark. "You've only got one troll left. For a pool this big, you need fifty minimum, seventy-five if you want everything to run smoothly."
"Pardon?" shouted Anita Westegard, the owner. "I only have one of what left?" On Monday, Avalonia Joia stormed into my office, shut the door behind herself, and sat in the chair across from my desk, all without saying a word. She crossed her arms and sighed. Her hair was long and golden, her eyes were opalescent and her skin was as clear as day. She had never been called to my office before, but that didn't mean I didn't know exactly who she was when I saw the name on the principal's note. Everyone knew who she was.
"Hi, you must be Avalonia," I faked a smile. "My name is Ms. Kaley, and I'm the guidance counselor. My job is to talk to students, see how they are doing--" "Until now, vengeful ghosts have been documented in history but never seen by science," said General Kilborne as he led the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff into the forward bunker. "The army has known about them for years. We've studied the types of persons and the mindset that produces a violent, motivated spirit. Today you will see our first field test of the technology."
The Secretary of Defense, a large and solidly built man despite his age, looked out the two-inch thick blast windows that revealed a stretch of desert, bookended by a line of trees on the left and the city on the right. Between them, several hundred yards of heat-baked sand without a hint of cover shimmered in the sun. Bullets and mortars scarred the buildings. Broken windows stared blackly onto the waste. He glanced at the men filling the room, a serious, dour crowd. The war had dragged on for years against what the press had dubbed the "perpetual insurgency," an enemy that ambushed and booby-trapped and melted away in the face of superior force. Impossible to engage. Impossible to defeat. Across the tracks from the train platform, a dog barked into a cell phone lying on the sidewalk, a small brown dog that might have had some Cocker Spaniel in its lineage, but was otherwise undistinguished. My briefcase hung heavily, and I was afraid to shift it to the other hand. I had already smacked the woman's shins beside me once. So many commuters stood on the platform that I couldn't move away. In her grey pantsuit and severe expression, she looked ready to chop me off at the knees for breathing too loud.
She spoke suddenly. "We're not letting them off the hook with that interest rate." Grant drove. Mel had the back seat and Hart took shotgun.
Mel snorted. "Sign looks like a coat-of-arms." Natasha needed new things to grow on, like the fertilizer she spread in her garden.
She and Curtis had an old place in a hip and trendy neighborhood, being hip and trendy themselves; Curtis needed a big house for his studio and to accommodate his band.
Welcome to today. But wait, it's different.
by Rachael Acks
Published on Jul 23, 2013
by Leslie Jane Anderson
Published on Jan 22, 2015
by Teri J. Babcock
Published on Jul 24, 2015
by Scott W. Baker
Published on Dec 26, 2011
by Michael Banker
***Editor's Note: Adult Language appears in this story. You've been warned.***
Alyssa held out her hand and watched the sunlight leak through her fingers. Not ordinary sunlight; certainly not like anything she had ever gleaned from a Physics textbook. It looked like faintly iridescent, golden foam, and she could clearly see it drifting onto her palm like snow and then dripping through the cracks of her fingers. The air glowed with it. Pockets of congealed light collected on the pavement before evaporating or melting away. The effect was subtle enough that if Alyssa tilted her head just so, it would disappear, like rain viewed against a dark backdrop. But even in those moments, the air still sparkled as if concealing a secret.
Published on Mar 6, 2012
by Alan Baxter
Published on Dec 25, 2012
by Kathryn Felice Board
Published on Aug 1, 2013
by Story Boyle
***Editor's Warning: Mature language and situations in the story that follows***
"Look sideways to see 'em, Ben. You can't catch 'em straight on. Like this," India lowered her head, eyes drifting groundward.
Published on Jul 3, 2012
by Stephanie Burgis
Published on May 30, 2014
by Stephanie Burgis
Published on May 4, 2012
by Tom Cardamone
Published on Mar 14, 2011
by Gwendolyn Clare
Published on Mar 22, 2011
by G. O. Clark
Published on Jan 11, 2016
by Cécile Cristofari
Published on Jul 2, 2013
by Jennifer Della'Zanna
Published on Mar 9, 2016
by Nicky Drayden
Published on Jun 13, 2015
by Nicky Drayden
Published on Mar 29, 2013
by Jasmine Fahmy
Her eleventh birthday came and went, with no sign of a Hogwarts letter. But that was okay. Hogwarts was in the UK, so why would they send her a letter? There must be another magical school in America, and they probably took older students.
Published on May 21, 2012
Published on Sep 3, 2015
by Shannon Fay
Published on Apr 18, 2012
by H. L. Fullerton
Published on Oct 24, 2014
by Marcus Gallagher-Jones
Published on Apr 3, 2014
by Laura E. Goodin
Published on Nov 22, 2011
by Damien Walters Grintalis
Published on Jun 28, 2013
by Lee Hallison
Published on Apr 26, 2011
by Erin M. Hartshorn
I sat on the green bench watching the kids at the playground. Not mine. Never mine. But my niece and my two nephews ran up slides and jumped down stairs and raced across bridges and climbed up the outside of equipment that had surely never been meant for that. "I don't know how you manage," I said softly to Geena, my sister-in-law. "I knew your family could hear the Call. Knew it when I married Ash. It didn't surprise me when he got up and walked out in the middle of dinner. I just hope he's all right, wherever he is."
Published on May 14, 2012
by Michael Haynes
and thinks about what she's seen.
Kelly signs for possession of the fireproof box and wonders what her mother had felt the need to protect. No jewelry, that all would have been hocked years ago--cigarette money. Back when they still talked, Kelly always told her mom the cigarettes would kill her.
Published on Oct 4, 2012
by Jeffrey John Hemenway
Published on Sep 20, 2013
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Published on Jul 19, 2012
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
***Editor's Note: One incident of mature language in the following tale***
My best friend, Ben, is dead. We still hang. Not too many other people can see or hear him--just little kids and animals, and an occasional weirdo, so Ben is kind of stuck with me, which works for me. We do most things together.
Published on Oct 30, 2012
by D.K. Holmberg
Published on May 26, 2015
by James Hutchings
Published on Feb 3, 2011
by M.K. Hutchins
Published on Apr 21, 2014
by Jess Hyslop
Published on Apr 4, 2013
by KJ Kabza
Published on Mar 5, 2015
by Vylar Kaftan
Published on Jan 24, 2014
by Andrew Kaye
Published on Mar 1, 2012
by Andrew Knighton
Published on Mar 11, 2014
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Even though her parents had always told her they'd come to the mortal world for the sole purpose of conceiving her, even though her childhood had been filled with fairy tales in which she was the chosen one, even seeing their glamour, Kim had never fully believed them. Because the alternative, that she was the first fairy born into the mortal world since the gate closed, was crazy. She gestured at the parchment. "Can I see it?"
Published on Sep 17, 2010
by Jamie Lackey
Published on Mar 29, 2012
by Terra LeMay
***Editor's Warning: Not for the faint of heart***
The unicorn hunters looked like addicts. Like Shay's brother Eddie and Eddie's friends. Not the way Eddie and his friends looked when they were high, but sketchy and haggard, the way they looked when Eddie's hook-up fell through or when nobody had any cash or when cops were watching the house. They huddled around a campfire, a few yards away from the tent where Shay was supposed to be learning how to do his new job.
Published on Apr 26, 2013
by Terra LeMay
Published on Mar 29, 2011
by Terra LeMay
Published on Nov 1, 2011
by Gerri Leen
Published on Jun 22, 2015
by Kalisa Ann Lessnau
Published on Sep 5, 2013
by Ken Liu
Published on Jun 12, 2013
by Ken Liu
Published on Oct 15, 2015
by Henry Lu
My hand is in the firm clutch of my mother's, my steps timid alongside her sure stride. I am almost as tall as her shoulders. "Caroline, keep your head up," my mother reminds me.
Published on Oct 29, 2012
by Brynn MacNab
***Editor's Note: Adult language and adult story***
He stood momentarily lost in the heavy beat of the club, lights and bass line pulsing together. On stage longhaired boys screamed and writhed and clutched their guitars, while a mass of bodies bounced before them. Nearer Rob, by the bar, a few sweaty lonely folks had peeled off from the crowd to converse in shouts and homemade sign language.
Published on Feb 14, 2014
by Sadie Mattox
Published on Dec 27, 2011
by Samantha Murray
Published on Jun 10, 2013
by Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jun 14, 2012
by Shannon Peavey
***Editor's Note: Mature themes lie within these walls***
The baby in the north-side wall of Laura's apartment never cries during the earthquakes. Other times it will scream and wail loud enough to keep her up at night, even with a pillow over her ears--but when the shaking starts it quiets. Like it's being rocked to sleep.
Published on May 30, 2013
by Hamilton Perez
Published on Jun 3, 2015
by Sarah Pinsker
Published on Nov 16, 2015
by Tony Pisculli
Published on Dec 19, 2013
by Tim Pratt
Published on Aug 22, 2014
by Cat Rambo
Published on Feb 10, 2011
by James Reinebold
Published on Apr 28, 2015
by Mike Resnick & Jordan Ellinger
Published on Mar 8, 2013
by Patricia Russo
Published on Jun 22, 2012
by Maggie Secara
Published on Sep 17, 2015
by Julian Mortimer Smith
The banshee is wailing. There's going to be a death tonight. We never know for sure who it's going to be, but my money's on Mrs. Johnson. Over the last few days something's felt different about her. She's already elsewhere, no longer present in her crumbling body.
Published on Aug 6, 2015
by Allison Starkweather
Published on Mar 28, 2011
by David Steffen
Published on Nov 13, 2012
by Tori Stubbs
"How's work, Bill?" Jessa asked leaning onto the bar top. "It's work," I mumbled, slumping down into my usual stool. Every day it's the same tedious job, same stuck up boss, and same dull lunch. And every night it's the same bar, same stool, and same usual people.
Published on Aug 17, 2015
by Tori Stubbs
Published on Nov 25, 2016
by Natalia Theodoridou
"So, uh, I've been meaning to ask. What's that?" He pointed at the fletching that poked out of a hole in her blouse, a few inches from her chest. It almost dipped in her bowl every time she bent to take a spoonful of soup. She shrugged and looked away. "An arrow."
Published on Oct 8, 2015
by Lavie Tidhar
There were two sea stars in the rubbish that morning. They lay on the ground alongside an opened tin of pickled gherkins, two paperback books with the covers torn off, a bunched-up newspaper with last week's headlines, an empty box of tampons, and a chair missing two of its legs.
Published on Jan 10, 2011
by James Van Pelt
***Editor's Note: Adult story. Mature themes. Not for the wee ones***
The Japanese do the cool stuff and worst stuff first. They're the fad makers: video games, reality TV, bizarre game shows, weirdness in fashion, hentai, must-own electronics--they do it first. So, Experience Arcades came from them.
Published on Sep 22, 2015
by James Van Pelt
Published on Sep 9, 2016
by James Van Pelt
Published on May 6, 2011
by Sean Vivier
Published on Sep 28, 2011
by Pam L. Wallace
It was time to let him go. She did him no favors by clinging. He'd made her promise to remember their joy and not dwell on the sorrow. They'd made more than enough memories to last her until they were together again.
Published on Oct 21, 2010
by M.O. Walsh
The truth, these people claim, is much simpler: They say we’ve merely been living like dolts down here all these centuries, down here at ground level, because there’s magic up there in the Strat.
Published on Oct 5, 2010
by Sophie Wereley
Dear Ena, I've just learned that my father has been embezzling money from our business for the past three years. I found out when my own paycheck bounced, and now I can't pay my rent. The business is in the hole almost $20,000. Any ideas on how I can make a quick buck? And how can I begin to repair this relationship?
Published on Jan 27, 2015
by Brian Winfrey
High overhead, thick smog commingled with harsh California sunlight, staining the horizon the dull brown of a broken heart. In the hundred-degree heat, sightseers abandoned their searches for the pink terrazzo stars of cinema giants like Lassie and Erik Estrada and fled gasping into the climate-controlled comfort of the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex. I checked my watch. Less than a minute to spare. The blonde in the crème pantsuit was nearly to the curb before I caught up to her. I reached into the box and offered what I found there.
Published on Nov 12, 2010
by Jill Zeller
Published on Dec 30, 2010