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Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.






Fantasy

Modern Fantasy


Welcome to today. But wait, it's different.

by Alex Acks
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.
Published on Jul 23, 2013
by Joshua Alexander
She pretended to brush the doll's hair. What once had a synthetic blonde luster was now wiry and faded. The girl, by contrast, did not even look all of her seven years. She was small for her age. She always would be. "I could get you a new one," he suggested, sitting cross-legged on the floor nearby. She smiled.
Published on Feb 25, 2021
by Laila Amado
Rain battered the walls of the castle above the ancient lake, and its pointed towers shot into the night sky aiming to pierce the heavy, bulging clouds. The stronghold stood quiet and dark, except for one window, high up in the northern turret, burning with pale amber light. Inside, the room was hot with fire from the hearth and the three children played a game of tag--a willowy girl, a boy in tartan pajamas, and a toddler with a head full of tousled ginger curls. The storm raged against the weathered stones of the keep, shook the glass in the lancet windows, but the children were not afraid--the wailing of the wind only made the game so much more tantalizing. Soon the nursery became too small for all the buzz and excitement. The gang burst out of the room and the narrow, winding staircase echoed with their laughter and the sound of small bare feet pattering down the worn steps. The squeaks and the giggles bounced off the walls, rolled around the columns, shook the tapestries, and jiggled the pendants in the crystal chandeliers. The three emerged onto the landing--breathless--and came to a halt in front of a tall, ornate door. Warm light streamed from the gap beneath it.
Published on Sep 22, 2020
by Leslie Jane Anderson
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.
Published on Jan 22, 2015
by Edward Ashton
"I love you," she said, took one step backward, and disappeared. That was the ending, I think.
Published on Apr 30, 2019
by Dani Atkinson
My mommy tells me a story. She says there can't be a monster in my closet, because monsters only hide in the closet of bad little girls. They can smell the bad things you do or think of doing or want to do, and it draws them in. Good little girls whose mommies and daddies love them don't get monsters. So I can't have a monster in my closet, can I? The end.
Published on Dec 15, 2016
by Teri J. Babcock
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.
Published on Jul 24, 2015
by Tobias Backman
The first time Jimmy Hendermann wore a dress to school it wasn't really a dress at all. It was a bright pink tutu, a stiff, bristly skirt. He wore it with a wide smile and strutted down the hall. The girls snickered behind his back, pointed fingers, and passed around notes about him during class. If Jimmy realized, he didn't care.
Published on May 14, 2019
by Scott W. Baker
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.
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 Barbara A. Barnett
Dara the Library Director sprouted the first scale during our weekly staff meeting, after I suggested a change to the Staff Favorites book display. We all tried not to notice, the way you try not to notice a pimple on the tip of someone's nose--you force your gaze away, but the damn thing keeps drawing your eye. Thick, leathery, mottled green and tapered to a sharp point, the scale was at least the size of a quarter and right on the side of Dara's neck. "Are you feeling all right?" I asked, inching my chair away. But with the entire library staff crammed around a stale-coffee-scented conference table, one could only move so far.
Published on Jul 24, 2020
by Alan Baxter
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.
Published on Dec 25, 2012
by Kathryn Felice Board
"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.
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
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.
Published on May 30, 2014
by Stephanie Burgis
I have three uncles, but one of them is dead. He's the funny one.
Published on May 4, 2012
by Tara Calaby
My husband visits a week after I am admitted to the lunatic asylum. He doesn't bring the baby. "I can't trust you with her," he says. "The things you read in the newspapers these days."
Published on Apr 3, 2020
by Tom Cardamone
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.
Published on Mar 14, 2011
by Zella Christensen
Dear Editor, I am writing in response to this publication's ludicrous attack on the age-old practice of housing monsters in school dungeons ("Monsters in our schools: Enough is enough," Mar. 2018). While I'm sure it is well-intentioned, Miss Tickal's argument that the best way to reduce monster-related deaths in schools is by removing these monsters to less densely-populated areas is dangerous and misguided. In fact, the movement to force schools to relocate their beloved dungeon denizens is just one more example of the worrying increase in federal overreach we have seen over the last several decades, starting with the revocation of teachers' right to corporal transmogrification and the demonization of innocent schoolyard duels forty years ago.
Published on Aug 27, 2018
by Gwendolyn Clare
I was working on a still-life when I discovered the paint in my veins.
Published on Mar 22, 2011
by G. O. Clark
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.
Published on Jan 11, 2016
by Cecile Cristofari
"It depends on what you feel is right for her," the lady said. "Social security can buy something short and painless. Of course you need to make all the necessary arrangements...." "What about long and painless?"
Published on Feb 17, 2017
by Ccile Cristofari
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.
Published on Jul 2, 2013
by Jennifer Della'Zanna
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.
Published on Mar 9, 2016
by Emily Dorffer
It starts innocently enough in November. A shortage of cookies and milk at the grocery store, a faint jingling at night, the lingering scent of peppermint. To the children, this means a flood of presents is right around the corner, but the adults know there's much more to it than that. Soon, people start spotting obese men dressed in red and white, their snow-white beards permanently speckled with crumbs. They know everyone's names from the most reclusive shut-ins to newborns. With little more than a glance, they know exactly how naughty or nice you've been. If you so much as jaywalk, they will know, and everyone will know they know.
Published on Dec 23, 2019
by Nicky Drayden
"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--"
Published on Jun 13, 2015
by Nicky Drayden
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.
Published on Mar 29, 2013
by Tais Teng
"They are very new, you know," he said. "Like those butterflies that sat on black trees. Because of the coaldust and smoke. Moths. Whatever. So they turned dark themselves." He was trying to charm me, calling me "love" and touching my elbow at every third word. He was also rather drunk, which made his explanation a bit hard to follow. Still, he was the only man in that Manchester pub about my own age and I was running out of time.
Published on Apr 23, 2021
by Karl El-Koura
Their four-year-old daughter came home from school saying, "Ali knows the future." Her father, Bruce Palimani, busy forming meatballs for dinner, said, "No one knows the future, my heart."
Published on Jun 4, 2021
by Timons Esaias
Darkness and uncertainty obscure the origin of the werepanda phenomenon. Another layer of confusion stems from the existence of certain trademarked gamer-world characters--the bi-pedal, flesh-eating, Chaucer-reciting monsters that first person shooters must defend the planet against. Actual werepandas have been much less simple to address. Typical reactions to werepanda attacks go like this: "I woke up, and there was this giant panda trying to get me to scratch behind her ears! And then she wanted a hug!?" Here at the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation Werecreature Desk, werepandaism has been a special challenge. First, there are no authentic folk remedies. We can't advise people to, say, rub the doorposts with garlic and hang silver around their necks. None of that works with werepandas, who will come in for the cuddle just as ruthlessly as if you hadn't bothered. Werepandas can be distracted by fresh, tasty bamboo, but that doesn't make them go away. Indeed, the next full moon you're likely to have half a dozen visitors on your hands. It is particularly concerning to law enforcement that these creatures are so disarmingly cute. People forget to call 911 when they confront a werepanda; they freely pet, groom, and hug these monsters, and no good can come from such carelessness. Just because there have been no reported violent episodes to this point doesn't mean that these abominations are safe. The shyness of werepandas, in addition to our not being called during the incidents, has made hunting down the human hosts very difficult. Only a couple of these species-unstable people have been detained and kept under observation. We do not know how werepandaism is transmitted. This fact has medical professionals deeply concerned, because the key tool in stopping any outbreak is understanding the method of infection. There is no report of blood-drinking or sexual fluid exchange, the normal vector behaviors. Contact--the hugs and scratching--doesn't seem to do it. Doctors tell us that their current fear is that werepandas spontaneously self-generate--that otherwise healthy and innocent citizens, even those with reliable voting records, just transform on their own. Some of our experts are theorizing that people afflicted with werepandasim can learn, over time, to change at will, instead of adhering to the strict lunar cycle. We have not observed that behavior in a laboratory setting, but there have been many reports of werepanda activity on regular, non-full-moon evenings. Which brings us to the very disturbing trend we've seen recently, which is small werepandas. Werewolfism and werekangarooism have never been known to develop earlier than the mid-teens. Typically the condition is an adult-onset disease. But these knee-high pandas surely suggest that the changed humans are merely children, children who are now wandering the streets at night, clinging desperately to the lower legs of total strangers. "Where are the parents?" our Health and Human Services Secretary has rightly asked. "Who lets their children mutate into hairy vegetarian monophagic monsters? Have they done nothing to stop it?" Again, we need the public's help and the public's vigilance. If you suspect that someone has sometimes transformed into a panda, or any non-human creature, report that suspicion to the authorities. If you notice that someone shows an increasing tendency to be cute or cuddly, keep your distance and consult with law enforcement. Please be a part of the solution. Don't be our next statistic. #toocutetocuddle
Published on Mar 21, 2022
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
by Falstaffe
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?"
Published on Sep 3, 2015
by Shannon Fay
I looked up from my bio notes to see some blonde girl grinning at me. "Yo, Moria!" she said. "Fancy meeting you here."
Published on Apr 18, 2012
by H. L. Fullerton
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.
Published on Oct 24, 2014
by Marcus Gallagher-Jones
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.
Published on Apr 3, 2014
by Laura E. Goodin
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.
Published on Nov 22, 2011
by Michael Greenhut
I didn't need my policewoman training to see what would soon cause this footage to cut out. A woman, dressed for the late fall while everyone else was dressed for the summer heat. Parents and children swam by, some giving her a second glance. Even the summer breeze seemed to avoid her clothes as she stood by the pool gate, looking like she waited for a man on horseback from a distant era. Her face twitched, and the footage ended. They found her body with the rest of them. Another camera recorded the same woman--no, surely a twin--five months later. At the ski resort, holding flowers from the kind of wedding I used to want. She moved the flowers over the left side of her face.
Published on Nov 12, 2018
by Thomas J. Griffin
The first time I caught Santa, I was ten years old. The trap was simple--you'd think someone with Santa's reputation would have seen it coming a mile away, but nope. Hook, line, and sinker; or should I say, milk, cookies, and an unsophisticated small game snare. It was never going to hold him for long, but he gave up willingly. Real respect real. That's when I learned about the rule. Catch Santa and he'll grant you a wish. Not just a Christmas present, but anything you want, so long as it doesn't involve making someone fall in love or bringing the dead back to life. In other words, the Aladdin rules. Allegedly, the movie's writer, Ron Clements, also managed to trap Santa, back in the day. The difference was, Robin Williams' genie gave out three wishes. Santa only grants one at a time.
Published on Dec 23, 2020
by Damien Walters Grintalis
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.
Published on Jun 28, 2013
by Alexandra Grunberg
“Sir, is this place a joke to you?” The young man was not chuckling. The corgi tucked under his arm looked even less amused than Magical Animal Control Officer Adelaide Wilson felt.
Published on Apr 13, 2021
by Lee Hallison
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.
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
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.
Published on Sep 20, 2013
by Elizabeth Ho
I was searching through the clearance underwear bin at Kmart when I first met the Jinn. I knew what she was by the oil-slick gloss to her skin that simmered like a heat wave in the distance, and I wondered how it would feel to run my fingers across it. Would they come away slick? Or would the Jinn dissipate before I could touch her, like smoke from an extinguished cigarette? She held a giant pair of granny panties against her midsection, carefully measuring crotch to belly button coverage. She wore an oversized military coat that ended just above the knees, snow boots (even though it was late June) and 1970s circle lens sunglasses. I felt dumpy in comparison, but there was something about her that made me want to talk to her. As I picked up another 99-cent thong, I drew her attention. "There's a changing room in the juniors' section," I said, thrilled over how she paused to look at me. "A bulb's blown, but I don't think anyone buying granny panties cares what they look like." "I care."
Published on Jun 28, 2019
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
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.
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 Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Every year at the Shifter Solstice Party, I get my heart broken, and sometimes my tail. Not this year!
Published on Aug 21, 2018
by Liam Hogan
The Necronomiromcom: the book of dead romances, is, of course, a myth. It doesn't exist and, even if it did, you certainly wouldn't find the ancient tome buried three feet below a locked filing cabinet in the basement of a Soho antiquarian. If you did happen to stumble across the Necronomiromcom, (which is impossible, because it is fictitious), you would know immediately that it was unlike any other book you had ever seen or indeed, held. The fabled cover is a deep, unsettling red, the hue of a dozen last-minute Valentine's roses. Or perhaps the exact shade of the spilt Rioja from the argument the first night of your last holiday together.
Published on Dec 8, 2020
by D.K. Holmberg
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.
Published on May 26, 2015
by Tabbie May Louise Hunt
I'm really hoping for the Chinese shop from Gremlins, but his room looks pretty much like a normal doctor's surgery, except for the floor to ceiling shelves full of empty jars. And although he's of Chinese origin, he's really not the Gizmo-selling kind of guy: middle-aged, clean-cut suit, no obvious accent. I'm kind of disappointed! "It's your skin, isn't it?" He says, as I sit down.
Published on Mar 20, 2019
by James Hutchings
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."
Published on Feb 3, 2011
by M.K. Hutchins
Prints made Monet's work look flat. Inside the museum, the thick paint shimmered with roundness and ripples. Inside the painting, I was drowning.
Published on Apr 21, 2014
by Jess Hyslop
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.
Published on Apr 4, 2013
by Cristina Jurado
Black snow, the same black as the night sky. Lilly shivers, not because of the cold, not because dagger blades are seeking shelter inside her bare feet.
Published on Jan 18, 2021
by KJ Kabza
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.
Published on Mar 5, 2015
by Vylar Kaftan
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.
Published on Jan 24, 2014
by Andrew Kaye
I unscrewed the bulb from the lamp. It rattled. "It's dead." "What's dead?" my daughter asked.
Published on Mar 1, 2012
by Cassandra Khaw
"Even Jesus had a mother." Mei Yin smiled, expression reptilian. A thin laugh broke across the group. There were twelve women that evening, all Chinese, although the varied tonality of their complexions suggested that some had more complicated ancestries than others--a drip of Javanese blood, a hint of pale-eyed European. Not that it really mattered, Mei Yin thought as she paced away from the backboard, heels clicking like talons on the linoleum.
Published on Jul 18, 2017
by Andrew Knighton
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.
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
Imogene was supposed to vanish before my fifth birthday. At 11:30 on what we thought was her last night, we sat together, cross-legged on my standard issue pink unicorn quilt, knees almost touching, waiting for her to pop like a soap bubble or dissolve like cotton candy in a thunderstorm. She did neither, as midnight came and went. "Well," she said, looking down at her still very extant hands, "this could be a problem."
Published on Oct 4, 2019
by Jamie Lackey
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.
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
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.
Published on Mar 29, 2011
by Terra LeMay
For Halloween, Josefa's mother puts her in a pair of wings and the same white dress she wore to her First Communion ceremony, two years earlier. Sadly, it still fits. She has hardly grown. Taller, a little (not even a full inch), but she's lost seventeen pounds. She's a bird on stilt-legs. A swan with a long, skinny neck. "Mama!" she cries at her mother's reflection in the mirror and "Papa!" when her father steps in from the hallway to see her. "My angel," he says, but though she's still beautiful--will always be beautiful to him--he's not smiling. He has dressed for Halloween, too, like Josefa. Only, his wings are black for mourning. So are his wife's. * It's late when they finally take Josefa out for Halloween--nearly two a.m.--and the houses in their small, suburban neighborhood have all already put out their porch lights. They bundle Josefa into the car (buckled in tight, for safety) and drive her into the city, to an upscale, gated community full of multimillion dollar homes. They make the drive in silence, but Josefa smiles all the way there, her grin as broad as the grin of the jack-o'-lantern face painted onto her plastic pumpkin candy-basket. Josefa asks her mother if the rich people will give her more candy. "Yes, my sweet girl," her mother replies, " a mountain of candy." In Spanish. Josefa's father casts a disapproving glance in his wife's direction. They had agreed to speak only English in front of their daughter, so the other children at her school would not laugh at her for speaking Spanish--and so she would more easily integrate with her American classmates and have nothing but success in life. Of course, now that can never be. Even so, they have never spoken Spanish to Josefa. She has never learned it, and should not know it, so it's a surprise when she replies, "Vamos a romper la piata?" Are we going to break a piata? "No s, Josofa," says Josefa's mother. I don't know, Josefa. Well, thinks her father. Her grandparents must have taught her. He frowns, and tries not to feel envious of the time she's spent with them, this last year. So what? It's a miracle that he and his wife have even this single day, and it surely does no good to dwell on the days they've missed or any of the other surprising or disappointing aspects of this precious gift he and his wife have been given. Josefa's father pulls the car up beside an intercom and security keypad at the gated entrance of a very fancy neighborhood, a neighborhood Josefa's father built, then puts the car in park so he can search his pockets. He finds the card he had secreted away in his inner breast-coat pocket, and enters the number jotted on the back of it into the keypad. After a moment, a gentleman's tinny voice comes from the speaker, and Josefa's father replies, "S. Josef and Maria Lopez. And Josefa Lopez." "Ah," says the speaker. "Good. I'm glad for you. We'll see you shortly." The gate opens, and Josefa's father drives in. * * * It's far too late for door-to-door trick-or-treating, but Josef has prearranged things with his employer so that his daughter can ring the doorbell and ask for candy like an ordinary child, before they go into the house and join the party. Josef parks behind a Lexus at the end of a long line of cars much nicer than his own, and the three of them walk up to the house. Adeleine--the boss's wife--answers the doorbell, and Josefa squeaks at the sight of her. Adeleine died of complications during surgery to remove her failed thyroid. Josefa's father had not worked for Mr. Fuentes at the time, but this is Adeleine's seventh Halloween party since her death. Her state of decomposition is dramatically more advanced than Josefa's. But Adeliene smiles at Josefa and says to her, in a voice so clear and easily understood that it can only be explained as a miracle, "Oh my! Has an angel come all the way down from Heaven to ask me for candy?" "I'm not an angel," says Josefa. "I'm a swan." She lifts her arms over her head and rises onto her toes, then executes a perfect pirouette, like a ballerina. With no warning at all, Josefa's mother bursts into tears. But it's too late now. Josefa is here, now, and they cannot undo what they have done, only wait it out. Josefa's father lifts his hands, a helpless gesture because everyone is looking at him, then he shrugs. For Josefa's sake, as much as for anyone, he pats his wife's shoulder and tells her she's being silly. "Say 'trick or treat', Josefa," he says. Adeleine fills Josefa's jack-o-lantern basket--more candy than any child could eat in a year, let alone a single night. Then, they go inside for the party. * * * The party is everything and nothing like they could have expected. There are so very many children. The party is almost all children, except the parents, who linger like lost souls on the edges of the room, too stricken by their grief to even speak to one another. Josefa befriends a boy who is dressed as a ghost, and they chase each other through and around the other partiers, wailing like banshees. Or perhaps it is several children dressed as ghosts, Josefa's father cannot tell. Two thirds of the children are dressed up that way, bundled beneath voluminous white sheets with holes cut for the eyes. And most of those which are not are dressed in other costumes that cover head-to-toe in a similar way. Josefa's father wishes he would have thought to suggest such costumes, for it is almost painful to look at Josefa the way she is now. * * * By dawn, he and Josefa's mother are sagging against one another, struggling to survive what has turned into the second most difficult night of their lives. Josefa has all the energy of a child her age, but it will not last. When they leave the party, Josef drives straight to the cemetery. They are counting down the minutes. If Josefa's father had known it would be so difficult to face the task of burying his child again, he would have never have allowed himself to be talked into digging her up in the first place. His little girl enjoyed herself, to be sure, but Josefa's father has already decided they will not do this again. It's too hard. Better to move on and try to heal. He and Josefa's mother walk out to Josefa's grave with her and tuck her back into her coffin. Josefa's mother sings to her, and cries. Josefa is too young to understand. "You're going to turn into a pumpkin soon, my daughter. It is the Day of Little Angels." "Oh." "But your mother and I love you very much. We miss you every day." Her eyelids droop with sleep, and she settles back onto the satin pillow, clinging to her candy basket as if it were a bear. "I'll see you again next year though, right? We can be swans again, papa, for Halloween?" Josefa's father swallows the rising lump in his throat and gives a stiff nod. "Yes, of course." Then day comes, and they must close the lid of her casket. Maria is too overcome by her grief to assist, but someone must rebury their daughter, so Josef fills the grave, one shovel full of dirt at a time.
Published on Nov 1, 2011
by Mary Soon Lee
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single human in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a cat. However little known the feelings of views of such a human may be on their first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the feline population that the human is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of them. In the case of the arrival of Ms. Angela Delany, I determined that, between the plenitude of her assets and the paucity of her aesthetic sense (she drove a Tesla with a lurid orange custom paint job), I should be that owner. Accordingly, I introduced myself as she lifted the last suitcase from the Tesla. I bunted her firmly on her bare brown calf, marking her as mine. Ms. Delany squawked and dropped the suitcase. Her squawk, I regret to say, was intemperate in volume and jarringly unmelodic. A lesser feline than myself would have retreated. I bunted her a second time. Ms. Delany waved her arms and squawked yet more discordantly. Grabbing for her suitcase, she slipped inside and slammed the door. From his post under a rhododendron bush, Grumbleclaw licked his lone ear disdainfully. "Leave that young woman to me. She don't like you none." "If," I hissed at Grumbleclaw, "You so much as look at her, I'll remove your remaining ear." Grumbleclaw departed. I sat down on a sunwarmed paving stone and thought matters over as I groomed. Ms. Delany needed to be enlightened as to the benefits of my companionship. Grooming and planning complete, I went to procure supplies. That evening, I inserted a mouse--wriggling and quite agitated--through an open dining room window as Ms. Delany took a bite of pizza. With her loudest squawk yet and a surprising agility for a human, she leapt gracefully onto the table. I made my own entry, efficiently dispatched the mouse, deposited the rodent where Ms. Delany could admire it from her tabletop vantage. She did not appear pleased. I waited for her to calm down sufficiently to discover her proper sense of gratitude. I waited, but Ms. Delany only glowered from atop the table. At length, I departed to procure additional supplies. It is a truth acknowledged by all except Ms. Delany that orange sheets and purple pillows are an inharmonious combination. Having infiltrated her bedroom, I laid a recently-deceased rat on one of the virulent purple pillows to indicate the error of her ways. Anxious for my eardrums, I decided against staying to witness her discovery of the rodent. Ms. Delany's garden was generously proportioned, but her squawking reached me easily at the remote end. Some time later, she emerged from the house carrying a plastic bag that smelled of rat. Once she had thrown the bag into an outdoor trash can, I sauntered toward her, tail held high. Ms. Delany has her faults, but she is not as slow on the uptake as my previous human had been. I had no need to resort to a third rodent. She waved me indoors and set out a bowl of water. As a responsible owner, I duly began her training that very night, shredding the most offensive of her soft furnishings.
Published on Mar 31, 2022
by Gerri Leen
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.
Published on Jun 22, 2015
by Kalisa Ann Lessnau
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.
Published on Sep 5, 2013
by Marissa Lingen
Addison was wearing a tiger-striped turquoise rashguard and surf shorts. She wrote in the sand with a stick: "Addison + Julia = Truth Tellers. Reasonable Rates." Julia was wearing a hot pink bandeau top and black bikini bottoms. Her mom had picked them out. "When you're my age, you'll be glad you wore this stuff when you were young and you still could."
Published on Jul 8, 2020
by Marissa Lingen
This is a story where all the crazies live. The strange, edge of town crazies, they all live.
Published on Aug 25, 2020
by Ken Liu
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.
Published on Jun 12, 2013
by Ken Liu
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.
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 Danny Macks
Mom starts haranguing me about the fight before I even start breakfast.

“How is your first day of high school, John?” she says as she pushes a glass of water and some aspirin in my direction.
Published on Jun 28, 2022
by David Marshall
The curtain rose. The band played. And the legend we'd all come to see shuffled his old bones up to the microphone. When the spotlight lit up the figure in the white leather jumpsuit, Tim wasn't the only person in the audience who squealed like a schoolgirl. But he was the loudest. Or maybe I just thought that because he was sitting right beside me.
Published on Jan 22, 2020
by Sadie Mattox
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.
Published on Dec 27, 2011
by Dafydd McKimm
He phased into view in the middle of the stage, punctiliously dressed in a top hat and tails, his translucence diminishing nothing of his inscrutability. When I asked for his name, he gave only the Magnificent Benvolio, but after I untethered him from that tumbledown theatre, which he'd been haunting since collapsing there on stage god knows how many decades ago, he said I could call him Ben.
Published on Sep 8, 2020
by Jennifer Moore
Scans revealed two small dragons: one on the right lung and the other curled tight around his heart. It didn't look good. Ten to twelve weeks at the most, the doctors said. "You're going to fight this," Ella told him when they got home from the hospital, tucking the kitchen calendar down the back of the fridge, out of sight. "We're going to fight it. Prove them all wrong."
Published on Mar 16, 2017
by Samantha Murray
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.
Published on Jun 10, 2013
by Ruth Nestvold
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.
Published on Jun 14, 2012
by A.J. Nicol
"You must be able to do something special, Sarah," said double-jointed Madison. "Or have something special," said Bree, who had shown us her boobs. To be fair, they were enormous.
Published on Oct 17, 2018
by Anya Ow
As the circus packed up for the night, Elo bought T'kaarmarekch a drink. They sat near her trailer with cans of cold beer and listened wistfully to the lack of elephants. "I know it was cruel to keep elephants in a circus," T'kaarmarekch signed, their many-petaled mouth rippling along with the movement of their jointed palms, "but I miss them."
Published on Jun 18, 2018
by Kurt Pankau
I clear my throat. "It's 7:43 on a Monday. You're due at the office by 8. Clive is driving, Jordan is riding shotgun, Janet and Nigel are in the back. You have twelve miles to go. You've been making good time, but suddenly a blue minivan starts to merge into your lane right next to you." I point to the diagram to show everyone else at the table the potential threat of a collision. "What do you do?" "Oh!" says Clive, a level 1 SysAdmin, picking up a D20. "I know. I extend my hand, which is gloved in all black, black like my human soul, and cast fireball--"
Published on Aug 28, 2019
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
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.
Published on Jun 3, 2015
by Sarah Pinsker
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.
Published on Nov 16, 2015
by Tony Pisculli
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.
Published on Dec 19, 2013
by John A Pitts
Ms. Evelyn watched as kindergartener Angelica Poplavov stepped into the spotlight and grabbed the microphone. She wore a floor length, pink chiffon dress and her blonde sausage curls bobbed at every step. The audience watched with the mixture of joy and annoyance of people waiting for their own child to perform. "Jeremiah wasn't just a bull frog," Angelica spoke into the mic, her voice the trill of a goldfinch.
Published on Nov 22, 2019
by Jennifer R. Povey
The sound echoed through the cavern. Lisa stood in the entrance, hearing it. Entrance. Entranced. Not the same word, but in some ways they might as well be. Because she was going in and she wasn't. She couldn't.
Published on Jul 9, 2021
by Tim Pratt
"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?"
Published on Aug 22, 2014
by Cat Rambo
Grandma always said, "Don't yawn with your mouth open, a ghost will fly in." I didn't believe her until it happened. I yawned. Something rushed through the air, stuffed itself between my jaws, like slimy pop rocks in my mouth. I yelped. I stuck my fingers in my mouth. Like trying to grab Jello, it melted away as my fingers closed. When I tried to talk, my words changed. I shouted, "Get out!" but what emerged was "Luccombe oaks!" I tried to say, "There's a ghost in me!" Instead I said, "Gash, they're fair ripecherry!" I kept trying to spit it out. It kept squirming around in there. Grandma died three years ago, so I went to Grandpa. He was sitting watching a crow sidle along the porch railing near him. He claims he'll tame one, but the birds just humor him in order to get French fries. He nodded at me, keeping an eye on the crow, when I stepped onto the porch. I said, "Unuchorn! Ungulant! Uvuloid! Uskybeak!" He squinted at me. I said, "Hep there." He looked thoughtful. I said, loud as I could, almost shouting, "Four ghouls to nail!" He said, "What you got in your mouth, you fool boy?" I opened my mouth as wide as I could. He came over to pry it open an inch more with his thumb and forefinger and peer inside. He said, "You've got a ghost in there, son." I nodded. "Well," he said. "Let's get to work." # He tried everything he could to drive it out: a lit cigarette, nail polish remover, peanut butter, an old voodoo charm he'd picked up in New Orleans. Three crows lined up on the railing, watching and squawking commentary. I said, "What a picture primitive!" Grandpa stroked his whiskery chin. "Well, I reckon," he said. "And Concepta de Send-us-pray!" "No need to get worked up." This time I tried to say something that made no sense. "Ex nickylow malo comes mickelmassed bosum." "Huh," Grandpa said. A crow cocked its head at me and went hop hop hop, coming closer. It squawked at Grandpa. "If you think you can do better, you go ahead and be my guest," Grandpa said. "Hold on," I wanted to say, but it came out, "Cheesugh!" Grandpa paid no mind. With a bony forefinger, he poked me in the chest so hard I opened my mouth to say ouch (or whatever that would have become). The crow hopped forward, stuck its beak in my mouth, and pulled out the ghost. It flapped away, the other two in pursuit as though it were holding a French fry. I dislodged a feather from my mouth, probing around with a finger. Ghost traces fizzed away. I chased the last of them out with my tongue and looked at Grandpa. He grinned. "Serves you right, not listening to your Grandma!" I made a face. "Be careful, your face might freeze that way." Of course it was too late.
Published on Feb 10, 2011
by Robert Reed
He was awake and not from a dream. Unless the dream was forgotten, which wasn't like him. Either way, his brain was still mostly asleep, full of slow, knotted up thoughts... but the ears were fully engaged. Listening. And hearing nothing. Not rain, which was sad. He enjoyed the rain. And there wasn't any traffic noise, or fireworks, or passing sirens. Silence inside the bedroom and silence outdoors, and he lay absolutely still, refusing to ask for the time or walk to the bathroom, and in particular, consciously avoiding the most likely reason why he was awake. And then he heard it.
Published on Dec 6, 2019
by James Reinebold
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.
Published on Apr 28, 2015
by Mike Resnick & Jordan Ellinger
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.
Published on Mar 8, 2013
by Patricia Russo
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.
Published on Jun 22, 2012
by Carol Scheina
An empath wasn't Connor's first thought when he saw the woman. Instead, he noticed her hands as they slipped into his view, all stiff muscles and veins, like a Michelangelo carving, trembling as they reached for a drink. Looking up, he saw a young woman with straight slate hair and wide-socket eyes who looked at him with a need. He must have been lacking, because she moved on without a word.
Published on Jan 10, 2020
by Carol Scheina
Kelly ventured out of her apartment only because the day's luck rating was extraordinarily high. The weatherman's baritone voice played in her head: "Folks, we're looking at record luck levels today, with a high of 92 and a low of 89. If you're feeling lucky, there's a reason!" Kelly was one of those whose luck never matched the predictions, but amazingly, the grocery store trip went fine. Strolling home, she tasted the sweet tease of spring in the February air. The city sidewalks gleamed white, as though the cement had been spread yesterday instead of decades ago, without all those crumbly bits, dried gum, and cigarette butts. Even the pigeons were polite enough not to poop on anyone's head. Lucky days had their own magic. Except for the dark clouds closing in. Shit. She'd made it this far without incident. She picked up speed, but her grocery bag gave a soft rip, and almond milk, apples, and pita chips spilled out. Passersby dodged Kelly as she frantically chased rolling apples. The rain started with gentle drops, then quickly became a cold shower. "Here." A hand offered a crumpled chip bag. Through the rain, Kelly saw the most perfect blushing cheeks smiling at her. Despite the chill, Kelly's own cheeks warmed a few degrees. "Looks like you're having a bad day. Let me buy you a coffee," the woman said. Kelly said yes without hesitation, without worrying about the dark clouds following her or the almond milk that needed to be refrigerated. It didn't matter that the barista got her order wrong--giving her some sort of bitter concoction that made her cough. It didn't matter that the rain cloud followed Kelly from the coffee shop all the way home, focusing its hardest downpour on her side of the sidewalk even as it transitioned to a light mist across the street. Crossing the street didn't help, for the rain just shifted, and people crossed the street to the drier section, away from her. All that mattered was the memory of the woman's smiling eyes over the paper coffee cup. By the time the cup was empty, Mel had proposed dinner tomorrow night--Friday the 13th. The weatherman's baritone voice rose in excitement as he announced Friday's luck rating: "Our lucky streak continues with a high of 93 and a low of 89! Looks like this Friday the 13th isn't going to be unlucky!" Kelly stayed inside until dinnertime, for even with the high luck rating, it was better to be safe than sorry when you had her levels of bad luck. Her apartment was pretty secure, anyway, with no mirrors or salt or black cats. Just cheap couches and plastic cups that bounced on the floor when she dropped them. She'd given up hanging anything on the walls, as pictures always fell down anyway. The sun's cheery twinkling sunset was smothered by dark clouds marching forth when Kelly stepped outside. She ducked inside the restaurant just before the rain started. She made a quick trip to the bathroom to fix her wind-tousled hair. The sink mirror creaked as it detached from the wall and flopped onto the tile, shattering to pieces like sparkling snowflakes around Kelly's feet. Uncertainty lumped in her stomach. What was she doing here? She needed to let Mel know this wasn't going to work. But Mel had already ordered an appetizer. "Oh my god, you need to try this!" Kelly didn't want to be rude, so she sat down and tried the bread and dip, and it really was that good. As Mel got to talking as fast as an auctioneer, Kelly found herself lost in the wake of words, wandering deep into those eyes and apple-cheeked smile. Kelly didn't even notice that her fish arrived overcooked and her drink order was wrong every time and the rain kept pattering on the windows when the day was supposed to be a beautiful, rain-free, high-luck day.
The high-luck streak continued for three glorious weeks, then the luck levels dropped down to 50, with the lows in the 30s. Kelly knew she had to end things. It wasn't fair for Mel when the dark clouds were bound to get bigger, stronger. Such a beautiful person deserved luck and sunshine and mirrors that stayed hung on the wall. Kelly couldn't bear to say the words, so she slipped a note under Mel's apartment door. A black cat hissed in the stairway, and Kelly stumbled trying to avoid it, wrenching her ankle before escaping outside. At least the rain gave her an excuse for her wet face. She didn't open her door when Mel knocked. It was better that way. There was no rain inside for Kelly to blame for her face. It stayed wet long after Mel stopped knocking.
The lonesome days passed until the weatherman's baritone declared that the day's luck rating would be in the high 80s. Safe enough to risk a trip to the store. Kelly hurried down the pristine sidewalks. Mel's voice stopped her. "Kelly!" "Mel? What are you doing here?" "I've been waiting for you, hoping you'd come out." "Why? I'm unlucky." Overhead, dark clouds marched toward them. Mel's voice raced fast as a train while cold drops dripped from the sky. "I love talking with you, being with you. You care about others, about me. You're just... a greater person than any luck. Want to get a coffee? Please say yes." Kelly had never been lucky enough to get second chances. How could Mel still want to be with her? Maybe, just maybe, what they had was stronger than luck. Over Mel's shoulder, Kelly spotted a penny on the sidewalk. She'd never found one before, but she didn't pick it up. Her hand held the warmth of Mel's grip as they strolled through the rain to the coffee shop. She was already the luckiest girl in the world.
Published on Feb 22, 2022
by Maggie Secara
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.
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
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.
Published on Mar 28, 2011
by David Steffen
"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?"
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
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--"
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
"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.
Published on Sep 9, 2016
by James Van Pelt
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."
Published on May 6, 2011
by Sean Vivier
Grant drove. Mel had the back seat and Hart took shotgun. Mel snorted. "Sign looks like a coat-of-arms."
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 weve merely been living like dolts down here all these centuries, down here at ground level, because theres 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 Gwen Whiting
Margaret Vine could make anyone do anything if she just looked into their eyes. The fear of her own power made her sick, so she only practiced in mirrors. It began with silly things that she thought couldn’t matter to anyone but her. Perhaps, Margaret believed, she could shape the person she wanted to be. “Practice the trumpet for fifteen minutes every day.” “Don’t fall over when you ride your bike.” “Eat broccoli and like it.” Those words worked. Margaret grew older and decided to use her power on harder things. Things that would make her the person other people wanted her to be. “Don’t talk so much in class.” “Only eat twice a day.” “Smile more.” Making and remaking herself was the only safe use of her superpower. When she used it on others, Margaret learned, terrible things happened. People changed. They died. But she couldn’t resist the urge to use it and so she did, staring at her mirror night after night until she seemed only a shadow in the glass. People loved her now. If only she felt the same. She had given herself too much advice, cursed herself with rules. Now Margaret stood in front of a church full of people. A man who didn’t truly know her was jamming a tiny ring on her bony finger. Margaret looked at it until she caught her own reflection in the metal. Then she swallowed hard and gave herself one last command. “Love him.”
Published on Feb 16, 2022
by G. Allen Wilbanks
Paula arched her back almost to the point of falling over, turning her face to the sky. The hood of her puffy coat slipped back onto her shoulders as she dodged awkwardly left and right, opening her mouth wide and sticking out her tongue to chase the snowflakes fluttering around her. Her father stood silently nearby, hands in his pockets; a small smile of bemusement tugging at his lips. Catching another flake, Paula laughed in childish glee, her eyes shining with pleasure. She spun to face her father in triumph, shouting, "Got another one!" He nodded his encouragement.
Published on Apr 3, 2019
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 crme 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 Caroline M. Yoachim
It's nearly midnight, and the evening is blistering hot with desert air so dry it makes me wish I was doing a third show with Cirque de Soleil tonight, sore muscles be damned. At least that way I'd be in the pool. But I promised Dad I'd meet him after work, and it's only a short walk to Caesar's Palace. "You ready?" I always thought I'd be helping Mom deal with Dad getting old, not the other way around. She's the naiad of the Bellagio fountains, and he's just a line cook at Nobu, making lobster tempura and wagyu gyoza for the high rollers.
Published on Oct 23, 2018
by Caroline M. Yoachim
My mother stored her magic in expensive trinkets, and she brought them out to flaunt her power whenever I came to visit. Her newest acquisition was a hummingbird, carved out of ivory, with a red ruby embedded in its throat. It was a beautiful work of art, but all I could think of was the elephant that had died so some poacher could profit. "Watch," she told me. The hummingbird's ruby throat started to glow, and the ghostly bird took off and zipped across the room, attracted by an Edo period painting of cherry blossoms. Mom laughed at the bird's confusion as it tried to drink from two-dimensional flowers. She noticed my grim expression and frowned. "What's wrong? When you were little you loved watching my magic."
Published on Jun 30, 2017
by Sarah Yost
Children are so frequently told they have wonderful imaginations that she never took the signs seriously. She'd always noticed the shadows at the corner of her eye, the glimmers of light that didn't belong. It was her favorite game to pretend she was the focus of some Otherness, but only a game. Devotion to her studies left little room for make believe. The arrival of glasses gave her the excuse she needed to ignore the phenomenon entirely, a reflection, light off the frames. Nothing to bother with.
Published on Feb 11, 2020
by Jill Zeller
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.
Published on Dec 30, 2010