The Lawn Fairy War, fiction by James Van Pelt

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“Figures hid everywhere behind the boulders, invisible from the street: scorpions, spiders, a weird half-bear half-man the size of a puppy, trolls, and by the porch, a pair of pale stone lions. Ashley had even painted the sidewalk black.”

 

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Detail from Füssli Die Elfenkönigin Titania und Zettel_der Weber mit Eselskopf, by Johann Heinrich, licensed under Creative Commons

GRACE LILY WHITE parted the curtain to peer through her kitchen window into Ashley Tombley’s yard. She squinted. Are those gargoyles? Yes, they are! It was bad enough that Ashley moved in, pulled up the grass, replaced it with black and gray gravel, and then tore down the nice, white picket fence so that she could erect a black, cast iron one, but now, gargoyles?

When Ashley repainted the house, Grace said nothing, although the house didn’t need new paint. The Dearborns had freshened the property when they decided to sell. It had been a beautiful robin-egg blue with slightly darker trim, but Ashley painted it a stark, yellowed white with black trim. It looked like a daguerreotype of the house that used to stand there. Cast-iron furniture appeared on the porch. Two cast-iron benches faced each other in the black-graveled back yard. Cast iron meant a lot to Ashley, Grace decided.

No plants in Ashley’s yard, just gravel, boulders and twisted hunks of driftwood. It looked like a nuclear wasteland as far as Grace was concerned. Read more »

Big Feet, fiction by Leslie What

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“Though he empathizes with her predicament, it’s a struggle not to laugh at this pretty red monster beside him, at how she’s clad those humongous dogs in ridiculous Satan high heels.” 

"Walk" © Lilya Kouhan, 2016

“Walk” © Lilya Kouhan, 2016

(This story first appeared in Unstuck #1, 2011. Reprinted by permission of the author.)

 

MARVIN IS A giant. Giants die young. If A equals B, and B equals C, well…. His pop’s death two weeks ago reminded Marvin it could happen at any time. He’s an orphan now, without next of kin. When Marvin dies there’ll be no one left to write an obituary for the newspaper. Without an obituary, it’s as if you never were, an easy, if amateurish, way of becoming invisible. Marvin didn’t expect to outlive his pop and he’s grateful (not to God, because he is not a man of conviction) he got to live long enough to compose an obituary for the old man. Not that they were close—he hadn’t seen his pop in three years. Still, his pop deserved some written notice. Read more »

Crocodile Tale, fiction by M. Glyde

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“THE TAIL HAS been in my family since—well no one knows who got it first. You might get it, you might not. When my wela’s husband got too deep in the bottle, she grew one, little by little…”

Engraving by A.-Collaert c.1600 Creative Commons Attribution 4. International Wellcome.

Engraving by A.-Collaert c.1600 Creative Commons Attribution 4. International Wellcome.

(Crocodile Tale won an honorable mention in our 2015 New Voices Contest.)

I.

MY SISTER HELENA had invaded my house: a dripping coffee pot, an ash tray only she had used, the rug that she brought from her trip to our wela’s in Mexico City, a chocolate love seat she gave me when she won a new couch, and a vase-full fake flowers, one from every Valentine’s Day for the last twenty years. Before, I hadn’t noticed. But now her ten-year-old daughter was coming to stay.

My doorbell rang. Down the walkway came the niece with the crocodile tail. The wide thing swept from under her shirt, natural as anything, and dragged on the ground. It knocked out a window pane on the door, and I felt nostalgic. Read more »

The Lost Books Of The Painter’s Wife, fiction by Diane Glancy

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“In travel ideas form. I have to be moving. The same as the brush over the canvas until words cover the page. This is a journal. This is not a journal. Always in travel the spirits struck.”

 

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“The Vladimirka” by Isaac Levitan, 1892

Footnote [2]

I woke with a dream. I was a child standing on the floorboard of the back seat. Looking at the passing land. The land flat and passing slow. The land all glorious just coming out of winter. Yet it was browned. The trees without leaves. The white flowering of others. What makes sense in a dream? I was in a different land. A past land. A place I had traveled as a child. The memory tucked away like a kerchief in a drawer. A moving over the land I always loved. The moving more than the staying. The going somewhere. The house where we were going to. Someone in it. I do not care who. Only the moving to get there. That is what I want to see. The brush moving with us in the distance leaving evidence. The way a chicken drops a feather. The smell of wood smoke on the air. The dusty road. Dryness a form of parole. Look at them. Anointed with plainness. This is your car. This is where it will take you. A bowl of land. A cloth of linseed oil. Read more »

The Cat’s House, fiction by Alana I. Capria

 

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“When the tattooing was over, the cat nuns wiped my back with alcohol and cat saliva. There is no mouth holier than the cat god’s, the nuns said, and applied their own tongues as salve. They worked their tongues up and down my back until I felt faint.”

"Dioses" © Melissa Lozada, 2016

“Dioses” © Melissa Lozada, 2016

IN THE CAT god’s house, nuns carry silver-plated dishes of raw fish.

The cat god has a name I can’t understand, heavy with consonants, limited in vowels. The cat god stands with limbs twitching and does what it was born to do. The cat god fluffs its whiskers. The cat god rules.

The cat god has twelve nuns. They get down on their knees and clean it with their tongues—dozens of pink nubs coming out of human mouths and swatting against coarse fur. They rub the hard crusts from the corners of its eyes. The cat god sits on a litter box throne, the nuns at the ready to clean what reeks—swollen intestines and blocked up anus.

The cat god is gray, of course. The color of nothing. The cat god’s eyes are gold-blue, with flecks of green along the edges. It blinks slowly, lowering its lids as if they are heavy. The languorous act makes it seem ready to sleep. But the cat god doesn’t sleep. The nuns don’t sleep. I never see those eyes close. Read more »

Inspiration 1.2, fiction by Jane Lebak

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“One day, a man named Bob established contact parameters with a woman named Jill, and they mutually negotiated a system of information transfer between them which they defined as love.”                                 

 

Inspiration 1.2.webMY WIFE GREETS me with a kiss and, “You need to debug the house.”

As I pull off my coat, she adds, “None of the lights are working except the one over your reading.” She takes my bag and hands me the tablet computer. “It won’t let me login, either.”

I head to the recliner, wondering what she thinks I can do that she couldn’t. I wait for the operating system to recognize my palm print, but thirty seconds later, it still hasn’t cleared me.

“And your problem is…?” I mutter, resting the tablet on my lap while reclining my seat. I’m getting too old for this. Read more »

The Rising Up, fiction by Karen Heuler

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“Nothing has worked out,” the man to her right said. “You’ve given in to the diversions in the dream, that’s all. Try to remember who you are in real life. We will never wake if we get caught up in the dream.”

Eugene_Ivanov_1341 Tajemna cisla Zeme, 2009.edited

Tajemna cisla Zeme, by Eugene Ivanov, 2009. Licensed under Creative Commons.

FRANZY WAS SUDDENLY back in school, and completely unprepared for the history test. But that wasn’t why everyone was staring at her and smiling. No, smirking. A few had turned their heads and whispered something behind their hands to their neighbors as she entered the classroom. A woman off to the side pointed at her.

Franzy stopped and looked down at herself. It was horrible! She was only wearing a bra—a cheap, tired, gray-looking bra. She should have thrown it out years ago. But the woman had pointed at her crotch. When Franzy shifted her eyes she saw a penis sticking out—erect and out of place. She could feel the annoying jitteriness of it. She was naked and she had a penis. Taking a test was out of the question. She should never have come here. Read more »

Kaia, fiction by Brian T. Hodges

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“Its eyes are human. There’s no other way of describing them. It has crystalline blue eyes with dark pupils, framed by heavy black lids. The bird had been staring at me with questioning, human eyes.”

 

"Corvid Castle" © Alsia Soiset, 2016

“Corvid Castle” © Alsia Soiset, 2016

“Kaia” won a second place prize in our 2015 New Voices contest.

 

THE COLD MORNING sun peeks through twin spires. Black forms rise from their roosts, a sudden torrent, occluding the light. They call a dawn chorus to Cathedral Square below. Right now, there’s no telling one from the next—they fly and swoop and escape as one indistinct mass. Eventually, though, the warmth of the sun falls across their black feathers and they return to roost and earth, to rest or forage. It is then, in the sudden calm, that I hear the wind whistling through the avenue of twisted oaks behind me. It is then that I ask how forever can end in moment. Read more »

Fairview 619, fiction by Rebecca Schwarz

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“The whole point is to train it, not program it. Anyone can buy a programmable house. This place has to be more intuitive, flexible, responsive. It’s not a ‘Smart Home’ it’s—”

“A partner. I know.”

Photo © Chakikas

Photo © Chakikas

(This story originally appeared in Revolution SF, 2012.) 

THE HOUSE IS quiet but not empty. Maybe an hour before sunrise, one of my favorite times. While the system preference is to monitor all cameras simultaneously, I prefer to run them in sequence, as if on patrol. I move through the living room, check the ambient temperature and bring it up a couple degrees.

Beyond the patio, the surface of the pool is as smooth as a plate of glass, like I could walk across it. If I could walk. The boy’s towel still hunches on one of the chairs where he dropped it. I try to picture the woman’s face. It’s a little game I play while she and her husband sleep upstairs on their high, firm mattress. The grass sparkles with dew under the security light. If I had feet, they would feel cool and wet. I look out over the cedar privacy fence. All is quiet. Read more »

Summon Up The Blood, fiction by Michael Canfield

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“The film. On Curtis’s boots. I mixed it with another compound. But forget that. Don’t you get it? We passed the test. The next stage of evolution begins. The extraterrestrials have arrived!”

Collage by Sophia Hermes

Collage by Sophia Hermes

THE WHITE-HAIRED OFFICER, standing outside his prowler, pressed his red thumb down on the button. “Negro male, approximately twenty-five years old.”

“I’m black,” said Curtis. “Try saying it. California won’t fall in the ocean.”

A crowd had gathered at the edge of Golden Gate Park. Haight-Ashbury was not police territory, it was flower-child space, and the officer eyed the escalating situation. His partner—younger, brasher—was considering the nightstick that Curtis spotted inside the prowler. The stick didn’t worry Curtis personally, but if it came out—well, that wouldn’t do anyone any good. Read more »