SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNER:
The Fools Ov Samhain
By Torie Rivera
The Streets were just busy enough to make an amateur bank robber nervous. But, Jesse and Chris could not back down from the robbery; The Lord had called upon them. Money to fund the bombing was vital. There was no way they could bring down the Abortion Clinic without funding. No one else was in on the mission but them. Philosophically they were not alone. The church they attend is adamantly against abortion, and don’t forget that Jesus himself is by their side. Nonetheless, both of them were nervous. About as nervous as they had ever been—sick to their stomachs. Sweat dripped down their faces on to their trembling hands as they sat in Chris’ truck, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, building the nerve to siege the bank in an act of holy war.
Jesse turned to Chris and asked “Are you… ready…?” Just then Chris raised his head, looked toward Jesse, and gave a single nod of assurance. Between the both of them they only had one real gun. Jesse’s uncle, a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, had accumulated quite the gun collection, both legal and illegal. During a family get together at his uncle’s compound, Jesse had gotten his hands on his uncles unregistered Colt 9mm and one extra clip of bullets. The boys also got a hold of a Mini Uzi BB gun.
They parked the truck in the back lot of the bank; the freeway entrance is a straight shot down the street, three blocks away. To make the getaway swifter, the truck would be left running. Both guns were loaded and ready. All the appropriate prayers had been said. It was time to get to business.
Each wore the same hellish goat mask and black robe: long pointy horns and blood red pentacle on the forehead, true satanic garb. It wasn’t too odd to see two masked men walking around today; it was Halloween after all. Jesse insisted that they set plans back two weeks to this day so that they would be incognito.
Each had their gun clasped tight as they approached the entrance. An image of two hellish figures gleamed on the glass doors. The clarity of their reflections sparked another level of apprehension in Jesse, almost a mental state of pure hatred. The only thing on his mind was how many abortions were happening right at that moment.
“This must be done Chris. We are going to be triumphant,” Jesse said with the pride of a true believer.
Just as they swung open the doors and made their way into the bank, a loud burst of music stunned them. Before they could figure out what was happening they were in the midst of a full-blown flash mob; at full volume LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem hammered away at their eardrums.
Shuffling, jumping, spinning, the mob had taken over, feverishly dancing. Tinky Winky, Obama, zombies, DJ Pauly D, vampires (the real kind, none of that sparkly rubbish), slutty spoofs of all sorts, and so many other characters were gettin’ down.
Jesse raised the Colt 9mm, aimed it at one mob member in particular, a sexy nun. Although he was not Catholic, the costume infuriated him. Before anybody knew what was happening, Jesse pulled the trigger. The bullet penetrated the nun’s neck. She collapsed holding her throat, gasping for air, choking on her own blood.
Some people began to run, some hid, others lay flat on the floor. Chris approached the iPod Ghetto blaster. He stomped on it until the horrific sound ceased. Both Jesse and Chris began yelling orders.
“In the name of your Lord and Savior get on the ground!” Jesse exclaimed.
“YOU! YOU! YOU!” Chris pointed his Mini Uzi BB gun at the three bank tellers. “Put your Hands on your head and get on your knees!” He walked around the counter, placed the gun’s barrel on the temple of the teller closest to him. Kneeling down next to her he whispered, “Pray. Pray like you are on your knees before God himself.” She began to shake uncontrollably with fear, pleading for her life.
Just then, three shots were fired. Crack! Crack! Crack! Chris felt the bullets pierce his torso and the blood leak throughout his entrails. In the corner of his eye he saw his assailant. It was a 72-year-old woman. The 22mm gun she’s carried since Richard Ramirez’s reign of terror on Los Angeles had finally been put to use. As he held his bleeding stomach, he opened fire on the tellers. BB after BB, they didn’t know what the hell was transpiring.
Immediately Jesse had realized what happened. Without a thought he began to open fire. Crack! He hit granny smith right on the check bone. Crack! The next shot hit the leg of the man beside her. Quickly making his way to Chris. CRACK! The trembling teller fell face first. CRACK! The middle teller is shot in his left eye. CRACK! CRACK! The last teller took two shots to the chest. Click! Jesse had emptied his clip.
Before he had a chance to reload, Jesse had noticed the abundance of police at the entrances. He disrobed himself of the Baphomet getup and reloaded the Colt. Before making his way to the front entrance he shot Chris in the head, so he may rest in peace with his Lord. As he made his way toward the entrance the remaining people, engulfed in fear, stayed put in their places hoping to go unnoticed. One man near the complementary coffee began to pray and proceeded to puke—its unclear what caused the reaction, the smell of death or the instant coffee the bank serves.
In a swift effortless motion, Jesse bolted out of the doors firing at the police. For every bullet Jesse shot, his body consumed ten. Riddled with bullets he fell on his back, gazing toward the sky. Where was his God now? Surely he would not abandon his faithful follower. Yet, the closest thing to a miracle that Jesse had encountered as he lay dying was that he no longer had to worry about how he was going to pay back his student loans.
By Alfred J. Leone
He sits across from me on the opposite couch. He plays with his hair and tries to fix it as he does his homework. I can sense the shifts in his eyes, though. It seems that he’s looking at me through his peripheral vision.
The front of the couches are pushed together so that we each have our feet on opposing sides. His feet are next to me, and though I can smell his toes with the sweat of his long day, I am happy to be close to him. Each flip of the page of his textbook blows a faint wave of the stale air on my bare shins. The shift in his weight makes me want to get closer, but I can’t.
We were alone, but now company has disrupted us. On any other occasion, I would have liked this; however, I wanted this time alone. As he stretches back, his shirt rises and reveals his bare skin on his stomach that he is quick to cover--cutting his stretch short.
If only he let his shirt continue to creep higher.
I’ve known him for nine months now, and he doesn’t know how much I value this moment. I figured I would break the silence.
I looked up from my computer screen, and softly said, “What are you up to?”
He sighed and, without looking up from his book, said, “I’m thinking.”
He then flipped the page deeper into the textbook. The pages again sent a gentle breeze across my shins, this time disturbing the previously still leg hairs along my calves. I breathed in and let out a sigh. I went back to typing.
Soon, I moved over to his couch. We now faced the same way, and I could hear the sound of his breath through his slightly congested nose. The soft whistling sound as air passed through his nose hairs was comforting. Once, I had a dream that we would be together; for a while I made myself believe it could come true. But, now I feel that dream is becoming more of a fantasy than a potential reality. Despite our proximity, I feel more distant than before. He closed his book and began writing on his wrinkled, spiral notebook. Wondering what he was writing, I began to drift back into my thoughts.
Sitting there on the coarse couch, I remembered the moment when we first met. We were sitting next to each other, like this, only we were in a coffee shop with a group of people we had just met. I felt close to him immediately, and I was forever within his gravitational pull—-always pulling me back to him, always wanting to be with him, always needing to be with him.
Now, nine months later, I am still pulled to him, only stronger. My skin still got cold, and my arm hair still rose, when I felt his olive colored skin brush against mine. I was so close to him on the couch that I could feel his breath and his heat as it escaped from his body. His energy was forever pulling me back closer, closer. Every time I tried to get away from this feeling, I was compelled to come back to the comfort. Now this pull only brought me closer to anxiety, a feeling I was beginning to lose something I never really had. Something that I thought was always there. Something that I thought would never leave. Something that I thought I would eventually get to touch. I could only get so close before I knew I had to hold back.
Out of nowhere he faintly said, “Ah, I love my life.”
I didn’t know how to respond, so I just looked up and smiled. We made eye contact, and I was instantly consumed by the clarity in his blue-green eyes that were slightly blood shot this early in the morning. His eyes were bright, not sunken and confused like mine; still, there probably wasn’t anything for him to be confused about.
“What makes you say that?” I whispered.
“Because I’m surrounded by those that I love.”
I love you, too. I feel the same way.” He would never know how strongly I agreed.
He seemed uncomfortable, but maybe it was because we were sitting in this position for most of the night. He looked back down and continued to write in his notebook.
“I’m happy to have gotten to know you,” I quietly said while looking at the side of his soft skinned face. He turned his head and looked at me. His face was now close enough to touch, to kiss. He was so close but not close enough. I wanted to feel his pale, curved lips on mine. I couldn’t do it; but then he did it for me. He gently turned his head, shifted his weight,
and pressed his mouth up against my chapped, dry lips. His were soft and revitalized mine, and we sat there motionless holding the single kiss. We released and slowly opened our eyes and stared into each other’s dilated pupils. We were now inside my car underneath a lone streetlamp along a dark road. I curved my lips into my mouth and licked off the saliva whilst my eyes began to blur. I closed them, releasing tears down the curvature of my face. He quickly wiped them with his warm, smooth hand, and rested his head on my shoulder. I felt the heat and weight of his head resting on my arm. I no longer felt pulled into his gravitational pull. I just felt warm.
The Last Vestiges
By Mike Cleland
They are marching up the rubble. They raid the shanties. A magnetic pull in our room- a friction. Our cups rattle and our books fall to the floor, our candle light fades. A piercing blue light appears on our thin walls. It scans slowly and then flails rapidly over them, searching every crevice. We duck down and look up and the lights unite and form their mark, “f.” It penetrates the plywood, transmutes, and then hovers above us like a blue burning star, singeing our hair and burning our skin. With a flash it’s gone and we can breath.
We wise men did not submit to “f.” Its banners litter the streets where the trees used to be. Our flag is blue and white, no stars or red on it. The only red I’ve seen lately is the blood splatter that stains the streets.
Life was picturesque with “f.” Small voices were expressed and heard. Everyone liked it, shared it, and recommended it. We bought credits for little games and applications.
We know now it infected our computers and seeped into our phones, stole our privacy- took and sold our identities. At the time few people could get good jobs without a connection, and it was worse for the later generations. President after president failed. The government, with its increasing unpopularity, took to “f”’s lucre out of fear, as its wealth and power had grown exponentially.
“The Way” was an overnight sensation. The inventor of “f” made enemies with his partners, but soon the people regarded him as the savior. He gave free credits to small businesses, virtually subsidizing them. He believed in the struggling middle class, producing jobs in brilliant inventive ways, and unemployment dropped.
“f” stores were formed and franchised, people who bought its credits could buy affordable insurance, loans, and necessities. “f” stores spread like wildfire, and there was but one firm rule, never shove out the struggling neighbor.
It was a sad day when the inventor was assassinated by some religious zealot. There was a public outcry. It had only been several years into “The Way,” and the people began to panic.
The inventor’s son had his father’s blonde curls and kind eyes. His image flooded every channel.
“Why do they kill the great ones? My father had only wanted to help this world. But if there’s one thing he’d want from me now, demand of me- would be to continue his legacy. My good people, I don’t have half my father’s mind, but I have his heart. And if that small minded man should be watching in that cold cell, I forgive you, because I know my father has already done so in heaven. My good people, I come to you as a mere servant, and though we are deeply wounded, we are not defeated.”
There was a roar from the crowd that shook the cities. The young man lifted his hands up in farewell with the utmost humility, but if one were to look closer, they’d find a glint of vanity in his eyes, as if he had anticipated this response.
“The Way” prospered for decades. Unemployment dropped steadily, and the crumbling government collapsed.
The cancer seeped into the “f” database overnight. The current currency, “f” credits, jumped and skipped accounts and then rose and sunk sharply in others. The people found themselves rich or bankrupt. “f” stores were shut down. The inventor’s son maintained that we were wounded, but not defeated.
We became like a third world country. Honest people robbed just to survive. In desperation the inventor’s son concocted a scheme, called, “The Elixir of Life.” If one swore allegiance to “f,” they were promised immortality.
His followers came in multitudes and at first accosted us, as they were not rationed food unless they inducted new members. Soon after they raided our barter exchanges and we were made aware of their supernatural strength. When their rage was evident, “f,” could be seen glowing on their foreheads.
Their armies are now stationed in every country. Our own do not dare challenge them, for their numbers have grown exponentially. For those who do not submit it is impossible to buy or sell any necessity. Resources are running out.
We must have missed the alarm. Through the grey lingering light, we can see the crowd lighting fire to the shanties.
A holograph of the inventor’s son appears above the crowd. He is now gaunt and gray, deranged. He gets on one knee and folds his hands, “My good people, I urge you!-”
There’s commotion and I see blood spurting from the neck of an “f” member. A wiseman holding a bloody knife is thrown into the air and drops, his limbs mangled. They end him by bludgeoning. The shrill sound of bones breaking. The rest look at the “f” member dying slowly with indifferent muse, the blood flow now a slow trickle. A gun is passed along through the crowd towards him.
“Save bullets!” a white robed man commands them. He pulls me aside and settles his hand on my shoulder as we walk.
“God was right about there being nothing new under the sun. We eat, we shit, we fuck- we kill. I don’t care for burning your kind in the fire, but God cares not either. If He should look down he’d see grey swirling motes where the fires had swept, and the sea a vast tar. We merely exist. We are the last vestiges.”
He stops and wipes my forehead with a cloth.
“I can see that you were handsome once, from your eyes important. Tell me the last time you had a good meal? A warm bed? A woman?”
I say nothing.
“Silly old man.”
I sprint to the bunker. I look back and he’s smiling.
I slide down the rail.
Familiar faces, those good wise men. But they walk closer, closing in, weapons in hand, and their foreheads glow “f.”
Gerald Punches a Guy in the Dick
By Richie Lunenburg
Most lakes have a general bland shape sort of like a kidney or some other pouchy organ, but there is a lake in northern Iowa that is shaped like a frown, bowing down on both the east and west ends of the lake. The natives nearby had not noticed this until Google Maps became an entity and one day some teenagers looked at their hometown out of curiosity and saw the frowny lake and dubbed it The Frowny Lake and it was fitting.
Gerald would often go to the lake, even before the lake was known to be Frowny, and frown the days away because young people can do those things because they are young even if they don’t know it. Today, a soggy day with heat from the sun just coming through the tree top fog enough for Gerald to take his pull over off, he sat at the cusp of the lake and dipped and swayed the toe of his sneaker in the shallow ripples. Yesterday, a very cold, cold day that was normal for the natives was not normal for Gerald because he had told his sweetheart Pauline he loved her and by after-lunch time he saw her knooked in the crevice of an emergency door and stairwell sticking her tongue down another boy’s throat with such great vigor that it might have pressed the uvula back and up to trigger a vomiting response. Also dipping his sneakers into the water just above the smooth brown stones was Gerald’s best friend, who’s name doesn’t matter because he won’t be Gerald’s best friend for much longer.
Gerald peered over his shoulder sort of looking up the hill that sloped down towards the lake ridge below the line of pines and birds’ nests and he held there, still, quiet, mouth-breathing.
“I’m gonna rip his D off,” Gerald said.
“His what off?” asked his best friend.
“His D off.”
“His what off?”
“I’m gonna castrate him.”
“You’re gonna rip his dick off?”
“I don’t know who he is or who he thinks he is but I know he isn’t as much as I am.”
“When you gonna rip his dick off?”
Tomorrow morning came and Gerald waited in the hall near the science classrooms where he would always wait before first period to see Pauline and hug her and ask her if she fought with her father again the night before and she would grin and move the tuft of hair thrown off the front of his crown to kiss his forehead. She would leave and they would see each other only again at lunch. Today, another cold, cold day, Pauline walked into the hall and her eyes bore a sightline straight to Gerald and he could feel the pressure stabbing into his kidneys and his sternum and he could not look up because when he tried to he saw that kid who had been sucking on his girlfriend’s tongue the day before trailing behind her. She put a hand on the kid’s chest and mouthed something, probably, wait here while I stomp on this other boy’s throat with my words.
“Hi, Pauline,” said Gerald.
“Can we talk?”
“No. No, we cannot, Pauline. We cannot talk because you have done something that I can not understand and now to repay both you and selfishly myself I am going to do something I cannot understand.”
Gerald broke from her gaze and stepped down the hallway, his sight now boring into the kid. He was leaning against red lockers, wearing an old sport coat football players from the ‘50s wore and had one strap of his back pack over one of his strapping shoulders and was trying to look inconspicuous but also amused at some thing he was thinking of. Gerald stepped in front of him and the kid stood up straight.
“My name is Gerald and you may know who I am or you may not, but you absolutely know Pauline, who I would like to say is mine, but for a man to be so possessive over a woman is gorilla like, savage, so I will not say she is mine. She is her own thing and a cold, cold concubine at that. That still does not remove you from the guilt of ruining things.”
Like flint Gerald balls his fist into a tight clasped weapon and swings right into the kid’s groin. The kid groans and drops to the floor and Gerald kicks him in the stomach with the tip of his sneaker, then stomps on the boy’s fingers. Other students congregate and egg on the fight and whistles from gym teachers and hollers from janitors and principals cram the hall full of screaming and balloo. The kid rolls around on the floor, cringing, writhing, crying, and Gerald stands tall with a frown wiped clean. From behind Gerald is being hit on his head, it’s Pauline. Gerald away and back to see Pauline red in her face with tears streaming down.
“What’s wrong with you, Gerald? What in God’s name is wrong with you?”
“I know,” Gerald says, “that I am more than he is.”
FLASH FICTION WINNERS:
By Nate Musser
The room was white. The sun shone through the blinds, projecting jail bar shadows on the wall. My father opened them immediately. I shaded my eyes from the new light.
“It’s nice,” I said.
He stood at the window and stared. I walked beside him and saw my mother down in the parking lot, helping my grandfather into his wheelchair. Even next to mom, Gramps looked small and frail.
I stepped back from the window and opened one of the boxes on the floor. At the crack of the cardboard, my nose filled with the familiar scent of the old house, the one that until last month, Gramps and Grams had woken up in every day for 46 years.
Gramps couldn’t maintain the house alone, so we moved him here, an old folk’s community with twin beds and a view of a crumbling asphalt ocean.
On the top of the box was a picture of my father as a young boy, sitting on Gramps’ shoulders, dad’s bare feet dangling on his father’s chest.
There were several nails left on the wall from whoever had lived and died there before. I took the picture out and hung it on the naked wall.
My father glanced over as I tried to make the picture stay straight. A weak smile escaped his lips.
“What?” I asked, chuckling and walking beside him once more. My father’s eyes were fixed out the window again. I noticed the mixed golden and gray hairs on his head.
“He used to say that picture made him look like a king,” my father said softly. “Like I was his crown.”
Below, a man in a wheelchair sat in front of his new home, his hand shading his eyes from the sun, his feet dangling just above the ground.
Meet Me at Eleven
By Rachel Clare
Eleven PM, he had said. On the corner of First and Main, same place as always.
The parking lot hummed with bodies and cars, a typical Friday night scene. Teenagers collected for food following a high school football match, but this one boy in particular was nowhere to be found.
A girl stood outside, eyes filtering through the new arrivals. Laughter danced through the door and out into the open air with each entry and exit. She felt the anticipation in her fingertips as she searched for the approach of a familiar truck.
The night hinged on a promise to exchange smiles and stories over late night cups of coffee. Weeks and months slipped by on the calendar, friendship slipping into acquaintanceship, but her heart still caught in her throat when his name popped up on her phone.
She scuffed her shoe against the pavement, tucked her hands into her pockets. Others grouped into booths over plates of fried food while she studied her reflection in the windowpane.
A waiter stepped outside, leaned against the wall, lit a cigarette. Smoke tumbled off his lips as he inhaled, exhaled, ground the stub into asphalt, returned to work.
Still the girl waited. A glance at her phone; nothing.
Her memory of this boy, or perhaps just a friend, shifted back into distorted photographs as the clock ticked on. Eleven PM, he had told her, at the diner. So there she stood.
The teenagers inside scraped forks and knives over nearly empty plates, paid their bills, headed home. She watched the retreating headlights shine past her.
The clock read 11:45pm.
One last glance, one last breath of hope, before she too retreated, the diner sign still glowing warmly beneath orange streetlights.
All Of The Years
By Nathan Cruz
Let her cry, she deserves it.
That is how he honestly felt.
In that moment, both crying on opposite ends of the the kitchen, he looked up at the ceiling. He realized something. She’s stuck. She’s been stuck for a long time.
He felt stronger seeing her weep hysterically. Good, she knows how I felt when I was growing up. She’s a horrible person and deserves to feel this way. As stubborn and relentless as he was, he still had a big heart. He walked across the kitchen and gave her a hug. She began to sob even louder on his chest.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” was all she kept repeating. It was hard to hear. How could she be sorry if she kept making the same mistakes over and over again?
He was determined to get better and live the life he wanted for himself, no matter how hard it would be to get there. Nothing would stop him. Not his past. Not the negative people in his life.
You don’t need anyone but yourself. The only person stopping you is you. At least you are more aware of yourself. When things begin to work out, you’re going to look back at this and think, holy shit, I came from that?
Flash Fiction Runners-Up:
No Other Option
By Wes Verner
The man sits at his table, bottle and glass in front of him. The bottle is almost half gone. He pours another whiskey double and goes back to writing his story. It is 3 a.m. and he has been online for the past eleven hours. The rest of his friends (online that is, for he has none in real life) have just gone to bed. He is thinking about her.
Why, why the hell did he have to say all those things? Remove any one of them from the conversation and everything is fine. They are still together, probably sleeping cozy in their bed. But life isn’t like video games. You don’t get to save and reload if you fuck up. He realizes the glass is empty again. Glaring at the bottle, he pours another. He is past giving a shit about drinking alone.
He goes back to his laptop. A blank word document stares out at him, mocking him with its cleanliness, its white purity. At one time he would have found this inspirational, like the font of creativity was at his disposal. Now though, it just reminds him of things he gave up on. Things he should have tried harder with, or for. Like her. Goddammit! Haven’t seen her or spoken to her for weeks and still she controls me. He thinks this with his mind, though his heart is not in it; it knows he would cry tears of happiness if she showed up wanting him back.
So what the fuck is he to do? Drunken stupors after nights of Raiding with people he’s never met outside of a virtual realm are losing their glamor.
He goes to his dresser, and removes a box. She can’t force him to not anymore. He pulls the trigger.
By Gabe Ferreira
It has taken me a while to realize this, but I have finally come to the sad conclusion that one only realizes how great their life is when it all fades away and becomes part of the past. I've lived my entire life chasing my destiny, working day and night in the hope that one day I would sleep in peace. Well, guess what, I have accomplished everything there is to accomplish and I feel nothing that resembles even the weakest sense of fulfillment. There is value in my name, there is prestige in what I do, and my reputation evokes respect and admiration from every single soul in this world. However, the same genius that has gone this far was convinced that there is hope in a flask of distilled liquor, joy in the screen of digital device, and solutions in a pile of hundred-dollar bills. Fueled by these devils, the thrilling quest to success has led me nowhere. Nothing ever makes me happy. I discovered that my life and I are worthless: I have no family, I have no friends, I have no woman to keep me company; my phone only rings when a desperate client seeks to drain my body of the little soul that remains in it. I wasted every single hour of life preparing for a future that has never come, and, in the process, forgot that I had a life to live. If I had the option to go back in time, probably back to my early 20s, balance would be at the top of my list. I'd work myself to the bone during the week, but shut it all off during the weekends and remember that there is something bigger outside of my arrogant, selfish, inconsiderate self. Fuck, give me a time machine.