Crooker by Alex Bestwick

Water curls over the lip of the cave like curtains. I shiver back into the curve of earth and damp soil patters around me. The shelter protects me from the elements a little, but I am already sodden. I am lost. I am ten. I am terrified. The last thing I am is protected.

Far below, the river sings a war cry, laughing and lapping at its embankments. The trees scream and creak under the brutal bend of the wind. Lightning veins across the sky and turns the clouds momentarily to purple slate. Thunder shakes the world.

What Chloe does in the metaverse without you is about you by Salena Casha

Chloe mentions that she got her new track pants in the metaverse when she went shopping with Alessa and you hate to think that they’re hanging out without you in some virtual Ivy Park and getting matching tattoos while you’re sitting at home eating salmon salad with your parents. She told you she’d get a matching tattoo with you, a real one when you both graduate – two halves of a butterfly – but you’ve heard that in the verse when you have tattoos like that and you line up the ink, the blue outline will shiver and crawl right out of your skin, hover above you as you hold onto each other on a roller coaster at Cedar Point even though you’ve never left Florida.

Shit is so much cooler in there. Tattoos mean something in there. People go places in there.

Breaking Up with Melanne Collie by Sam Lesek

“C’mon babe, let’s watch another show,” Melanne Collie said, swathed in an unwashed, grey hoodie, and face painted with runny mascara. “Or we can take another nap.” She had felt Jack’s phone vibrate through the sofa cushions.

 Jack could no longer remember how long they’d been a couple for. Even the memory of their first meeting was foggy. But Mel had moved into Jack’s small apartment almost immediately, decorating it to her taste–with dust, a dish-filled sink, and closed curtains. “Hang on, Mel,” he said.

Mitteleurope by Liam Foley

We arrived in Budapest at night and caught the bus towards the centre. Through the dark glass we looked into its suburbs. They are austere and the wind is cold in the winter. At our accommodation, we sat and shared a beer. Laura went on her phone. After some time, she said that the invasion of Ukraine had begun.

We hadn’t eaten and decided to go out for some food. The streets were partially lit. Thick misty breath rose above the people as they paced through the frozen night. Some were alone, others were in groups.

Dead Language by Colin Wolcott

Ninety-nine point nine percent of all species which have existed on Earth are now extinct. And although species die off every year, extinctions are concentrated in six major episodes throughout the planet’s history. The most significant of these was the Permian-Triassic event, wherein greater than 90% of all diversity on Earth was lost. By contrast, the most recent and well-known mass extinction, the Cretaceous-Paleogene event, in which the non-avian dinosaurs perished, was comparatively mild, eliminating roughly 75% of extant species. And while the very episode that wiped out the dinosaurs also created the conditions leading to our existence, the next mass extinction is likely to call that existence into question.

Colorful as White by Hannah Zhang

When I was little, I always loved watching my sister paint. She would create the most realistic snow capped mountains and the rustiest torn down barns. I would sit next to her and watch her create whole worlds with just a few flicks of her palm. She would give me a blank canvas, and tell me to draw anything I wanted. I hated seeing that blank canvas, it was just a square of nothing, so I would paint streaks of color everywhere. Turquoise, maroon, magenta. Off they went, covering every corner of that ugly blankness.