Lost in Transition by Leslie Wolfe

Francine usually avoided baggage claim, especially after an international flight arrived. The palpable, cranky energy that rolled off the living as they watched other people’s luggage bump down the ramp was enough to put her on edge for days. She ignored the red flags her brain flung out and held her ground, waiting. Again.

Hours passed. When even the security guards were dozing in their uncomfortable chairs, the baggage conveyor belt’s fogged plastic flaps parted to admit an abandoned duffel. An ethereal shape draped itself over it, quickly apparent as a diaphanous, boy-sized human that leaped off the carousel and ran to Francine. “You’re back!”

Visceral by Maheen Majid

I’m leaking again, and it’s just as annoying as the last fucking time. Harvey had to tell me there was blood on my shirt because I didn’t even notice at first. So now I’m standing in the bathroom rewrapping my bandages while he waits outside as usual.

He offered to help, of course, but I don’t need help. As frustrating as it is, I usually like this being my own little ritual where I can just dissemble and breathe freely. It’s less enjoyable when I’ve ruined another shirt and I’m getting fluids all over the sink.

Line Reading by Tyler Corbridge

Shane picks his mysteries by their covers. Trench coats, fedoras, shadowy back alleys, that sort of thing. One Sunday afternoon, at a restaurant called Chester’s, Shane was caught up in a mystery involving a stolen antique spoon when a dark-haired young lady leaned across her table to say, “Any guesses?”

Shane blank-faced her over top of his paperback.

“Who stole the spoon?” she said. Her voice was low, syrupy, and her smile said she was about to give away the answer.

The Faith Organ by Anuja Mitra

They corner me a quarter of the way into my evening walk. I’ve been tracing this route since the first week of lockdown; now, in week five, my soles can pull me through it in my sleep. These habits are innocuous enough in isolation. And yet I can’t contain that air of doom, the anxiety throbbing underneath it all. I see myself shuffling through my neighborhood like those fleeing pixels that become Pacman’s lunch, gliding down the same old tunnels to no escape.

I’m entering one such tunnel, a sort of wooded path forking off a driveway, when I hear a hello at my heels. I turn, squinting in the glare of early sunset. It’s three women: an older woman and two young women. A mother and daughters, teacher and students? Leader and disciples? They approach, this strange trinity, asking if they can give me a “presentation” on the Passover. Lucky for them I say yes because I’m a poor practitioner of saying no. (Do I emit a heathen look? Hare Krishnas like to stop me on the street.)

It’s a dad’s life by Jeremy Hinchliff

‘Mind you get that bike home in one piece.’

His mother left him at the school bike sheds. The car faded towards Ipsden Heath, leaving him to cycle home the long route.

The long route would have been all right in the end. But on this fateful day Tom Purton decided to make the descent of Berins Hill, the forbidden shortcut. Thirty seconds down the incline he heard a little tinkling behind him. His rear brake was falling off. Away went the endless sequence of nuts and washers accompanying the brake pads, into the abyss. The bike picked up speed.

Ice Houses by Zary Fekete

The pilot talked over the in-cabin speakers, and I mostly let it wash over me. Those of you sitting on the sun-side of the craft, please keep the windows darkened. In the event of a sub-orbital flight-failure, blue lights on the floor will illuminate the path to the eject capsules. Etc. Etc. The only time my ears perked up was when she mentioned the approach toward Saturn. This would be the longest flight I had taken so far, and I wanted to hear the recommended gravity settings.

I looked out the window as the craft took off, and, in the split second before the acceleration into the slip-space portal, I saw several white lakes dotted around Duluth come into view in the distance, their waters frozen in the dead of January, variously peppered with little black ice-fishing houses. I smiled. In my mind I saw a young boy, holding his father’s hand as they walked across the frozen surface toward their ice-house.

The Train at Platform Seven is Calling at all Stations by Joyce Bingham

The repetition of my commuter journey lulled me and took my mind to distant shores, but muscle memory kept my feet on the right path. As every morning I wondered how I got here, remembering nothing of my way. A cold fog swirled, swiping at my ankles as I entered the wide station concourse.

I headed for the usual platform, the first train of the day, busy and teaming with stress, leaching out of the seats and into the air like the haze on a marsh. People streamed through the ticket barrier, carrying cups of coffee, hauling luggage and trailing their anxiety behind them. The herd moved to the next platform, the clomping heels and squeaking wheels diminished, only I walked to platform seven.

Burying the Dead by Abigail Seltzer

There was some confusion about where Carole should sit. She had ordered five low mourners’ chairs, but the rabbi (who had stayed far too long as it was) explained yet again that Jewish law did not permit ex-wives to sit on mourner’s chairs, even if they had been married to the deceased for nearly thirty years. She could, if she wanted, sit near her ex-brother-in-law and her daughters, but not next to them. She was only there as a comforter of mourners, not as a mourner. As he put on his high black hat to leave, he reminded her to cover her mirrors, as was required for a house of mourning.

‘All the mirrors,’ he added, with the air of a man who knew a rule-breaker when he saw one.

Head Above Clouds by J.T. Ruiter

“I saw polar bears tumbling into a cloud-filled crater,” I told him. “As if going into the clouds of heaven–but down, instead of up.

“I had this feeling in my dream that my friends were worried,”  I went on. “But me? I don’t know what I felt. Elation, maybe. Excitement. Kinship. The clouds were so dense, white-tailed deer galloped on them. There were rabbits, too. All manner of animals–anything but human–making their pilgrimage to it: a wide, lonely crater.”

“Yea, uh-huh,” he said. “That’s a weird dream, Perry.”