Category: Fiction

Encaulled by Steven French

There was a place, it was said, where if you held still, stopped your breath, waited, waited … you could see the ghostly funeral processions pass. Down the long road from the old mansion house, now a nursing home. The family, long since gone, had had the privilege, when one of them died, of having the coffin carried down the long road at midnight. Down through the fields, now housing estates, across the streams and becks, now paved over, past the stores and warehouses, now coffee houses and apartment complexes. If anyone were about, doing god knows what, out with cause, or not, they would turn aside, or step back into the shadows, eyes down, letting the procession step slowly by. Down towards the river, down through the town to the parish church. There to pause, to request admittance, a soft glove against the door, the slow creak as it opened and the priest stepping to one side. The service, brief with few hymns, a short summary of a life, sometimes long, more often not. The crypt opened, the smell of old bones released into the air.

Sprinkles by Eule Grey

Eggs.

Eggs, potatoes, onions, spices, oil, tomatoes, ham. Cheese: optional.

Eggs.

Eggs, potatoes, onions … eggs.

It’s a long list. Miranda can remember the first three items but not the rest. She copies from her ‘Meals for One’ cookbook onto the notepad, making sure to write in quite large letters so it will be legible in the shop. Last week she didn’t do this, and when she stood in front of the supermarket aisles with a page of scribble, it was no good. No good at all.

Freshly Laundered Baby Clothes by Emma Burger

The booth in the back right corner at Emilio’s is mine. The hostess knows just to nod at me as I walk in – no, I won’t be eating. The bright colored fairy lights that trim the bar really do it for me. It reminds me of how I used to do the living room for Christmas with the boys, except Emilio’s keeps them up all year. Dominic works Mondays and Wednesdays, Brady works Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Lacy gets the weekend shifts. They all know my order, although Brady does it the best. Dominic keeps giving me lemons instead of limes, no matter how many times I remind him. He’s like my oldest, Jackson – kindhearted, but things don’t really stick with him. Sometimes I swear, I’ll need to tell Jackson to put his laundry away thirteen, fourteen times before he does it. He gets that from his father. His mind is just somewhere else.

Sui Generis by Ken Wetherington

The experts said life would return to normal. They were wrong simply because, for most, a weary stasis had set in. Like pretty much everyone, my job had come to occupy nearly all my waking hours. But on that day, an inexplicable impulse propelled me to take a radical action. I went for a walk.

In the warmth of a summer afternoon, light sweat broke across my forehead and collected in my armpits, despite the shady, tree-lined street. Large, well-kept houses held silent vigil, shielding their unseen occupants from the outside world. After a couple of blocks, a woman walking her dog appeared on the opposite sidewalk. She kept her head down, though her little dog yapped at me. A little farther along, a landscaper snipped diligently at a hedge. He never looked up.

Spirit of Curiosity by David Clémenceau

About the time when Perseverance landed on Big Red, the board of directors of Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had reached the rather unspectacular general consensus that their initial hopes for the Curiosity Mars rover to function for at least one Martian year, or 687 Earth days, had been amply satisfied. The data sent back to Earth so far was judged invaluable.

Emboldened by these results, the board decided, still unspectacularly, to send another rover on a complementary mission to Mars, but covertly. Unlike its older twin, Spirit of Curiosity, or Soc, would conduct the exploration of the Red Planet’s surface through mathematical deduction based on data fed into its memory banks. An autonomous robot with an open-ended AI on Mars was then ruled spectacular enough to keep it secret. If anything went wrong and word got out, they could still say it was all about the original rover.

Marrowbone Creek by D.W. Davis

We set up camp by the creek. As I was stoking a fire, the sheriff told us the name. “Not sure why it’s called that,” he said. “The name just stuck once, the way they do sometimes.”

There were five of us, an uncomfortably large number. Normally it was just Wilcox and myself, which could be uncomfortable all its own, depending on his mood. He normally kept to himself, hidden behind his beard and grizzly frame, a hulking man who kept his Winchester carbine closer than most mothers did their children. The others in our party were Sheriff John Walken, a man of indeterminate age but whose way of carrying himself suggested he’d seen plenty of action, perhaps on both sides of the law; Nadine Effins, a thin waif of a young woman whom Wilcox and I had been hired by the sheriff to rescue; and Miles Myerscough, the man who’d kidnapped her. That Myerscough still breathed surprised me; Wilcox had a tendency to kill men like that without hesitation, either through some flawed moral principle or, just as likely, enjoyment.

White by J.T. Bundy

Her briefcase thudded against the stairs as Elise went up into the house. The client’s son Wade led the way. Despite his age – early thirties, she guessed – there was a white streak in his hair like he’d suffered a terrible fright and never recovered. “Not many female operators these days,” he offered – the typical preamble.

“Not many operators full stop,” she replied. “And mostly freelance since the HC downsized.”

“Indeed.”

Carrots by Phoebe Thomson

I was smoking in dad’s garden, pacing and stamping around. There were some seeds on Dad’s kitchen table and I had sprinkled them onto the soil. I might have fainted or tripped, the doctors say. I don’t know which.

Dad’s neighbour saw me, and she got me to the hospital. They didn’t want to send me home that night, so they kept me in a bed there. I listened to the same podcast over and over. It was about wild deer living on a housing estate on the edge of London. The deer peeped in the ground floor windows while people were doing their washing up. I must have listened to it five or six times. I kept forgetting parts, because of the concussion.

Compassionate Leave by Dan Brotzel

‘Hi Barry, it’s Tanya.’

‘Oh hi Tanya, thanks for taking my call. I know you must be busy with the pharma conference…’

‘Certainly am, Barry. We most certainly are! We’re missing your input! Anyway, what can I do for you? How’s it all going?’

‘Phrr, well it’s pretty tricky, I’m afraid. I’ve managed to pin down my daughter’s location…’

‘Right…’