Category: flash fiction

The Liar’s Club by Andrew Johnston

The guy said that he’d been held and interrogated in Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War – sure he’d been drinking, but enough to fabricate something like that? The whole reason you go to an expatriate bar on Christmas is to hear the bullshit. It’s less a matter of lies than degrees of truth, because everyone here is a storyteller, which is to say that they deal in truths that fall short of being factual. I bet he was there in Belarus on the Russian front in some capacity, maybe even a shady one. How he ended up in China after the fall was a mystery in itself.

It’s a mystery how anyone ends up here, really – in this city, in this country, in this particular tavern on this particular night. We’ve all got damage, though I might have taken a larger share. But when there’s an opportunity, you take it, even if it means leaving a piece of yourself – even if it means cadging a bit of turkey and some free drinks at a holiday party you didn’t know you were invited to. It’s normal in its own way, even if the people aren’t.

Chalkboard of Consciousness by Yash Seyedbagheri     

They know only that you smoke pot. Terms like “addict,” “troubled,” and “stoner” are bandied about. Counselors are recommended. But you’re eighteen. Counselors are for fucked up, abandoned thirteen-year olds. Middle-aged lechers.

They cannot know what it means to smoke pot. They claimed they dabbled back in the day but had to grow up. Put childish things behind.

When you smoke, labels are wiped away by a feeling you call a chalkboard of consciousness. It’s like the idea of John Locke’s tabula rasa, but with a chalkboard hovering in your consciousness, wiped clear of waste and labels. It’s ready to be filled with something else, something of your own choosing.

Watch Your Weight by Joe Giordano

Skyrocketing numbers of obese Americans have triggered an epidemic of type-2 diabetes leading to deteriorating health for millions, so I’m supporting the legislative proposal to make wearing the newest Apple Watch obligatory. With bouquet-recognition and hand-motion monitoring, the timepiece’s diet mode automatically senses what you’re eating and the mouthfuls you’ve taken, alerting you when your permissible calorie threshold is approaching. Should you exceed your limit or, God forbid, someone tempts you by placing a crème brûlée within sniffing distance, the stage-one feedback response zaps your wrist with an electric shock.

When The Pendulum Swings Too Far by Jenny Butler

The group were weary. They had reached the deserted settlement, black-clad pilgrims comprised of masters, priests, prophets, messengers, and six big German Shepherds. The meaning of the place, Xtul, was “the end” in Yucatec Maya, which they had taken as a sign that they should settle there. At first it seemed desolate and without hope but they held out until they received a communication. Some among them believed beings had accompanied them along the journey but more important were the felt presences in this new land. The beings here were altogether unique, apparitions of translucent shapes, amorphous blobs that moved slowly and deliberately, others appearing jewelled and shining or human-sized billowing forms.

Do Me a Favour by Katie Oliver

On Thursday night the head chef’s girlfriend comes into the restaurant to have a meal. She’s got a wheely suitcase with her – come straight from the Eurostar, apparently; they all know she’s studying at the Sorbonne. The head chef hurriedly combs his hair back from his forehead, wipes greasy hands down his apron.

Do me a favour, he says. Don’t tell Millie what I’m like when I’m here. All the… you know.

She narrows her eyes but nods her assent, folds her arms. Sure, she says.

Breath From Strangers by Thomas Elson

His hands trembled as he reached for a shopping cart. He had avoided life for the past five weeks. Now, wherever he looked there were threats. He saw it in the way people veered to the left or the right. He saw it in their eyes.

Past sliding doors into an open area designed to protect customers from winter blasts and summer bursts. He walked around stacks of bottled water, boxes of mac and cheese, and sugared cereal, then to a second set of doors. Clerks who had once smiled now resembled bank robbers – their faces covered and eyes swerving. One employee pointed to a sign.

Answer One Question for The Stay of a Lifetime by Rebecca Houghton

“Have you seen my wife?” says Mr. Blakeney, his hand coming down on the slate tile counter with a thump.

“Ah, hello, sir. We’ve been expecting you,” replies the neatly dressed concierge, his dark red uniform smartly pressed, metallic buttons glinting in the light from the old-fashioned brass desk lamp.

“My wife isn’t here?” says Mr. Blakeney.