Lost and Oddly, Amused by Emil Black

Coming back from work that day, I had the obscure idea of playing with a thousand-sided dice.

“O-Oh, sorry, I’m busy over the weekends, kids are a handful. Maybe another time?”

“No, It’s fine. Another time then. Take care.”

A prolonged beep bounced around in my ear. After the call ended, I realized how small my contact list was. Falling back into the white sheets, I started at the ceiling. Rain trickled down the windows of the apartment, clicking with each touch. A dull ache ran through my arms and shoulders. Two tickets to a local amusement park sat slotted between my fingers. Using both seemed out of the question. A timid man stood inside the mall, advertising his tickets. It seemed that he wasn’t going to put them to use. Tangling with ticket reselling was never my thing, so the entire situation was more than dreamlike. I bought the tickets, of course, at less than market price. I was too delirious after work.

Indispensable by Tim Oke

‘And how long have you had the pain for?’ Annabel asked, going through Ultra-Health’s standard questions.

She had told Jess that she had started dreaming these questions, after just a month into her six-month contract with the medical insurance company. ‘Uh-huh, that’s cool,’ Jess had responded.

‘Four days or so,’ Mr Evans said over the phone.

Annabel put Jess’s lack of emotional engagement down to how her job at Ultra-Health was a temporary contract. She got that Jess didn’t want to get too invested. Annabel hoped that was about to change. She had an afternoon meeting scheduled with Simon, her manager.

A Different Kind of Roadkill by Elizabeth Heckmann

As the weather warms and the snow of a long, difficult winter melts, the gleaming white symmetries of skeletons on the side of the road become visible against the fledgling green grass. The unfortunate elk and deer that attempted to run across the two- lane-canyon highway were killed by speeding cars and trucks, only their bodies tossed to the side of the road serve as a reminder of their lives.

When I glimpse them as I drive by, the familiarity of a mammalian skeleton, its serpent-like spinal column and sacrum still intact. The remaining bones are smashed and strewn about signifying the violence of impact, the carnage ignites thoughts and anxieties. Was that a cow with a calf? Did the calf watch a truck demolish its mother? Was that a calf? A young buck? An old elk? I calm myself. Of course it died painlessly! Broken neck. Massive bleeding. Painless. Instant death. These skeletons are landmarks on my way to and from work. But one day, I came across a different kind of roadkill, its contents spread all over the road and, no one swerving to miss it: books.

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.

The World-Spanning Dreams by C.J. Dotson

The punishment for minor infractions during Athary’s twice-yearly voyage was to spend a night confined to the smallest wooden lifeboat, being towed on a line let far, far out behind the armor-bottomed ship. With the Great Serpents in the depths, visible by day as a mass of shifting shadow and by night as a writhing bioluminescence, most people feared a night in the rowboat.

“Feels like being bait on a hook,” Ponna, one of the girls in Athary’s year, said. Her face was green and her voice faint.

All that after enduring a night in the boat only one time, Athary thought with scorn.

Snakeskin by Kyle Tam

The studio was too bright, dazzling with a hundred stage lights so intense they felt like white hot blades flying in every direction. If Madison were Madison, she wouldn’t have come here. Not to this manufactured menagerie of bleached smiles, skin-tight dresses, and tanning oil slathered pecs, where the people were large and their egos were larger. No, Madison would have been terrified.

But Madison hadn’t been Madison in a very long time. Gone was the chubby face packed with baby fat, as well as the faint freckles sprayed across her nose. In their place were the high cheekbones and sharp-edged eyeliner of a huntress on the prowl. Soft, stuttering words had been replaced by poison-tongued barbs and unforgiving proclamations, all courtesy of the woman who had taken her place: Bella. 

The Intimate Touch by Nick Norton

The grey squirrel is big. Too large for its species; almost too large for trees. Strapped around its chest is a great deal of what looks to be white cookie dough. The stuff is wrapped in translucent plastic, beads of moisture pick at the daylight. Wires spread out from these unstable packages, a drunken web hung all over the room, touching windows, touching the doors, wrapped around chairs. At the centre of this snare sits the eloquent rodent who, with a calculated and easy arrogance is smoking a big cigar.

***

‘No, absolutely not, no. No, I am not doing this story,’ said the reporter.