Middle Distance by D.B. Miller

My neighbor had a baby once. That much, I got. Just like I got the cup of coffee more or less how I wanted it. Last week, at a different café, I ordered iced coffee but was served black coffee with a sinking scoop of ice cream on top. The waitress smirked at my accent, too, which made me want to flip over her tray.

My neighbor describes the circumstances leading up to the moment she could no longer say she had a baby. It happened a while ago. I’m not sure about the rest because my class just finished Unit 8 and, judging from the syllable count, her words are sophisticated and come from Unit 20, possibly even Unit 35.  

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.

The Auteur by Alexander B. Joy

Her co-star had been in the middle of his line, but she couldn’t help it. The instructions were to sip from her glass, right at that moment. Yet as soon as the liquid passed her lips, it burned, and by reflex she sprayed it all over the table – and the actor across from her.

“Cut! Cut!” shouted the director, in that inimitable accent of his.

“I’m really sorry,” she said, as a costumer dressed her co-star in a new shirt.

“Quite all right,” the co-star said. “Far from the worst response I’ve received.”

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.

No Escape by Claire Schön

I dim the headlights before the approach. No other vehicle has passed in the last ten minutes. The rain is all but a splutter now; the wipers cease their tormenting drag and slide. The wet gravel sinks silently under the tread of the tyres: perfect conditions.

The windows glow at opposite corners above. I navigate to the very back of the car park and pull in under an unkempt bush. Sliding out, I walk towards the building, satisfied that the car is out of sight. The back entrance is clear. I ease off my boots and pad up the stone steps in Lycra-soled feet, reaching the doorway of the flat I have been familiarising myself with for a fortnight now. Carefully easing down the handle, no need for a key and hence no jingle, I sink to my knees and enter on all fours. The deep scent of wood smoke emanates from the rugs, raising recent memories. I feel for the sofa, the one between two windows, benefitting from the join of the wall to evade prying eyes. Retrieving the flashlight from my bag, I am finally ready to digest the passages I began over two weeks ago.

Useless Werewolf by Naaz Frederick

Being a werewolf is horrible. Being a useless werewolf is worse. At night you are crazy and unstable. Why did you let this happen? You wouldn’t be a werewolf if you said just said no. Why didn’t you deny it? You don’t remember being asked. You didn’t want this. Why are you complaining? Everyone nowadays claimed to be turned, you are not special. You are nothing. You hear your mother on the phone earlier, you heard it too clearly with your trained ears.

“These fake werewolves are destroying the lives of who turned them, why would you expose if someone was turning people? That’ll cost them their lives.” Your mother hates the new trend, as she calls it, of involuntary werewolves calling out those turned them.