A Warehouse, A Blonde Man by Sage Pantony

My alarm goes off.
I feel groggy
Because I was awake at 6 am again.
I get up and make myself a sweet coffee
Then walk down to a warehouse to ask for a job.
This one’s only 29 minutes away,
18 by bus.
They hire me on the spot.

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.

Packing up the shit by Lucy Goldring

Whip the plastic net off the counter, your other hand snatching small blunt scissors from the drawer. Chew the bright orange mesh into wildlife-friendly pieces and lob them into the kitchen bin as you flip the lid with a perfectly timed toe-pump. Attack task after task like a TV ninja fending off waves of frenzied assailants.

From the fridge – that meekly-lit synthetic void – rescue a tub of vegan spread, half a mature cheddar and some ripped open ham that won’t survive five hours of stuffy car. Sprint up to the campsite at the other end of the grounds. Think about this being the final leg of the pig’s miserable journey as you palm off the sweaty goods on nonplussed relatives. Sprint back. Strip the bed according to the property’s ‘Covid-safe’ instructions: mattress protectors in the red bag, sheets and duvet covers in the green, towels made into a damp pyramid in the bathtub. Tackle the washing up mound for the third time in as many hours. Sweep the floor and return the dustpan to the musty cupboard. Discover tumbleweeds of dog hair and dead leaves amongst the jumble of your shoes. Silently weep. Clap each pair together, sending allergens whirling, and bundle in the IKEA carrier you never wanted. Sweep again.

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.

My Name is Jennifer, and I Don’t Have a Legal Middle Name, Either by Jennifer Jeanne McArdle

When my mom was pregnant with me, they asked my older sister what she thought about her sibling still growing in the womb.
“It’s a girl, and her name is Jennifer,” she insisted a few times.
Jennifer is a very common name for girls born in the 70s or 80s. Even in the 90s we had two, sometimes three, Jennifers in my class most years.
But my parents didn’t know where my sister had heard the name. There were no Jennifers on her favorite shows or in her class. Her best friend at the time was a “Valentina”.
Picked it up on the tail-end of its zeitgeist, maybe.
My parents couldn’t consider any other name after I was born.

Mollusks in the Air by Julie Flattery

My dad and I are sitting at this bistro table in the sky having a great conversation—a really lovely time. I’m not eating or drinking anything, but he’s eating a bowl of steamed mussels that appears to be bottomless. He’s making no headway whatsoever.

Eating seems like the wrong word because he’s actually chowing down on them like there’s no tomorrow, which there isn’t, for him at least, because he’s dead. He’s been dead for years, but he showed up in my dream to say hi and eat these mussels. He’s talking with his mouth full, which is ironic to me because he was always very strict about table manners. I guess all decorum subsides in the afterlife since he really does seem more laidback.

A Purple Tutu by Leo Gibson

Did you know that I was an incredibly gay kid when I was 4 years old? I don’t mean that I knew that I liked men at that age, but I definitely was such a stereotypical caricature of a gay man. I never loved Disney princes, only princesses. My favorite colors were pink and purple, and I always wanted to wear those massive rainbow beads. However, there was one thing that was the cream of the crop of my four year old flamboyance. This shiny, purple tutu with ruffles. We have video footage of me prancing around outside with a glittering tutu whilst my parents make snide, but non-offensive comments that I couldn’t understand because I lacked any sort of cognitive ability.