The Traitor Hag by I. Papadopoulou

The castle was the most magnificent building Helias knew. He was a cook boy and he lived in the strongest and the safest castle in the world. It was so strong that people even claimed it was alive, protecting its inhabitants. Helias believed that. He had whispered to the walls.

“Are you alive?”

“Can you feel my touch?”

A Good Couple by M.C. Tuggle

I turned into the entrance of the Charlotte Metro Nature Preserve and followed the twisting gravel road toward Copperhead Cove. The wedding I would conduct on the banks of Lake Wylie was two hours off, so I had plenty of time to prepare. Maybe take a quick nap. Maybe even forget my anger.

At a sharp bend in the road, I passed a man and woman nestled in cheap folding chairs, both illuminated in a shaft of silver-white sunlight that pierced the oak canopy. Homeless, judging by the looks of them, with their possessions piled nearby in black plastic bags. The man lay twisted on his side, his head in the woman’s lap. Ragged flannel hung from the woman’s thin arms, which were wrapped around the man. Despite the warmth of early September, both wore long-sleeved shirts and blue jeans.

The Residents by K.C. Bailey

The cuckoo clock on the wall sounds its hourly alarm, despite being three-quarters past the given time. No one knows whether the lifeless plastic bird with startled eyes is fifteen minutes early or if the clock is behind. Sometimes it is silent for days on end, though the residents swear they still hear it singing.

‘Good morning, sister,’ calls Agnes, descending the stairs and humming as she goes; her hand gliding gracefully down the old banister, pale alabaster skin against the dark wood. She is burgeoning on seventy, but the lithe figure beneath her knee-length floral dress is that of a younger woman.

The Shop That Ate Hull by Joe Hakim

To say I’d become adrift in my thirties was an understatement. Imagine a small peddle-boat in the middle of a dirty pond in an abandoned theme park: that was me.

My friends and acquaintances had all acquired things like spouses, careers, and mortgages, while I remained in an arrested adolescence. I lived in a small, one-bedroom flat just around the corner from where I grew up and continued to work in the kind of minimum-wage retail jobs that I’d been working in since dropping out of university over a decade ago.

Irving Townsend FSA by Steve Legomsky

Irv and Stan are actuaries and colleagues.  They perform their labor at the home office of the James Hickok Mutual Life Assurance Company, located on Berkeley Street in Boston’s charming Back Bay area.

One evening, Irv had an inspiration, which he shared the next day with Stan.  “There are a million TV shows about doctors and lawyers.  It’s high time for a TV show about an actuary.  So here’s my idea:  Together, we write a script for a pilot episode.  We have an in.  I think you’ve met my sister-in-law Gerty.  She’s a producer with CBS.  What do you think?”