Weapons Policy

Weapons Policy

by Laura Thurston

If his boss knew Roy had a weapon in his locker, he’d lose his job. No choice, though. Midshift in the space station docking bay gave him no time to get to his quarters and make it to the Urgath Sector before the final meeting of his re-enactment club. Tomorrow began the re-enactment of the Battle of Thegratcha.

After inspecting each ship, Alfie downloaded the authorization codes. Marta supervised the multi-species offloading crew, giving them a few friendly pronunciation corrections while they worked. They finished and left the docking bay.

Roy and Jose scanned each of the offloaded crates. Time crawled by and Roy’s head brimmed with Urgathi historic battles. Alfie had already examined these crates. A second examination to spite smugglers was a new procedure handed down by the incoming station admin who was Urgathi and who authorized the re-enactment.

A battered Gerustian ship docked. Roy scanned the crate in front of him. Medical supplies. Pass.

Someone yelped. Roy jerked his head up and saw a knife at Alfie’s throat. Thick-bladed and serrated, it looked menacing.

Jose hit the button under his terminal alerting station security. Roy dropped the scanner. He dashed to his locker and grabbed his zinthu, a traditional Urgathi weapon. Blunted for re-enactments, it sported three narrow tines arranged in a triangle and two blades along half of the five-foot shaft.

Roy’s heart raced. Step by silent step, he crept from his locker to the docking bay, gripping the shaft so tightly his knuckles turned white. Bad technique. He forced his fingers to relax and looked around the corner.

Not just one Gerustian. Three others directed Jose and Marta to put their hands on their heads and turn to face the wall. Knife at his throat, Alfie’s legs wavered.

In halting Galactic Common, the one with the knife said, “This one mine. What say?”

One of the others pointed at Marta. “Question. You say.”

“Your grammar is atrocious.”

The Gerustian whacked her across the back and she staggered forward toward the wall. The one holding Alfie pushed him down the stairs and waved the knife at Marta. “You. Take you.”

Roy glanced at the security cameras. Surely Station Security was responding to the alert. They’d be here in moments. Roy’s zinthu was forbidden down here. He should just go back the way he came and—

No. He knew how to use the zinthu in his hands. They couldn’t know it was a replica.

Alfie scrambled to his feet and fled toward the door. The one with the knife chased him.

Screaming an Urgathi battle cry, Roy charged just like they would in tomorrow’s Battle of Thegratcha. Wide open fields dominated the Urgath homeworld. Not in the docking bay. Crates piled up, with barely enough room to swing. Roy whirled the blade around his head. The blade sliced through the air at an angle, low in front. The Gerustian skidded to a stop. The blunted blade caught him and knocked him into a stack of crates. They toppled over and pinned him.

Alfie ran past Roy. The other Gerustians hesitated. They pulled thick handled, curved knives from their sleeves. Light glinted off the finely-honed edges. That reddish tinge and curve identified it as an assassin’s weapon. Paper thin and light, a mere touch could sever a finger. The battle cry died in Roy’s throat.

Marta and Jose scattered. One of the Gerustians tilted her head. All three loosed their knives at Roy. Slicing weapons, not throwing weapons. These Gerustians weren’t here to kill.

Handle first, the knives flew. One hit a glancing blow on the shaft near his hand, the other two missed entirely. They hit the wall behind a pallet.

Roy let out another battle cry and spun the zinthu around his head. He zigzagged toward the Gerustians.

They reached for the sheath on the other arm. Too slow. Roy’s zinthu hit the nearest Gerustian with an impact that shoved her into her buddies.

Roy looked back at the one pinned under the crates. Marta was already tying him up. Jose rooted around in an upended crate. Roy backed the Gerustians toward the wall. “Surrender,” he said in Galactic Common. “You know that word, right?”

Marta walked up behind him. “And say please.”

The Gerustians surrendered. Marta tied their hands behind their backs and Roy covered them with the zinthu. Jose went to both terminals. “Yeah, panic button’s engaged. Security should be coming any minute.”

An hour later, Station Security arrived and took the prisoners into custody. When they finished interrogating Roy about having a dangerous weapon while on duty, he missed the re-enactment meeting.

In his quarters, Roy found three messages waiting. The first was a termination notice from his boss for violating the weapons policy. The second message was from the Urgathi Re-enactment Society authorizing his zinthu. The third was from station admin thanking him for keeping the diversion force at bay so security could concentrate on capturing the assassins. The message concluded with a note from the security chief asking to schedule a job interview.

◊ ◊ ◊

Laura Thurston
Laura Thurston holds a black belt in the Korean sword martial art Haidong Gumdo and has fun sparring with padded weapons from a variety of genres. Her fiction has appeared online in Devilfish Review, Theme of Absence, and Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

Read More



by Janet E. Sever

“The smell of those tacos starves me to death,” Deborah confided to her employee. The Thriftown was empty and they’d completed their list of chores. But she was hesitant to send Clara home—she knew the other woman needed the money, and business tended to pick up at the end of the day. Besides, it was nice to sit and chat for a change.

“Ugh. Never, ever buy anything from those guys,” Clara said. “Not sanitary.”

“Really? Their truck looks clean.” Tony’s Tacos had started parking in the corner of their shopping center a few weeks before, and Deborah didn’t admit she’d already bought from them. The tacos were mouthwatering—warm soft corn tortillas, finely shredded meat slow-cooked for hours with seasoning that wasn’t spicy, wasn’t bland, just complex flavors topped with fresh cilantro and shredded cabbage. Her mouth watered.

“It’s dead in here. Why don’t you go home?” Deborah avoided Clara’s grimace, feeling selfish and small, but as soon as she saw Clara turn the corner, she put the “closed” sign on the door and ran over and ordered three tacos. She ended up devouring them so quickly that she almost didn’t enjoy them, because the evening rush was even busier than usual.

Clara had worked for Deborah for years. She’d walked in and asked for a job, confessing she had no prior experience, no references, and little to offer other than her desire to change her life of prostitution, drug addiction and felony record. Deborah turned her down, but as she watched Clara leave, saw the dejected slope of her shoulders, she impulsively changed her mind and hired her. Clara had been a loyal employee, and despite having to walk to work, she’d never been late to a single shift. They’d become something like friends, though there was a low employee/employer wall between them. Only once had Clara crossed it—the day Deborah had come in with a black eye, front tooth missing. Clara had put her arm around her tight and murmured in her ear “You get ready to deal with that bastard, tell me. I know people.” Deborah had never taken her up on it, though many times she’d been tempted.

The night she handled the rush alone, she got home late, and Chuck was raging. Not unusual, but as Deborah hurried to fix his dinner, chopping okra with the big knife, Chuck shoved her, hard. Try as she might afterward, Deborah couldn’t figure out how it happened, knew only that the knife was sticking out of Chuck’s throat as he lay on the floor, blood pooling on the linoleum. She picked up the phone to call the police, but found herself dialing Clara instead.

“Go to the movies,” Clara instructed. “Leave the back door unlocked.”

When Deborah got home from the latest “Captain America” movie, the floor was clean and the knife back in the block. Deborah slept well that night, alone in her bed. She didn’t know what happened to Chuck and didn’t care.

Life and work resumed, Deborah and Clara chatting with customers and dressing mannequins. A week or so later, when Chuck’s sister called, Deborah told Myra that Chuck had taken up with a new woman and had moved out. Myra snorted, “What a shithead! Not surprised. Too damn dumb to know when he has a good woman,” and told Deborah she’d call her next week about lunch.

When she hung up, the smell of Tony’s Tacos wafted over. “Those smell so good. I’m going to get some. You sure you don’t want any, Clara? My treat.”

“I told you,” Clara said, voice low and firm. “Never, ever eat anything from that truck.”

“Aw, come on. It can’t be that bad.”

“Deborah, I know them.” Clara grabbed her, nails like talons digging into her arm. Her voice hissed, angry. “Those are the people. The people that I know.”

Deborah swallowed, fought nausea, thought of all the times she’d eaten Tony’s Tacos. She now knew what happened to Chuck.

“McDonald’s OK?” she asked.

◊ ◊ ◊

Janet E. Sever
Janet E. Sever lives and writes weird little stories in Memphis, TN. Her work has appeared on The Drabblecast, in The Foliate Oak, Kaleidotrope, and various other publications.

Read More

Memory of a Dream

Memory of a Dream

by Supriya Kar

“And then?”

“And then, I left.”

“Didn’t he call you?”

“Yes, he did, but he’s on guard.”

* * *

That day, I had a splitting headache and felt a walk among the fields was what I needed. I chanced upon him. He greeted me.

“Would you like to go on a walk?” I suggested matter-of-factly.
“Well, sure.”
We went out first to the ground in front of the university and then to the outskirts; the sun was dipping.
“Do you come here often?” asked he.
“I do. To breathe in the fresh air. Helps my nerves.”

 * * *

“He’s one who believed in that ancient axiom—love happened only once in a lifetime.”

“He was in love before?”

“Yeah, some sort of puppy love.”


“Oh, or what do you call it, calf-love or lollypop love.”



“Who was she?”

“Must be some silly girl. I don’t know. Priyanka. That’s her name. She married sometime back. How could she lose him?”

“You’re jealous of her?”

“Are you mad? Come on. Why on earth would I be jealous of a girl I have never met?”

“You might be. You could not erase her memory.”

“Our mind is a black board, isn’t it? Sometimes, you can be so silly.”

“You’re the smart girl around; everybody else has to be silly.”

“Sorry. Actually, how could she lose him?”

“Really? How could you lose him?”

“How could I? I had sent him an email…”


“Some stuff.”

“Well, then?”

“I called him one day. He didn’t want to talk. He wanted to be left alone. He’s a loner.”

“Did he ever say so?”

“I thought he merely said it theatrically, but may be…he was put in a boarding school. To become an achiever.”


“I don’t know. I just muttered how living in a boarding school was worse than living in a perpetual hell. He was silent. A stifling, familiar feeling of uneasiness rose within me. I could hardly do anything. In the evening, I lay almost dead in pain—I was sure he was grieving…”

◊ ◊ ◊

Supriya Kar
Supriya Kar is an editor and translator from Odisha, India. She edits the online journal Indian Literature Today, which brings Indian literature in English Translation.  Her recent publication includes (as a co-editor) Spark of Light, Short stories by Women writers from Odisha (Athabasca University Press, Canada).

Read More

Big Pond

Big Pond

by Tom Roth

If I could I’d go back to that day I nearly got curb stomped and tell myself not to get in that piece of shit van with crazy Moses Palmer driving around the country like a dumb fish stuck in a glass bowl. I’d have been better off in jail than stuck out here on this highway with a flat tire and no spare. I’ve been listening to this man preach about finding Fish Island for nearly a month and we haven’t even made it to Chicago yet. Not one person has pulled over to help us because he’s out there jumping up and down trying to get God to deliver us a tire.

“LaaAAAAHHHrd God and Father of the Fellowship of Fish Island,” Moses shouted, “Cast down a tire from your heavenly Lund Boat so that we may pick ourselves up from damnation and lead ourselves into salvation! Roll a tire down on your untangled Fishing Line! Save us, LaaAAAAHHHrd God! And we will sing of your works and of your ways, mighty Fisherman of Nations!”

I opened the door and went out to the front of the van. He was on the ground now, flopping like a fish. I couldn’t take it anymore. I can’t believe he’s been doing this shit for this long and nobody’s tried stopping him. All the people he’s met, all the places he’s gone and he still thinks he’s going to find this island.

“Moses, get up,” I yelled. “This is fucked up what you’re doin’! Ain’t nobody gonna’ help us with you out here screamin’ all this shit. Come on, we can get a ride maybe if we—”

“No, little fella,” he said as he got up on his knees. “I told ya before what this van and all them bumper stickers mean to me. You’re part of the Fellowship too now. You got yours on there, too.”

“You said that if I needed a ride that—”

“I know what I said. You need more’n just a little ride along the country. Salvation, little fella. For the Lard spoke to me on my first night alone, ‘I have seen the oppression…’”

I’ve heard this story a thousand times now. He tells it every time he meets somebody and asks them if they want to live a free life under God’s love on Fish Island. Every time he meets a new person he asks them that and they all look at us like we’re crazy runaways. I thought about ditching him two weeks ago, too. But he keeps reeling me in like he’s got me hooked from behind and I can’t see the pole because it’s covered by his crazy words. And he has done some good for me, too. Shit, I wouldn’t last a week in prison, there’s no way I could win another fight like I did that day when I was walking back home on Lincoln. I owed him one that’s for sure. Shit, we got drunk with girls on Lake Michigan and I lost my virginity to one of them. That was two weekends ago and that was why I decided to stay a little longer. I never even thought I’d make it out of Ohio. It was beautiful seeing those waters. He said something to me on our last day there that keeps me guessing about him, too.

“Look at that horizon, little fella. Tell me where it ends. Just tell me where it ends.”

I was laughing at him, but I could tell he was serious this time because he wasn’t laughing. He lifted his hand up like he could pull the horizon toward him and step onto where he wanted to be.

“Tell me where it ends. Just tell me where it ends.”

* * *

The road was cracked. Streaks of lightening weaved around broken pieces of pavement scattered along the middle like dead fish lying upon a black shore. In the old days, when they were young and little, they threw rocks to claim part of the road. Nobody fights like that anymore and nobody bothers watching them fight unless they get hurt or if they see someone get hurt that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But if it’s just the same fighting like they’ve always done before, then nothing’s out of the ordinary.

They stand on the sides now, waiting. Groups of them waiting and looking down the road as if it were a river. They wait for a fish swimming by to yank out. They hoist him up, clapping their hands and betting on the length of him. After that, they give him the bag and see if he could measure up to the job like they all did when they were his age.

When I was young I used to pick up the cigarettes they left on the sidewalk and act like I was one of them. I’d put one of them between my lips and tilt my head back and pretend to blow out smoke over the road. Then I tried to talk the way they did, though I didn’t know what any of it meant; “You talkin’ bout that redhead? We fucked last week” and “Shit ain’t never gonna change, man.” I’d ask other kids if they wanted a smoke and they’d look at me like I was almost one of them only a smaller, plastic type; like I was a toy modified to their movements. But they, the real ones who weren’t toys, only laughed at me and called me shrimp.

The moment I saw him and the others I knew he’d offer the kids walking in front of me a delivery job.  He was a watchtower, casting a shadow over the road that seemed to stretch for miles. If you looked at him long enough you would feel yourself shrinking down to his shoes. Some of the other ones around him would flinch a little if he moved his arm. And when his eyes beamed down on you like two spotlights they said one thing. Don’t fuck with me.

The kids walked up to him like he was a skyscraper as he raised up his arms and gave a jack-o-lantern smile.

“What’s up, little man? How’d you like to make some cash? All you gotta’ do is run this bag over to a house on Washington down there. Won’t take more’n five minutes probably and you’ll have some cash to take home for yourself. Easy job to do for ten bucks. You want it? Or how ‘bout you with the Kyrie shirt? How ‘bout it champ? Who’s gonna be the big man here, huh?”

One of the kids raised his hand. The watchtower leaned over him and gave a loud laugh as the others clapped and yelled out “There he is” and other shit like that.

The watchtower’s hand fell upon the boy’s shoulder as if he was knighting him. Then he looked over the other kids and said, “This boy here is way ahead of ya’ll. Got himself a job and ain’t more’n ten years old I take it. Atta boy, little man. Now take this bag over to the third house on the left of Washington. You got that? Third house on the left. There should be a guy at the front door waitin’ for ya, alright?”

The boy nodded again and reached for the bag hanging over his head like a bait from a hook. I didn’t realize how fast I had been walking. They all looked down at me like I was a fish jumping out of the water. The watchtower was the only one to speak.

“What you want, shrimp?”

I stopped in front of the kids and stared up at his eyes. Don’t fuck with me. He spoke again.

“What you want? I remember you. Yeah I don’t forget faces, especially ones that look like they gonna shit their pants. What you tryin’ to do huh? This little dude here gotta bigger dick than you. Get the fuck outta’ here before I beat your ass all over this fuckin’ road. Go.”

He threw his arm out over the road and the bottom of his shirt stretched up and I saw the gun handle poking out of his pants.

I looked up at his eyes again and said, “Leave ‘em alone. These kids too young to know what you doin’ out here.”

The others laughed, but he just stared at me with those eyes. Then he said, “And what exactly is that, shrimp?”

I looked back the kid that was supposed to deliver the drugs. He was staring at the cracked road. “Messin’ up their world a little more each day,” I said.

“Don’t you get it, man? It’s already fucked and we the ones gettin’ fucked the most. So what the hell you mean that I’m the one behind all this shit?”

“I didn’t say that. I’m just sayin’ that you ain’t helping these—”

“Shut the fuck up. Who the fuck are you? Comin’ up here tellin’ me how to be somethin’ I ain’t. What the fuck you want me to do, shrimp? You want me to tell ‘em to work hard and that everything’s gonna be okay? That it? Man, fuck that shit. You gotta learn to get by some way cause sooner or later there ain’t gonna be nothin’ for you but the bottom. It’s a big pond and if you ain’t big enough you’ll be nothin’ but one of the hungry mother fuckers left at the bottom waitin’ for a hook to fall in from the big boys up top. Go home, shrimp, cause you ain’t big enough to be out here.”

I turned like I was going to cross the street then jumped and swung my left hand into his throat making him stumble back. I ducked underneath his hips and went for a tackle but I couldn’t bring him down. We struggled until he started pounding my side so hard I couldn’t breathe. My legs left the ground and I was thrown into the road landing on my back. My head hit the concrete and the road felt like it was breathing. My head throbbed like there was a rope tied around it and the road kept breathing. I felt his shoe press down on my stomach and his fist hit me like a thick branch. I rolled over and grabbed a piece of pavement almost the size of my palm. They were yelling, “Put ‘em on the curb!” and he kept mumbling, “Big pond, shrimp, it’s a big pond.” Then I felt my skin rub against the pavement and my mouth kissed the concrete of the curb. Sirens were near us. I heard him coughing hard and I rolled over and got up on one knee and threw the rock into his forehead as hard as I could.

I didn’t watch him fall, only his shadow. It teetered up and stumbled along the road holding its forehead with both hands. As he fell forward the shadow grew taller and taller behind him until his body hit the ground and it disappeared into the road.

The sirens were roaring now. I got up to my feet and felt the road panting hard and I almost fell over. I grabbed another piece from the road and threw it at the police car. It went straight through the windshield and the car swerved onto the sidewalk. I saw one of the officers start to get out and I started running.

I heard the officer yell something and then I heard a bang. I heard another bang as I kept running but then I stopped dead still. A yellow, brown spotted hippie-looking van emerged out of a dust cloud and headed straight for me. It was honking like crazy and the headlights were flicking on and off. The car got closer till it turned to one side and swerved to stop right in front of me so close I thought the bumper was going to hit me. A head that looked like a ball of Spanish moss stuck out the window of the driver’s seat.

“Get in, little fella! Saw the whole thing!”

It had so much rust all over the sides that it looked like a rotten banana and the back was covered in bumper stickers. I ran around the back end of it and one of the stickers caught my eye: GONE FISHIN’. There were even bumper stickers on the sides. I hopped in and we drove off swerving through streets that led to the highway.

Once we got on the highway and he started talking, I figured he was crazy. His grey hair hung almost to his elbows and his beard was longer. He never stopped laughing. Whatever he or anybody else said, he laughed at it. It didn’t matter what it was about. He just kept laughing and talking so much it could make somebody jump off a bridge.

“My oh my,” he said. “Saw the whole thing, little fella! I says to myself, ‘That giant is gonna squash him like a bug.’ And then you threw that rock like you was Pedro. I’s at that gas station down there and I see the cops comin’ after ya and says to myself, ‘God, I will baptize this young man into The Fellowship of Fish Island.’ Came drivin’ down here to pick you up from damnation and lead you into salvation! That’s my little catchphrase. Welcome aboard, little fella! I’m Moses Palmer, founder of The Fellowship of Fish Island!”

* * *

“…and that was when the Lard spoke to me. I’s holdin’ a fish over my fire on my first night alone and then the Lard spoke, ‘Do not burn the fish, Moses. And do not fear me, for I am the Lard and Father of Fish Island.’ I nearly shit my pants, but I kept listenin’ to Him. ‘I have seen the oppression of my people. They have been hooked, reeled, and gutted. Lead my people West, to Fish Island.’ And I says to ‘em, ‘Lard, they gonna think I’m crazy! They gonna lock me up! How’s I supposed to lead your people West, to Fish Island.’ And the Lard God casted down His glowing hand and lifted me up over the fire and whispered so softly, ‘Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.’ And I told ‘em I do it all for Him and then He said, “Moses, leave your shoes. For every step you take marks the land with my footprints.’”

I hated the way he said Lord. There had to be something wrong with him with all his talk about God and his nonstop laughing. It all sounded crazy. He looked crazy, too. His face sunk so deep into his beard and hair you could hardly see his eyes and nose until he would get real excited about what he was saying. His eyes would pop out big and black like two eight balls as his nose would come out like a little orange snake poking its head through a tangle of grey weeds. He had a way of reeling you into what he was saying too, like every other word was something to chew on for a bit. And just when it looked like I could get a picture of his face, when those eyes and nose would start coming out of all that hair, it would sink back and be hidden under all that craziness.

I watched him steer the wheel like he was driving a tractor and asked him, “Where is this island?”

He laughed, “Smack dab in the middle between California and Hawaii, little fella. Came up right outta’ the water in the shape of a fish. The Lard God spoke to me and said, ‘I will reel up an island from the deep for my people.’ Snatched the sonabitch up for us to pray and live and fuck and love and be happy on for the rest of our days until we are lifted into his Lund Boat!”

He raised both his hands from the steering wheel making the van swerve into the other lane for a moment before catching the wheel again. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Listen, Moses, I think it’s alright if you just let me off at the next exit. I appreciate the ride, but I gotta get home I think.”

He sobered up from his laughter and looked at me like I was the crazy one. Then he said, “Fella, you killed that giant back there you know that? And only the Lard knows what happened to the other officer in that car. I saw the whole thing, son.”

I felt sick. I kept seeing the shadow falling and disappearing into the road. I couldn’t take it anymore. His fucking bullshit and all the other bullshit around me. It’s fucked up the ways people are dropped into this world. That you’re dropped and left in the dark and nobody seems to give a damn about it and you try do better but that only makes you feel smaller and more stupid. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Yes, son, I believe you’re in the shithole. There ain’t any other way to look at it. It is what it is, little fella. You’ll just have to—”

“I’m not you’re fuckin’ son. I’m not a part of this crazy fish thing either. You’re fucked in the head you know that? Let me out of this fuckin’ piece of shit now.”

Moses slammed the brake pedal and swerved to a stop on the left side of the highway. He parked the car and turned off the engine. He curled his hands tight on the wheel like he was trying hard not to let them grab hold of my neck. Cars whirred past and nudged the van with their wind.

“I wanna’ show ya somethin’, hot shot,” he said nearly whispering.

He stepped out of the van and pointed to the back of it as he started walking. The only thing he had on were stained khaki shorts raised above his knees. I got out and looked at all the taillights disappearing into the night horizon like a swarm of tiny red lightening bugs. I walked to the back of the van and found Moses staring at the all bumper stickers. I remember how still he was. He didn’t move anything except for that mouth of his. He just stood there with his hands atop his head like he had just lost something he wished he could have had a little longer. What he said to me then might be the only true thing he ever said to anyone in his entire life.

“Been doin’ this since I was fifteen, tryin’ get to this island. Been forty years and this is the closest I been. My oh my, ain’t even made it to Chicago. These stickers here are all the folks that’ve been with me. Either died, called me crazy and left, or just went off walkin’ by theyselves and didn’t come back.”

I could see he was about to cry. Those watery eight balls came out of all that hair ready drip onto his nose. But he shook it off and his face was hidden again. He started pointing to some of the stickers.

“This one here with the rainbow: I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight! That’s Chris Sorrento. Met ‘em in Florida. Hella’ kid too. Not sure what happened to ‘em. He left in ’97, when we was in one of the Carolinas. And this one with the smiley face: Take It Easy, Life Is Short. That’s Judy Arlington. She met her husband in Erie, PA and married him in ’81. Her daughters both go to Pitt. Nice girls. And this sonabitch! My oh my, the first one to tag along with me: God Bless America. That’s Ernie Whipple from West Virginia. Didn’t even make it seven days and said I was crazy, but he sure knew how to make ya’ laugh. That was 1975.”

He walked toward the highway and stared at all the lights disappearing. He had his hands on his hips and that yellow, rusted van sat next to him. He leaned against the side of the van with his elbow and kept talking.

“These stickers are the verses, little fella. And I don’t plan to rip off any one of them. Never. Don’t matter what they say, just as long as they mean somethin’ to somebody. What you do is your call, little fella. I just want ya’ to know that if you’re headin’ my way at all, I can lend ya’ a ride if you need one.”

He walked back around the end of the van and something fell out of his back pocket. It was a bumper sticker with a picture of Darth Vader that said: Who’s your Daddy?

I picked it up and stared at it. I pictured myself taking off a mask for the first time after years of hiding behind it. I felt the air rush into my nose again as I heard to my own breathing. My eyes saw the world again as they were meant to see it, not as they were told to see it. I could touch the skin on my face again and know that it was me, not a mask.

I pulled off the cover and slapped the sticker sideways onto the side of the van and hopped in. He looked at me, waiting to hear what I would say. I reached out and we shook hands and nodded at each other. I looked down at his foot resting on his knee. It was completely black.

“Moses, you should really put some shoes on,” I said.

He started the car and raced onto the highway. He was laughing so hard he could barely drive straight.

“Don’t you worry about that, little fella. Where we’re goin,’ we won’t need shoes.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Tom Roth
Tom Roth works as a long term tutor and substitute teacher at an elementary school in Ohio. He plans on becoming a secondary English teacher.

Read More

King Elliot, The Mad(ish)

King Elliot, The Mad(ish)

by David Henson

The royal dresser places the jeweled crown on His Majesty’s head. “Ah, the pièce de résistance,” King Elliot says. “We shall now comport to our loyal court.”

The King waves aside his dresser and strides into the banquet hall, the lords and ladies parting before him. He squeezes into a large, ornate chair at the head of the room and claps his hands. “Your King wishes to see you dance. Something courtly. A minute.”

After a brief hesitation, music rises, and the nobility begins dancing a minuet. As King Elliot watches, a stream of servants brings him spit-roasted quail, rabbit and boar; blood puddings, fruits, cakes, and goblets of wine. When about to burst, the King pushes himself to his feet, belches loudly, then sits, and motions for more food and drink. “Faster, my subjects,” he says, waving a drumstick.

After much further eating, drinking, and belching, King Elliot claps his hands again. “Enough. Leave me,” he shouts. The crowd quickly bows and curtsies its way out of the hall.

The King turns to his manservant. “Bring my fair young maidens. Now!”

The manservant claps his hands, and a valet enters with five beautiful women. He parades them one at a time before the king. “Her,” the king says. “And her. And her.”

The valet leads the two lucky women back out of the hall. “Assist me,” King Elliot says, raising his arms. Servants rush to His Highness and help him out of the chair. “We shall now comport ourshelves to our Royal Shambers,” he says.

A servant under each shoulder, the king staggers out of the hall, the three chosen ones following powerlessly behind him. “Dresher,” the king bellows. “Come hither and unwrap me.”

* * *

The king awakens chilled to the bone. “So cold,” he murmurs. “Why so cold?”

“You’re body isn’t quite warmed yet, Mr. Elliot,” a voice says. “Mr. Elliot, do you hear me?”

Mr. Elliot slowly opens his eyes and looks around the room. “This is not our royal chambers.” He stares at a man and a woman in white coats.

“Mr. Elliot, I’m Doctor Johnson,” the man says. “And this is Dr. Biessel, our Chief of Technology. Keep calm. You’re simply experiencing some temporary disorientation. It’s normal.”

“Where are my fair young maidens?”

“Listen to me carefully, Mr. Elliot,” Dr. Biessel says. “You were dying. Try to remember. We put your body in cryogenic suspension and streamed your consciousness to MyWorld. Do you understand? You purchased our Royalty Simulation package.”

“Our majestic hunger is afoot,” Mr. Elliot says, turning his head away from the man and woman. “I shall have a goose.”

“Mr. Elliot, a cure for your disease has been found,” Dr. Johnson says. “We just need to discuss some treatment options with you.”

“My goose. Spare not the fat.”

“Uh, he should be coming out of it by now,” Dr. Biessel says to her colleague.

Dr. Johnson studies a screen displaying the patient’s brain waves. “Remember Myrtle, Mr. Elliot? Your wife? She opted for Spousal Hibernation. She’s being warmed in the room next door. You can resume a life together in reality.”

Yes, Dear. No, Dear. Sorry, Dear.

Dr. Biessel begins turning dials on the control panel. “And you can resume a productive life in the workforce, Mr. Elliot.”

When the red light blinks, you push the button on the right. Green light, push the button on the left. Don’t mess up, Elliot.

“You’re back, Mr. Elliot. Do you understand?” Dr. Biessel wipes her brow with her sleeve.

Tensions rising with Martian colonies…Political squabbles paralyze Earth Council… Android rights backers, opponents clash…Levitatron malfunction snarls traffic…

“Guards! To arms!” Mr. Elliot shouts.

Dr. Johnson jumps back. “What’s going on, Biessel? This is your department.”

“Don’t try to tag this on me. He’s been gone a long time, one of the first according to the files. Maybe his real personality just … atrophied. Plus the psych-sim alignment protocols weren’t very refined back then. Your area, Johnson, not mine.”

“OK, OK. This isn’t getting us anywhere. If word gets out about a case like this… I think we should just refreeze the body and stream his mind back to MyWorld. We’ll tell his wife…I don’t know… We’ll think of something.”

“You’re probably right,” Dr. Biessel says. “But let’s give it another minute to see if he improves.”

Mr. Elliot forces back a smile, jumps from bed, and runs stark naked to the middle of the room. “Dresser!” he bellows. “Our royal robes. Now, Dresser!”

◊ ◊ ◊

David Henson
David Henson lives in Peoria, Illinois with his wife and their dog. His work has appeared in two chapbooks, Literally Stories, 365 Tomorrows, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Eunoia Review, and Dime Show Review, among others.  http://writings217.wordpress.com

Read More

Living the Dream

Living the Dream

by Gordon Gregory

It took him some moments to realize it’d been a terrible dream, a nightmare. In it, his life had flashed forward and he was an old, old man: paunchy and stooped low, achy, with a rough cough that was more than a cough. He’d been alone in the dream, and so lonely. His hair was gone, his face no longer recognizable behind the puff and the sag and the shrinkage. His wife was long dead, and his child, his girl, his bundle of magic love, was moved far away and grown and complete in her life without him. Everything he valued was in a package of memories he could stare at but not touch.

But it had only been a dream, and he rolled over to find it wasn’t too late. He felt the thin film of his wife’s nightshirt, the warmth of her body radiating toward him like sunrise to a flower. He breathed in her fragrance, a lovely mixture of citrus and woman. The aroma of her flowed into his nose and through his brain and then seeped like a seasonal spring through his body. She was on her side, her back to him, and he reached forward, rolling his hand down the sweep of her side and up the hill of her rump, then down the ridge of her thigh toward the outcrop of her knee. Such amazing, impossibly wonderful contours.

She moved to his caress, and he reached forward to embrace her middle, to pulled her to him. She turned his way, and he saw the morning smile seep across her mouth, her eyes closed, every movement slow and sleepy and perfect. He lay there, absorbing her presence with his eyes, content to the very cells of his body. He heard a concerto in her breathing. Then she reached around him and tucked her lips into the crook of his neck. How he loved the feel of her lips on his skin.

There were no words between them, their communication coming in tones of intimacy as practiced as they were intense, slight movements so familiar and so particular to them as a couple, even to the match of their respiration and heart beats, each a mirror of contrast to the other: her soft cheek against his bristles; his hands rough, her flesh supple; their mingling of affection and sensation and love.

After, they lay together in a union of life and purpose, two beings without need or want. He rose and stepped to the bathroom, moving without effort or pain, his lungs alive and strong. Standing, emptying his bladder, he remembered the horror of the dream and felt the pound of respite and appreciation beat at his senses and gratitude flood across his fine body. He laughed with the pleasure of his remarkable fortune.

On his way back to the bed, he grabbed his pajama bottoms from the dresser, slipped them on and returned to his wife. “I love you so much,” he said.

Her lips spread in acknowledgement and she closed her eyes and breathed in a sigh, held it and then released the spent air into their bedroom, adding more of herself to the world. They remained in the embrace of their contentment, slowly drifting back toward sleep, almost reaching that realm, when the bedroom door flew open and their six-year-old girl scampered across the carpet and jumped on them.

“It’s morning!” she said, and wedged herself between them under the covers.

They lay for a few minutes, he and his wife on their sides looking to the middle of the bed, their daughter nestled in. “It is,” he said.

Then his wife rose and stretched, lifting her arms and reaching backward, looking to him like a dancer, her spine bending as if she was opening herself to all that was before her. “I’ll let you two play,’ she said, and he watched as she drifted from the room, a cloud flowing over the mountains, evaporating into rather than exiting through the door.

He pulled the covers over them. “Quiet,” he said softly into the ear of his child as they huddled in the darkness. “Hear it?” He had his right leg outside the covers and began tapping his foot against the side of the bed. “It’s awake, and coming.”

She giggled.

“Shush, the giant has very good ears and will hear,” he said.

They tried to control their movements. “Whatever you do, don’t laugh,” he cautioned. “The giant hears laughter better than anything, and he really doesn’t like anyone to have fun.”

For some reason the words hurt him, a quick stab of guilt landing deep in his gut. “Don’t laugh.”

He tapped his foot harder against the bed. “It’s getting closer,” he whispered. Tap, tap, tap. “I think it’s in the room.” TAP, TAP.

His child squirmed and tried to stay quiet. “Where is it?” she asked, her voice so soft it might have been imagined.

“Near, very close. Careful he doesn’t hear.”

He moved his hand slowly toward his little girl, his fingertips skipping atop the bones of her ribs, the quiver of excitement and anticipation running through her. “Whatever you do, don’t laugh.”

Again, a small, piercing guilt reached into him.

Then he strummed his fingers across the tender part of her side, and peals and layers and rolling waves of laughter burst from her in an ocean of joy that tumbled him over and over and over and would have drown him if it hadn’t been made of everything that was good in his life. “Oh no, he’s going to find us now! He’s going to get us! Oh no.” His fingers worked the strings of her joy, and her squeals ran through him and filled his heart.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy …” her voice, the one word, the moment: all a pinnacle—no, the essence, the sustenance of his life. “Daddy.”

They slipped toward sleep, his little girl against his side, her head on his left shoulder, her arm across his chest, which rose and set and rose and set and rose as the air moved so easily into and from him.

They drifted off, together at first, and then apart.

It was the cough that woke him. He felt wonderful, at first, his child’s laughter still in his ears, her small body tight against his side. Until he noticed the cold silence of the room, the emptiness of his bed, and finally, the vacancy of his spent life.

It took him some moments to realize it had been a dream, the best dream he’d ever had.

◊ ◊ ◊

Gordon Gregory
Gordon Gregory is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He’s dabbled in fiction for many years, though been putting a good deal more effort in writing since his daughter moved away to attend Berkeley last year. He and his wife live outside a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California and have two horses, two cats, a dog and an empty nest.

Read More