I Never Said I Wanted to be President by Moneta Goldsmith

Yuputka, noun. A Japanese term of endearment meaning ‘the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.’

In my life I’ve been with two Lindsays, one Kendrick, two Sarahs. I’ve heard oh yeahs and ooh babies, let me turn over, let me be on top of you. I’ve had one Jessica, a Shulameth, four Katelyns/Caitlins/Katies. Or some variety therein. I have screamed out ‘mother’ once (that was a mistake). I’ve let her turn over or be on top of me. Once I almost let a girl turn me over.

I never said I wanted to be president when I grow up.

I’ve been slapped and pinched until I was dizzy, and swung at harder than I was ready for. I have finger-banged girls who were scared, fondled dry clothes until they were wet dishrags. I got drunk and didn’t get up, and lied that it never happens. I got naked and yelled at on the streets of Denver; bird-dogged in the rain on the streets of Denver, in a lake in Maine with swimming fireflies. Under a skirt with a flashlight once—that was second grade.

I never said I wanted to be president.

I’ve had it in a movie theater, in a hammock, a Taurus, a Rav4, a pair of Priuses – that was a party. I’ve been with white trash, heard words like mean-mugged and motorboat and popsicle-raid. I’ve had three actresses. All of them rich, and melted into the same person.

I met the first lady once. She wasn’t so great up close.

I heard her make stirring speeches about kids and food and jazz.
I watched her give tired hugs and smiling handshakes.

When it was my turn to shake her hand I gave it a big squeeze and whispered,

‘Sheraton room 766.’

I told her, ‘I know what it’s like to want to be a man.’

Moneta Goldsmith was the 2013 Grand Prize winner of Spark Anthology’s poetry contest. His prose & poetry can be found in such places as Sparkle & Blink, Under the Influence, & Best New Writing 2014. Most recently, he co-founded the popular lit mag & reading series ‘When in Drought‘, which is based in Los Angeles.

The Lovely Fire by Katharine Wheeler-Dubin

He came out to let me know it was okay, that everything was cool. He said it wasn’t such a big deal as he first thought, despite the mess, despite the ash. He looked at me smiling, told me to go clean up, go home. My face was covered in soot. I had been sitting on his steps all night, waiting for him to come outside, waiting
and waiting. I didn’t know you were still here, he said. Aren’t your parents worried? Told me he had stuff to do, things to take care of, maybe he’d call me later. I stood, one foot on the cement, the other on the grass, watching him go. My parents don’t give a shit.
The first thing I did yesterday morning was count the lines growing from the corners of his eyes. I pretended to be asleep once he woke up, watched him move around the room kicking aside cans from the night before, getting dressed. He didn’t look at me, and he forgot to kiss me goodbye and I sat up from the covers only when he was gone. I was feeling shy that morning. I took a sick day from school because I thought he’d be back
but he didn’t come back until seven. When it was getting dark, I got an idea. It would be lovely, lighting a fire, lovely for him. He works too much, but you can’t tell because he hardly shows it and never complains. The metal grating covering his fireplace took a couple minutes to yank off, but I knew how much he’d appreciate it. Men appreciate small favors.
A fire takes a flame, breath, and fuel to make it grow. I had a lighter in my pocket and he had plenty of newspaper lying around, plus wood from the set he had been building for the musical. It was easy, getting the fire started in that old fireplace. The smoke filled up the room so sweet, like it was a campfire, the flames dancing and dancing. He came home, his car making a crunching sound in the driveway, and as he opened the gate, I ran out to meet him. Welcome home! I flounced into his arms. Men love girls who flounce.
You’re still here? You didn’t leave? I stood there smiling and he walked with me into his house, getting ready to relax with his favorite girl after a long day. Then he was yelling and cursing and beating at the fire with his shirt. What the fuck! What the fuck! He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a half-empty can of beer, threw it over my lovely fire. Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out!
I went outside and sat on the steps, waiting for him, waiting for him to let me know if
it was alright, if this was alright. I look old for my age, and my parents don’t give a shit.
Offer me a drink, I asked him quiet, like you did last night, after rehearsal. When
everyone had gone, and it was only me and you.

Katie Wheeler-Dubin (aka Hot Wheels), enjoys watching, from her front window, young women twerking on cars. Having moved to New Orleans for the summer from the Bay Area, she is learning how to move in the heat, chronicled in her forthcoming memoir, I Went to Sleep Drunk and Woke Up Hungry. This spring of 2014, she directed Quiet Lightning’s first short, Combustion. Read and watch Katie’s work on her site.

Someone To Tell It To by Jean-Luc Bouchard

“I looked him right in the eyes and said, ‘You’ve got to be honest with me. I can take all the jabs in the world but I won’t take you being dishonest.'”
“I looked right at him and said it. Do you know how many cigarettes I found in his coat?”
“How many?”
“Haha oh God.”
“And I think to myself, ‘How long has this been going on?’ Because, you know, he quit way back before—”
“Right, I know.”
“Well so this whole cigarette situation was just the final straw. I said, ‘That’s it.’ I went into the living room and he’s just lying on the couch facing the TV and I’m standing there just looking at him like, ‘Hello?’”
“Haha, yeah.”
“It’s ridiculous. I looked him right in the eye and said it was ridiculous.”
“It is.”
“This cigarette thing, the lying, and he has the nerve to complain about the house. I get it, he works, I don’t expect him to help much. Give me a hand when he can, you know, little stuff?”
“Of course.”
“And so he’s been giving me crap lately about the house, and I’m telling him, ‘Listen, if you want the house a certain way, you do it, okay? Because I’m doing what I’m doing, but if you want it done differently, then you do it.’”
“‘Be thankful for what I do already before you start complaining to me about the damn shower drain.’”
“Do you like your coffee?”
“Do you?”
“No, it’s woody. Doesn’t it taste woody?”
“Yeah, it’s not very good, is it?”
“It tastes like when you leave soda for too long in one of those cheap fast food cardboard cups.”
“It does!”
“Try to flag the waiter down if you see him. But anyway. All this comes up when I confronted him about the cigarettes. That he has the nerve to complain to me and act like I’m the bad guy and he’s the good guy when he’s being dishonest.”
“Like he’s always in the right?”
“I’m fed up. And I’ll tell you something else that’s been a problem: he’s getting fat.”
“Is he?”
“Oh yes. Tremendously fat. He’s gained 70, 80 pounds in the last couple weeks, at least.”
“He’s eating enough for a small army and refuses to admit it. I try to tell him nicely that he should watch what he’s eating but he won’t listen. It’s making him slow, though, all the weight. I see him huffin’ and puffin’ going up the stairs we have out front.”
“Oh no, really?”
“He is! And we only have two steps out front, so…”
“Mm right.”
“I don’t know where it’s coming from. You know me, I’ve always been perfectly content with my cup of coffee and bowl of saltines for dinner, but he’s been demanding we eat more and more elaborate meals. Goodness knows where he even heard of Chicken Kiev in the first place. And…”
“And I…oh, I don’t think I should…”
“No…haha, no…”
“Oh you have to!”
“Well…haha, well his weight’s really making him sluggish…in the bedroom.”
“Ha! Oh!”
“Yeah, haha, I’ll ask him, you know, oh come on, you know, every now and then, ‘Hey, how about coming to bed with me?’ Haha right?”
“Haha! Well?”
“And he’ll grunt, ‘Eh, sure!’”
“And it takes him about an hour to roll off the couch, and then another 30 or 40 minutes to get up on his feet, and the walk to the bedroom damn near takes him half a day.”
“And in all this time I’ve gone to sleep and woken up and dropped the kids at school…”
“So there’s that!”
“Ha, my goodness…”
“I’m saying…”
“It’s all of this, it all adds up, you know? And it really gets to me, it wears me down. And then he gets the nerve, with all of this going on, the nerve to look me in the eyes and lie about the cigarettes. And oh! Oh! On top of all this? On top of this? Do you know what else?”
“He hits me! He hits me mercilessly!”
“It’s true! Last night he took a bat and caved in the side of my head.”
“I was going to say it looked different, but I wasn’t sure.”
“No, it is! It’s from the bat! He thinks this relationship is all take and no give, that he can just keep asking for more and more and more and I’ll just do whatever he wants whenever he wants it. And then he gets mad when I say how I feel?”
“Ugh…so unfair…”
“Very unfair! And it’s not like I didn’t have to make sacrifices for this marriage, oh no no no! Three months ago, when his legs began to fuse together and swell like a balloon, did I complain? Did I tell him, ‘You know, hon, the bubbling sound your skin makes keeps me up at night,’ or, ‘You know what, dear, it’s a big pain in the butt trying to squeeze you through the door now,’ did I?”
“No you didn’t.”
“No! I didn’t! And meanwhile he’s smoking again and he’s cheating on me—”
“Oh, didn’t I mention?”
“Oh, you’ll love this.”
“I can’t even…”
“So it all starts when I was washing the toaster. I was having a hell of a time getting it clean. I mean, it was taking me four times as long to clean it as it normally would. I had to get my arms like this just to reach around it, and then I’d have to bring them all the way back to spritz the rag with cleaner. It was a pain.”
“Well then I realized, ‘Hey, this isn’t our toaster.’ Do you know what it was? A brand new dishwasher, chrome plating and everything, sitting right in the middle of my kitchen.”
“So I inspect the thing, because I had no idea where it came from, and I find this envelope taped to the side of it. And it’s addressed to you-know-who.”
“So naturally I tear it open—”
“—and inside is this disgusting letter from someone named Nikki.”
“Oh it was terrible, the dirtiest thing…And pictures!”
“Oh yes! Hundreds of Polaroids, spilling out onto my floor. I had to swim into the living room for air.”
“Oh how awful.”
“She had breasts like watermelons, out to here! And maybe eighteen years old. Maybe. At the oldest.”
“And she signs the letter with, ‘Because I remembered, last time we were in the throes of mind-blowing sensual pleasure, that you said you needed a new dishwasher. Until next time, Nikki.’”
“So you can see why I’m in the state that I’m in.”
“Of course. I’m amazed how well you’re taking all of it. I’d be a mess.”
“Well, thank you for listening.”
“Oh of course, anytime.”
“I know it was a lot of ranting and venting.”
“No no it’s fine.”
“This coffee tastes like sawdust.”
“Yes, it’s not very good.”
“Wanna pay and then we’ll head outside for a smoke?”
“Yeah sounds good.”

Jean-Luc Bouchard is a writer living in New York whose short fiction has appeared in Specter, Umbrella Factory, 100 Word Story, Eastlit, Danse Macabre, and Blotterature. He is a graduate of Vassar College, where he studied English, Music, and Asian Studies. You can check out Jean-Luc’s website, or follow him on Twitter.

The Granddaughter by M. Krockmalnik Grabois


She read my poetry and told me she adored it, that it was precious—it was the grey dishwater of life. She had spent her life as her mother had, and her grandmother before that, peeling potatoes, dropping the peels in her tenement sink. She hadn’t read Horatio Alger, hadn’t been convinced that she was required to pull herself up by her bootstraps into an American stratosphere where consumer goods of all kinds weightlessly floated around her. She had passed her test to be an American, and had promptly forgotten all the history, and everything about the workings of government.

She showed me her tattoo. There were blood oranges intertwined with blood roses. She would never need a transfusion. Still, she never got too close to the subway tracks. She never put herself in danger, to the extent that she could avoid it. Of course, living in one of the scroungier boroughs of New York City kept her in constant and perpetual danger. She showed me her tattoo and I said: Greetings, O princess of darkness.

Then she fled to a tulip festival with frat boys.


That was the end, but neither of us wanted it to be the end. I had a fantasy that I was an Armenian, the last survivor of a family that had been killed by the Turks. I had taken the name Agabab Agababian. When I introduced myself she thought I’d said: Ali Baba. No, I corrected her, Agabab. There’s a big difference.

Are you employing I’m a dumb nigger, she challenged me. She was white as snow, and I was confused, both by the concept and her strange use of language.

Later, she sent me an aerial view of tulips. It arrived by bicycle messenger. Almost hidden among the tulips was a hot air balloon passenger whose hot air balloon had crashed. Searchers could not find her, but here she was. In the photo she looked like a ruined woman from the cover of a 1940’s pulp magazine, but she was dead, not defiled.

It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, said the fat police chief, the same thing some people said about Tunisian Airlines Flight 270. Every government in the world had its eyes out for meaningful debris. But the man who knew said: No, It’s like looking for a needle in a needle factory.


After that she left the city and went back to her grandmother’s farm. Her grandmother was a pioneer, growing organic radishes and using weeds as curative agents. There are no side effects, Grandma said, referring to the long lists of side effects modern pharmaceuticals are burdened with.

Despite her grandmother’s example, she decided to live in defiance of nature. You can take the girl out of the city, she’d tell guys at the town’s one bar, but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Which meant, in that context, that she meant to be a slut.

She longed for the day that global warming turned the Frigidaire that is Michigan into a tropical paradise. She left her car running all night to do her small share. Go carbon, go, she chanted at the moon, like a deranged cheerleader. She dreamed of turning her barn into a bar and serving pina coladas to tourists. She herself, she’s never had a pina colada.

She’s worked hard all her life. Her boyfriend test is finger-lock wrestling. But if she bested a man, and had him groaning and crying on the ground, she relented and let him fuck her anyway. No man has ever been able to best her. She is a saint of merciful sexuality.


Her grandfather had a parrot, but it died. He’d built a greenhouse for it, and on his deathbed he made his wife promise that she would take care of it forever.

Her granddaughter, the power-slut, said that she would take over its care. Her grandma was happy to get the responsibility off her hands. But the propane bills got too high, and City Girl couldn’t afford it. If you don’t give me more money for protein, she threatened her grandmother, the parrot’s death will be on your head. She meant to say propane, and her grandmother didn’t know what she was talking about. Maybe it was that thing about being gluten free, whatever that was.

The parrot died. The granddaughter believed that her grandfather’s spirit went to live in his beloved parrot, but she let it die anyway. She was a lousy person, she told herself, and also: poverty trumps love. That was not an elusive concept for her.

After that her grandmother asked her to leave and to take the parrot’s body with her—she didn’t want the body around to remind her of her dead husband. She didn’t want it buried on the property, to haunt her. But her granddaughter, the cockteaser, woke up in the middle of the night and buried it anyway, right under her grandmother’s window. She buried a dead candle and a bunch of birdseed with it, and a bell toy, to accompany the bright-colored bird into its next life in Parrot Heaven.


Then she hitchhiked from Michigan to New Mexico, her heart full of grief for all mankind and womankind and birdkind. The desert turned into a garish painting by a man who signed his name: P. Mento

A telephone was ringing, that old fashioned ring tone. The granddaughter wandered the desert, trying to find the telephone. She was thinking: this is a dream, this is Surrealism, though she had as much understanding of Surrealism as her grandmother had of gluten and other faddish diets, even nouveau cuisine, with its artistic plate dribbles.

As she wandered, she thought these thoughts: They wanted to put Frieda Kahlo into a box called Surrealism. She went along for a while and then she bailed. Her box was a coffin. She didn’t look pretty on her death bed. Her fat, cheating husband, despite his womanizing, had a faithful heart. They couldn’t put him in a box either. Diego Rivera was too big for any box


The telephone keeps ringing. It’s the grandaughter’s former boyfriend calling, the guy she left at the altar in southern Indiana, by the border of Kentucky, an area called Kentuckiana, or, to young cynics, Indiyucky. The former boyfriend wanted her to start a detective agency to find where their love had gone.

It was strong for a while but then became weak, like a bodybuilder who abandons steroids. He wants her to find the steroids. He wants their love to be enriched by performance enhancing drugs, Viagra and the blood of Christ.

M. Krockmalnik Grabois’ poems have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story “Purple Heart” published in The Examined Life in 2012, and for his poem. “Birds,” published in The Blue Hour, 2013. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.

Wrong Man by Darren Cormier

Upon receiving a notice from his hometown to attend a ceremony in recognition of his
achievements, D. scribbles:

this man
this man who
this man who can’t
this man who can’t even
this man who can’t even finish
this man who can’t even write
this man who can’t even write a sentence
this man who can’t even write a sentence properly
this man who can’t even write a proper sentence
this man who can’t even write a sentence without

He throws each crumpled sheet of paper across the room toward the wastebasket, missing each
time. Another thing he can’t do.

Darren Cormier is the author of A LIttle Soul: 140 Twitterstories and the editor and creator of the collaborative project The Adventures of Tequila Kitty. His work has appeared in numerous publications including NAP, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Amoskeag, meetinghouse, Thrice Fiction, and Opium Magazine, among many others. He lives in the Boston area with a growing collection of books.

Double Stuffed Oreo by Star Spider

I ate a double stuffed Oreo. You said life was meaningless. I considered the possibility of a sunny day in the midst of a snowstorm. You drank red wine with breakfast. I consecrated the bathroom with fire. You stood out in the rain. I asked my sister what she thought of communism. You spat on the dog by accident. I smiled at a bumblebee. You smiled at me. I sank my teeth into a stone and it cracked. You joked that there would be no more air soon, but it wasn’t funny. I revved the engine to make us go faster. You took a trip to the jungle in your mind and ate a wild flower there. I found a rabbit in the backyard and named it Frederick. You sang songs that were old and full of meaning you couldn’t quite grasp. I painted a picture of laughter with my fingers. You fucked your way to the top. I sank to the bottom of bathtub and noticed it was still black. You bared your teeth at the world. I cried tears of peppermint and olive oil. You told me things would never work out. I held you while you screamed at the night. You mourned a distant cousin who died of malaria. I danced around in circles until I puked. You walked until your feet got blisters but refused to stop. I went to the end of the world and looked over the edge. You blew the stars out like candles, but it wasn’t your birthday. I told a lie about elephants and cotton candy. You didn’t know how to ease my pain, so you cast a circle made of earth. I elevated myself to the status of a king, but in the end I was only a pigeon. You bowed before me like a branch in a strong wind. I ran faster than day or night. You circled in my orbit for far too long. I gesticulated wildly to the march sky, willing it to hail. You ate the last mango and the juice fell on the floor. I played the trumpet, although I hadn’t practiced since high school. You felt as though life wasn’t just. I aimed high and hit my head on the ceiling. You ate a wild flower in real life and shrank like Alice. I cupped holy water in my hands and drank, it tasted of salt and bygone hope. You promised blood and ceremony. I gave you half a pecan and an old piece of dried barley. You believed in ghosts and kept one nearby in case of emergencies. I allowed for all manner of ruckus fornication in our bed. You became an iron smith and forged a sword that could kill a giant. I dined on sugar plums and cognac with a high born elf. You learned voodoo from a woman with a pet goat. I bled in the basement to raise the dead. You swam with an otter and held hands while you slept. I devised a plan for a time machine I didn’t have time to make. You anticipated a journey to Alaska. I learned to speak dove and cooed over a lunch of bird seed and pink cupcakes. You painted an easter egg the colour of death and rebirth. I made my own pickles. You demanded a pool full of jelly beans to match your dress. I recognized my great great grandmother in a picture at the Louvre. You collapsed a wormhole in our den, causing the momentary dissolution of existence. I prayed to every god I could think of and only seven responded. You picked leaves from trees and dried the tears of a thousand children with them. I snuck into the porn theatre to listen to the men weep and moan. You decided you would be an opera singer because you liked the fragrance of music. I tried to chase my shadow but tripped on a penny instead. You wrote me a note for every day you were away. I put a tag on an empty bottle and sold it as enlightenment. You ingratiated yourself to distant tzars and minor demons. I sat on the dock at the cottage and watched the boats capsize in the storm. You drew runes on the wall and in the night they glowed. I made masks in Africa with horn and bone and hair. You dove so deep that something changed in you. I walked on water, but it was only a magic trick. You salivated over a grain of sand from an alabaster beach. I connived to build something so big it would make the world feel small. You kicked a bucket full of bottle caps and they scattered. I put a line of black paint on the couch. You promised you would join the circus when you were seventy. I catalogued all the ways miracles had let us down. You swore at a piece of sandwich meat. I vowed to make all things right and then wrong again. You felt as though you ought to put more effort in. I collapsed the table and put it away. You assembled the puzzle on the floor. I barred the doors with rosemary and wishful thinking. You misunderstood my riddle. I forgave all the sins of the world. You made the plants grow with your mind. I called three hundred random numbers and only seven people picked up. You were smarter than I gave you credit for. I was the greatest fool that ever lived. You kissed me in the gloaming. I wrapped my arms around you. You ached for the helpless insects. I danced on an unknown grave. You sang one last note. I combed the papers for word of my absolution. You cut the cantaloupe with a knife made of wood. I opened the portal at midnight. You dreamt of something more profound, a life where things meant something. I offered you a bite of my double stuffed Oreo.


Star Spider is a magic realism writer from Toronto, Canada, where she lives and works with her awesome husband Ben Badger. Star is currently in the process of seeking representation for her novels while she continues to write, play and frolic on the beach. Her work can be found in Grim Corps, Stories from the Fringe, and she was recently shortlisted for the Frends of Merril Short Story Contest. You can follow Star’s writing on her website, starspider.ca, or @MusingStar.


Labyrinth by Liam Hogan

And so, you have come to the end of our labyrinthine tale. I did not expect you here so soon. You have successfully navigated the twists and turns, the tricks and deceits, and now that you are here, no doubt you expect one final ordeal–one last challenge before you can claim your prize…
Then how did you…? Never mind. Pick a door–any door, and–God be willing, I will see you back here, in a little while.

The credits are rolling and the cinema lights are coming up, but still you sit in your seat, waiting. You’ve gone to see the film with high expectations, studiously avoiding any online reviews or the water cooler spoilers of your colleagues. You know this Director’s oeuvre, right from the stunning debut that everyone went to see twice, once to see what all the fuss was about, then again, to see how he did it. The Master of the twist, the Magician of the unexpected. Some of his later films, perhaps, were a little obvious, or worse, the twist, though clever, was just that–clever. No real gut wrench, no rewiring of the brain required to understand it. Still, a new film is always something to look forward to.
And yes, there’s a twist in this film, but it comes near the start, as part of the setup, and yes, the film is decent enough, the actors lift the occasionally stilted dialogue, the cinematography as ever is glorious, but…
Final credits. The cinema is nearly empty: you, someone buried in their mobile phone, and a couple in the back seats making out who probably haven’t even noticed the film is over. No post-credit surprises then. A man in uniform comes in with a long handled dustpan.
And you begin to wonder–did you miss it? Was it cleverer, more subtle than you expected? Was it then, cleverer than you?

Rope Burns
I must have blacked out for a moment. I can’t remember the fall, only the stomach lurching jolt as the safety rope jerked tight, and as I come to and stretch out first my hands and then my legs, I realise I can’t feel anything–because there’s nothing to feel–I am suspended in mid air, twisting and turning on the end of a rope.
“Hello?” says a voice, as I clutch tightly onto the red and green striped nylon. I do not answer, and then a head appears over the precipice above me.
“Ah! There you are. You okay, down there?”
It’s me. I’m the one standing above me. Which makes the ‘me’ on the rope…?

You slip into the time stream, the steady flow from past, to present, to future, one second per second, looking for backwaters–twisting eddies that might take you where you want to go. But the boat is a pig to steer, it fights every turn you take, and–even more than any submerged rock, or paradox–you fear a capsize, a surrendering to the natural order. Your caution means you miss opportunity after opportunity, and you feel yourself losing the battle–and then you see it, and dig your paddle hard into the flow, and …

“They’re so cute!” she says. “Warm and snugly! They keep twisting and turning around my neck!”
“They’re trying to strangle you.” I say. “Not that you’d notice.”
She pouts and lifts the two hissing snakes back into their tank. “Beast!” she says with mock passion, as the constrictors writhe and try their best to hide beneath the rocks and branches.
They want to kill her. They all do–all the animals in the Zoo. They’re terrified of her, from the tarantula she pronounces “tickly”, to the crocodile desperately trying to rip chunks out of her leg, they all want to kill her.
I do as well, of course, but I had my chance, and failed, and know better than to try again.

The Jeweller holds the chunk of uncut stone in his aged hands, turning it first one way and then another under the bright light. You feel some of the tension drain away, there were times you didn’t think you’d make it. Times you wondered if it was worth all the sacrifices, all the spilt blood. But now…
“Plain, or spiral cut?” The jeweller repeats, dropping the eye piece and staring at you with a red-rimmed eye.
“Excuse me?” is the best you can manage in reply.
“Every stone can be cut two ways” the jeweller says, stretching his neck until there’s an audible click. “There’s a spiral–a twist–at the heart of every diamond. A plain cut imprisons that shape. Makes it sparkle inside, not on the outside. A spiral cut, on the other hand, reveals it, shows it off to the world, makes it sing.”

“It’s a Singapore Sling,” I say as I slide the glass across the smooth counter. “With a twist.”
She blinks at me. And then again. You get used to the double eyelids–they’re the rule rather than the exception at Jimmy’s. Some of the bar staff–that is, some of the other humans who work here, this is after all a classy establishment and only the best bartenders will do–they find it creepy. Me, I don’t mind. Especially when she’s flashing the sort of credit she’s flashing. Besides, ignoring the eyes, she’s kind of cute.
“What’s the twist?” She asks, with a knowing smile. For a moment, I fantasize about our bio compatibility ratings, but I know it’s just that–fantasy, and I have a job to do. Still, I turn on the charm, and I tell her…

When you can run faster than your pursuer, you do exactly that. You run straight and true, thanking your lucky stars as you leave them behind.
But when you’re slower, then you’re either smart, or you’re dead. You have to be more nimble, more cunning. You have to twist, and turn, hoping that the sudden changes of direction lose your pursuers more time than it loses you.
And that is the key. You don’t run faster by jinking, so if you do it when the pursuer is still a way off, then all it does is hasten the end. For optimum effect, you need to leave it to the last possible moment. You need your pursuer breathing down the back of your neck, and hope that as you turn, they overshoot, and miss, skidding and sliding, carried on by their own speed, to buy you a few precious seconds more, to reach safety, or pray for a Deus Ex Machina…

I look at the dagger in my hand. The black cloaked teacher repeats his question. “Does anyone notice anything unusual?”
Kerrigan, two seats closer to the front, raises his hand. “Yes?” the teacher asks.
“It’s slim, Sir!”
“So?” the teacher probes.
“A stabbing blade, Sir!”
The teacher smiles a thin smile, and I wonder if he is thinking the same thing I am–that Kerrigan attracts far too much attention to succeed as an assassin.
“Does anyone know how many times Caesar was stabbed?”
The room is quiet. Kerrigan is either too smart to answer two questions in a row, or not smart enough to know.
“23 times. Of those, only one was considered fatal. What did his assassins fail to do?”
This one, this answer we all know, and we respond in well drilled unison. “Twist and turn, Sir!”
“Twist and turn” I mutter in quiet echo, holding the dagger beneath the level of the desk, watching the keen blade catch the light and remembering the feeling that first time, as struggling flesh resisted the motion, and died in the effort.

Last Words
You’re not sure where the gun has come from. It hangs limply in your hand, until you turn and point it at the Director. But he is already shot, already dead. Or dying. You approach slowly, cautiously, the ringing in your ears pulsing with every heart beat. His eyes flicker alive as you bend over his prone body, his lips twist and convulse–he’s trying to say something, but struggling. You wait, frozen, then he tries again. “Have you ever…”
There’s a pause, he squeezes his eyes tightly closed, opens them again, seems to think.
“Have you ever… tried living your life… backwards?”
And then he struggles up from the shrinking pool of blood.

You take that last turn, and there, in the distance, is a light. For a stretch the tunnel is straight and true, and the light is bright. You quicken your pace, and then slow again, still cautious, still wary. To fail after so many trials, so many disturbing experiences, is unthinkable. The light is bright, you can’t see any detail past it, but there’s something hanging from the ceiling, something that casts a half shadow, something dark, in places, see-through in others. The light is bright, and you shield your eyes as you get closer, as the shadows become symbols, familiar, but not readable. Familiar, yet strange. They’re hanging in a clear glass like substance, but the light hurts your eyes and you turn away for a moment, feeling the coolness of the walls. Then you strike forwards, eager for the prize. The symbols seem as though they should mean something to you–writing, but strange writing, unfamiliar letters, odd words, and as you pass beneath them, as you find yourself looking over a wooded valley, at a path stretching far in front of you, you twist and look up and there it is, the right way around :

to the


Liam Hogan was abandoned in a library at the tender age of 3, emerging blinking into the sunlight many years later, with a head full of words and an aversion to loud noises.

His work has been performed by others at Liars’ League (London, Leeds, Hong Kong, and New York), and ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’, and by himself at StoryTails, RRRantanory’s Little Stories, and ScienceShowoff. You can find it in print in ‘London Lies’ (Arachne Press), ‘FEAR: Vol II’ (Crooked Cat) and Litro, as well as online at Stimulus-Respond, Dark Fountain Journal, and Synaesthesia Magazine.

He dreams in Dewey Decimals.

Desperate Islands Are Ours by Cheryl Anne Gardner

I find you, sitting in a piazza at a café table, alone, a dusky bowl of prime opaque in front of you, served with a side of sticky bacon and gin. “Soon,” you say to me, but you always say soon when I’m late, so I tap my foot and wait while squids serenade us from a balcony above; then after a brief violin concerto and a careless “Thank you mister” to God for all the small matters he’s chosen to ignore, we ride raindrops on eucalyptus dust, lace handkerchiefs crumpled in our pockets. I only fear you when you’re near me. I want to tell you that, but just then, the waiter arrives with a stone tablet. You pay the bill with a fist full of coin and ask if the pharmacy’s open all night. It is, so you make mental notes in time and shadow while walking behind me in irritation as I foretell the future in condescending rivulets, my rubber boots flip, flap, flopping against a sunset that isn’t ours . . . and never will be.

When she isn’t writing, Cheryl Anne Gardner likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. She writes art-house novellas and abstract flash fiction, some published, some not.

A Wee Frog by John Gerard Fagan

I knew about him. He tried to keep it a secret, but I knew. A wee frog was living in his mouth. I had a bad feeling sooner or later that wee frog would get bored and be on the lookout for a new home.

“Not in my mouth – not my fucking mouth,” I screamed at him in a supermarket checkout queue. His mouth was closed, but I knew the wee frog was listening inside. He was buying a bottle of gin – he never drank gin. The wee frog was obviously making him buy it. The old woman in the checkout looked like she was afraid of me. Her nametag read Ethel. I cupped my hand over my face, mouthed the letters W-E-E-F-R-O-G, pointed to my mouth and then to him as he hurried into the car park. Ethel looked even more confused when I wasn’t buying anything. I resisted giving her the slap she deserved.


That man’s name was Geoffrey, and he lived next door to me. He was an old fashioned gentleman who once had a wife, before I drowned her in their garden pond. I think in some way she wanted me to drown her. We all agreed it was a suicide. I was so close to telling the police it was Geoffrey, and I saw him do it. He was a lucky bastard to have a neighbour like me looking out for him. I wrote a poem about his wife’s ugly face that night and gave it to him. I thought it would cheer him up but he looked surprised and ungrateful.

Geoffrey once took a piss through my letterbox and soaked a birthday card I got from my gran. I saw his tiny pecker poke through and let flow. He was drunk and it was the night of his wife’s funeral. I forgave him after I performed minor surgery on his left hand. I told him, when he finally woke at the hospital in a panic, that these things happen when you drink too much. How he got into my house and had that accident with my shredding machine was beyond me. The doctor said I saved his life – he was on the verge of death with the amount of blood he lost. I told the handsome doctor woman I was his guardian angel. I knew she wasn’t a real doctor; women never were; she was probably a hospital spy. I took a mental note of her reddish face, thin lips and shrimp eyes and put her on my list of people to hunt in the winter.


Geoffrey always had sugar puffs for breakfast. After the night of his wife’s suicide, I spied on him everyday for four years and documented everything he did. I soon knew all about him. I knew really important things – like he dyed his hair black every Friday morning and sprayed on this foam to cover his baldy bits. Geoffrey also plucked his left eyebrow every Sunday night before he went to sleep and he liked to take a poo, while eating a lemon on Monday evenings, usually around eight.

I burgled his house while he was on holiday one summer. I took his T.V. and a pair of shoelaces from his work shoes. He wasn’t too happy on his return, so I had to give them back. I was tempted to burn him alive in his house that night, but I didn’t want the smoke blowing through my windows and disturbing my house smell. I was very proud of my house smell.


Geoffrey went from being a plump fellow to a gaunt bastard. It was all down to the wee frog – it ate nearly all of his food. How it never got bored of sugar puffs every morning and cheap microwave dinners every night was beyond me.

The wee frog had lived happily in a cup of coffee. Geoffrey was stupid enough to drink the coffee. The wee frog had no choice but to make his home in Geoffrey’s mouth. I can’t say I blame the wee frog. I found the wee frog in a puddle the previous week and rescued him. I knew he liked coffee – only poor people and spiders didn’t.

After three months, Geoffrey suddenly dropped dead in a café. I was first on the scene, trying to steal his wallet, when I remembered it was a Sunday and he only ever took his wallet out on a Saturday. I made a grave error by stealing his un-eaten sausage roll. After the second bite I was in shock. I opened my mouth and looked at the reflection in a glass window – the wee frog was sitting between my teeth.

After a week, I decided to stop eating and try and coax the little prick out. And it worked. He hopped out when I was asleep, went down into the kitchen and into a bottle of milk. I was delighted that morning when I woke up and he was gone. Only after my second mouthful of milky porridge did I realise what had happened and he was back.

He left on several occasions, only to trick his way back. He did, however, always give me enough room in my mouth to feed myself. Respect is what we call that. Respect.

One morning, exactly a month since his occupation, he sneaked out and died in my porridge. I think it was down to old age. His autopsy, however, was inconclusive.

A strange thing happened – I missed him. So after a restless night of thinking, I decided it was best if he returned to my mouth.

I got used to the smell of his decomposing body and the hot sick taste it left in my throat after a few days. Everything felt like it should again. I can’t remember when I swallowed him exactly but I do remember seeing pieces of him in my shit. He looked happy. I buried that special shit in the post-box.


I became lonely without the wee frog. I sat in my bedroom and stared out the window most days. Every time it rained I was always on the look out for a new wee frog in the puddles.

I saw my new neighbours dancing in their kitchen. My binoculars gave me a prime view through all their windows. I still had the key I borrowed from Geoffrey, so was able to help myself to their food when they went to sleep – they were an elderly couple so it was never too late. They had a cat called Levi. I wondered how long it would take me to kidnap Levi and turn him into a hat for the winter. I had been practising my suffocating technique so the old lady was sadly going to die in her sleep. The documentation of the old man, just like poor Geoffrey, was to begin. The thought made me happy.

John Gerard Fagan is a writer from Scotland. He has an MA in Creative Writing and has had stories published in several magazines and anthologies, from Black Static to the Scottish Book Trust. He currently lives and writes in a tiny fishing village in Japan.