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Clearest Water

by Jake Jerome

 

The travel brochure said these are the clearest waters in the world, and God, it’s true. I can see everything. The coral reefs. The fish whose species I’ll never know. The hermit crab taking residence inside of my hollowed out foot.
I didn’t lose much blood when Mr. Hermit came along and picked away the flesh piecemeal. These rocks I slipped on have a vice grip on my ankle. Snapped the fibula and closed the arteries.
Every movement under the metatarsal cage looks like a fluttering heart.
He’s got the best shell in town.
And I have the worst view.

 

Jake Jerome

Jake Jerome lives in Philadelphia, PA with his wife and two cats, Herman & Princess Penelope, who are his editors. Although, he’s beginning to suspect their incessant meowing isn’t actually constructive criticism. 

Website: jakejeromewriter.com

Little Brother

by Fiona M. Jones

 

The bad dreams started when he was a baby. He got eaten by wild animals, struck by lightning, he fell from terrible heights or drowned in deep water… and every time I am paralysed, unable to save him.
I would wake, sweating, silently screaming, and slowly breathe again.
The day he fell off the harbour wall, I froze—as usual—in a silent scream and waited to wake up again.
“Why didn’t you HELP him?” they asked afterwards. But my nightmares have stopped. Now in my dreams he is there under the water, laughing, waiting for me to join him.

 

Fiona M. Jones

Fiona M Jones writes short/flash/micro fiction and nonfiction. One of her stories gained a star rating in Tangent Online’s “Recommended Reading” list for 2020. Fiona’s published work is linked to @FiiJ20 on Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter: @FiiJ20

Facade

by Jo Mularczyk

 

“Look Mama, a mermaid!” The child’s shriek of wonder froze on her lips as the creature turned from its perch upon the rock.
The golden tendrils the child had admired were revealed to be a web of sand-infested kelp writhing with tortured sea urchins. The creature’s skin was a pallid green, rent by a wretched scar that stretched across one cheek. Blood-red eyes emitted a foul stream that ran down the foetid cheeks and dripped into the water below.
The creature twisted its mouth into a depraved rictus that would haunt the child eternally, before diving elegantly beneath the waves.

 

Jo Mularczyk

Jo enjoys writing in various genres. Her stories and poems appear in publications within Australia, the US and the UK. During 2020 Jo won the Mayoral Creative Writing Prize and a Press 53 competition. Jo shares the joy of writing through workshops, student mentoring, journals, and the Littlescribe literacy platform.

Website: jomularczyk.com

The Näcken’s Music

by Leanbh Pearson

 

The musician sat beside the hearth, clothing threadbare and hair unkempt.
“Don’t ask me to play. I cannot resist.”
Men laughed, eyeing the wretch. “You something special then?”
He lifted the battered fiddle. “A Näcken was drowning children in a brook. If I answered his three questions, he’d gift this instrument and his uncanny music to me. And I bested him but cursed myself.”
“Play for us then,” someone scoffed.
Smiling wearily, he obliged. The music was as sweet as a midsummer brook, gentle like raindrops on a lake, but it dragged us under to our graves all the same.

 

Leanbh Pearson

Leanbh Pearson lives on Ngunnawal Country in Canberra, Australia. An LGBTQI dark fiction author, inspired by folklore, mythology, archaeology and the environment, her fiction features in numerous anthologies. When not writing, she enjoys exploring the Australian wilderness accompanied by her dogs (the canine assistants).

Website: leanbhpearson.com

Was it Plato?

by Avery Hunter

 

Caked in No-Man’s-Land mud, ears still ringing from the explosion that took my leg—I haven’t yet realised its gone, there’s just a dull throb where it used to be—I blink shit from my eyes.

Jimmy lies next to me, a smile on his face. “It’s over, Lance,” he says, clear as day. “Isn’t the end of war beautiful?”

A mortar lands close by. We get showered in dirt again. “What’re ya talking about, y’dumbfuck?”

I look over. He’s long gone; his brains are seeping into the mud.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war,” he whispers.

 

Avery Hunter

Avery Hunter invented writing, the quokka (but not its propensity for sacrificing its young to predators), and mudguards for bicycles (after an unfortunate incident one muddy Monday morning). Now they teach tarantulas how to make a perfect mimosa.
https://linktr.ee/AuthorAveryHunter

The Fog of War

by Warren Benedetto

 

Jameson surveyed the battle-scarred landscape. Shadows rose from the mud, moving through the fog obscuring the carnage. The sharp smell of cordite hung in the air. Jameson’s ears were numb—the only sound was the agonizing wail of an injured soldier on the ground beneath him. Shrapnel had shredded the man’s face; his stomach was a gurgling pile of entrails. Jameson read the patch on the man’s blood-soaked uniform. The name was familiar: T. Jameson.

His own.

Damn it, Jameson thought, recalling the whistling of the incoming mortar. Direct hit.

He sighed, then joined the other shadows in the fog.

 

Warren Benedetto

Warren Benedetto writes short fiction about horrible people doing horrible things. He has a Master’s degree in Film/TV Writing from USC. He is also the developer of StayFocusd, the world’s most popular anti-procrastination app for writers. He built it while procrastinating. For more information, visit www.warrenbenedetto.com, and follow @warrenbenedetto on Twitter.

The Skittering

by Stephen Herczeg

 

Insects. After decades of Hollywood telling us that aliens were little green men, they finally arrived. And they were insects. Bigger than rhinos. Tougher than cockroaches. And hungry.

The first wave hit New York. Ripping apart people like they were dolls. We deployed within hours. Thousands swarmed the streets; the sound of skittering feet was everywhere. Filling my mind.

Regular bullets were no good, only armour piercing rounds.

Suddenly, the skittering stopped. They disappeared. Leaving only silence.

And waiting. For hours.

Then the skittering started again.

I see one. Fire. Nothing.

The bullets don’t work. They’ve changed.

God save us.

 

Stephen Herczeg

Stephen Herczeg is an IT Geek from Canberra, Australia, between work, family, and Taekwondo training, has over one hundred published stories, and somehow manages to write thousands of words a week. His mottos are: “Sleep is for the weak”, and “Just finish it”. 

Thank You for Your Service

by Steven Lord

 

The crosshairs rest just above the target’s spine.

Cold zero.

That’s what we call these shots. No chance to learn the pull of the rifling, or the lie of the scope.

The flag flutters slightly in the wind. I adjust my aim half a degree left.

I’ve scored seven kills this way in Afghan. A lifetime of war, Medal of Honor to show for it.

I exhale halfway out, gently squeeze the trigger.

You thanked me for my service, then sent me out again. And again. No more.

I turn and walk away as the crowd’s cheers turn to screams.

 

Steven Lord

Steven Lord is a fantasy and sci-fi author from the UK. After spending 16 years travelling the world, he has settled down a bit, taking advantage of the change of pace to follow a long-held ambition to write fiction. His influences include Neal Stephenson, Stephen King and Iain M Banks.