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Goldar the Unwieldy

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Oh, kids! - Editor

Goldar the Unwieldy

by Samuel Mae

Goldar the Unwieldy was waiting for the crossing light on the intersection of Bone and Marrow, on his way to Villicent’s Bruiry, when he found himself wedged in the midst of a gaggle of young people. They were all rugged up and breathing out steam, but happy nonetheless.

Goldar smiled. It was nice to see kids out and about around town. Gave the place some vim.

A girl who couldn’t have been older than fifteen, clipboard in hand, smiled back and said, “Hello sir. Do you think you’d be interested in signing our petition?”

His good cheer of a moment before vanished, Goldar dropped one hand closer to his sword. These political types could be unpredictable. “And what petition’s that?”

“It’s a very important petition,” the girl said. “It’s an appeal to the government to put a complete ban on the slaying and pillaging of the helpless monsters, perverts and niche lifestyle groupies who populate the wilds of our fair region. We’ve got nearly five thousand signatures so far.”

“You want to what?”

“Did you know that in the last decade the monster, pervert and niche lifestyle groupie populations in this area have dropped so low that without intervention they’ll all be completely extinct in another ten years?”

“Really?” Goldar couldn’t spot any easy escape routes. The kids hemmed him in like a herd of amphibious killer-sheep lining up for lunch.

A boy with flowing locks of golden hair that almost hid the terrible acne on his neck stepped forward. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to be one of those adventurer types, would you? That jacket you’re wearing looks awfully like it’s been sown together out of degenerate hides.”

A few of the other kids murmured similar things, their grins replaced by scowls. Goldar raised his hands, hoping the bloodstains on his gloves blended into the dimness. “Just a man on his way to the bruiry for a few quiet drinks. That’s all.”

“So,” the girl said, “will you be signing our petition then?”

Goldar snatched the clipboard, scribbled down a fake name and took off. Maybe the time had arrived to consider retirement. It was getting too dangerous around here at night.
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The Favored Son

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Gross sibling rivalry - Editor

The Favored Son

by Philip Roberts

Two of them watched the elder Paulk writhe on the bed. With the blinds drawn and the sun all but swallowed up by the night, the two sons could barely make out the withered face twisted in pain, thick veins like vines wrapped around the nude upper body. Tufts of thin white puffed out of the boney, wrinkled chest, the hair disturbed as the old man clawed at his skin, drew blood here and there.

Brian, the youngest at the age of twenty-two, reached forward to offer aide, but Jacob stopped the act with a brief shake of his head, face all but consumed by the darkness. He kept his head down, the oldest and the keeper of his father’s life. Though the elder Paulk had offered Brian five years of love and support, Jacob had always made it known that Brian wasn’t blood related, done his best to stress it. Now he turned from the violent coughs and glistening blood dribbling down the old man’s parched lips and left the room. Though Brian could’ve stayed, could’ve protested, he followed in silence.

Jacob closed the bedroom door and stood for a time, backlit by a lamp, the resemblance between son and father clear in Jacob’s thin chin, sunken cheeks, and curly black hair. Brian had seen pictures of the elder Paulk in his youth, and had always marveled at the resemblance between the two.

Behind the thick oak door the old man screamed into the night, voice deep and strong for just a few seconds before it dissolved into a string of watery coughs.

“We need a doctor,” Brian urged, pushing aside his normal hesitance in the face of Jacob’s stern demeanor. He’d known from almost the first day that Jacob disliked him, though he’d never been able to tell why. Jacob was never outwardly cruel, merely distant and disconnected.

When Jacob looked to him, Brian couldn’t say what he saw in the face peering back, but he knew before Jacob started walking down the hall that they weren’t going to call a doctor. At the onset of Paulk’s degeneration two months prior Jacob had refused any medical help, and had Mr. Paulk not done the same, Brian might’ve gone out on his own to seek help.
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Hooch, Whores and Hustling

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Pool hall drama - Editor

Hooch, Whores and Hustling

by Larry Crain

The smooth green felt of the six pool tables and two snooker tables drew the crew like nourishing, green oases in the desolate desert that was the old part of town. Joe’s Emporium sat on a gradual hill where the bricks of the original Main street caused a staccato hum in the tires of the few cars that bothered to chug up, slide by and turn down toward the abandoned factories and the train depot that you would swear was empty, except for the sound of metal on rails as trains twice a day made the slow curve that paralleled Main.

To some, Joe’s was a dump, with worn, uneven wooden flooring, faded maroon brick walls with chunks of mortar missing and ever-present small piles of cigarette butts and peanut shells. But where it counted, the Emporium was perfection. Oh, those tables. Yes, every antique, solid wood rail was covered with scorch marks from years of burning cigarettes placed hanging over the edge by shooters that then forgot about the fags until they burned down and charred the finish. And interspersed with the burns were four inch rings from melted ice on Joe’s signature chilled beer mugs. Inside the boundaries of those table rails, though, was sacred territory. The traditional hunter green felt was always as if it had just been stretched and installed new each morning. The slate was an inch thick, perfectly flat and perfectly smooth. With no channels or roll-offs, you could shoot a ball as soft as a kiss and it would roll forever until it touched precisely where it was expected at the far end of the table.

The crew felt like men at Joe’s. You couldn’t buy beer, but if someone bought one and set it on the tiny tables that jutted up from each tall stool-chair like a miniature version of those wraparound grade school desks, you could drink the frigid amber ego enhancer and nobody cared. Across the street and up some uneven stairs were rooms where nothing but women lived. Once in awhile, they would call over and order about twenty of the Emporium’s small, greasy, delicious hamburgers, no cheese. Of the two dozen or so regulars at Joe’s, there was a core group of shooters who spent most of their free time there, the crew. Gerry, who ran the place, would pick one of the crew to deliver the bag of burgers to the upstairs rooms. No one ever turned it down, because you not only got a free hour on a table, but you got to see the Ladies in their frilly, fancy underwear and lingerie. Everybody believed there was a red light on the back of the Ladies’ building, facing the train track, but no one ever bothered to go see. Hooch, whores and hustling - what more could a 17 or 18 year old man want.
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Calendar Girl

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Oooh, twisty - Editor

Calendar Girl

by John F.D. Taff

It was at the reception that Josh spoke the first words that truly scared her.

The wedding, like the rest of Melinda’s courtship, moved with a dreamlike cadence. People drifted in and out of perception, events passed like objects whirling around the heart of a hurricane. Time, rather than connecting these happenings, separated them, split them into odd, unconnected vignettes.

Here she was, as if just awakened, getting married to a man she hardly knew.

It was only five months ago that they’d exchanged their first words across a conference room table.

Josh, the bright, new supervisor brought in from the company’s Chicago office.

She, the eager, dynamic account executive just out of college.

Josh had handled his first meeting as if he knew every intimate detail, spoken and unspoken, about the clients and their business.

“I love an organized man,” Melinda had said to break the ice after the clients left, and the others applauded her effort with nervous, restrained laughter.

Except Josh.

He’d looked at her with that baby face, those light brown eyes, looked seriously at her.

“Of course,” he finally said. And that was the beginning.

Melinda had been surprised when, only a month later, Josh produced his ubiquitous black date book, bulging fat around the tiny clasp that held it shut, opened it and said:

“March 4. That’s the day you’ll marry me.”

His handwriting was firm and clear even in the dim light of her bedroom.

“Oh, Josh,” she sighed, burying her face in his neck. “I do.”
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Light and Blood

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A little urban fantasy - Editor

Light and Blood

by Lydia Kurnia

My first memory is of crying alone in a sea of corpses.

My tears had long gone dry. Like the blood, caking around their flesh, making dark rivers over the rotting landscape. Their faces—what remained of them—held a shadow of dread. Every single one of them. The murdered and the murderers.

My parents lay before me, their vacant eyes staring into the stars. The houses were no longer burning—rubble and ashes on a crimson mud.

I was alone. Crying. Until my sobs matched another’s.

You were as broken as I was, naked and lost in the sea of corpses. We were the only two that did not drown. The only two who wished we had. I crawled to you. My hands aglow. It was as if I held the sun in my palms. Your legs were twisted the other way. I folded them together, making a criss-cross of bed where I would lay.

I remember how you held me, so gentle the way a fog kisses the ground. I lay there in your arms, curled up like a foetus. You curled over me like summer.

I bit into your thigh. You didn’t even flinch. Perhaps you were too broken then. Perhaps I was too hungry to care. It didn’t matter because we must have been beautiful—a shimmering red island in a sea of death.

I drank you in, your sweetness swirling over the walls of my mouth. You melded with the glow emanating from my body. I closed my eyes. Feeling you feeling me.

Intertwined forever.

In light and blood.

#

Faith woke up screaming. The ghosts were still scraping inside her head.
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Nothing Less of Evil

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It coulda happened this way...Editor

Nothing Less of Evil

by Steve Olley

The first time Robert Kennedy met Jimmy Hoffa they almost came to blows.

It happened in Detroit back in the summer of 1956, when Kennedy was Chief Counsel on the McLennan Committee and Hoffa was Vice President of the Teamsters Union. Kennedy showed up at the Detroit offices of Teamsters Local 299, with Pierre Salinger and Carmine Bellino. They turned up with official warrants to search the premises.

Hoffa was in a meeting with his shop stewards, when Kennedy began hammering on the door. A gruff voice cursed loudly, a chair pushed back, and then a thickset tough looking guy in his forties opened the door. Three men stood before him, led by a young guy in a crumpled white suit

“What the hell do you want?” Hoffa said. “I'm in a meeting with my stewards."

"It'll have to wait," said the guy in the white suit. "We're coming in right now."

Kennedy moved forward.

"Like hell you are!" said Hoffa, standing his ground.

Kennedy tried to push by the stocky guy before him, but Hoffa pushed him back out into the hall. Kennedy came straight back at him, and again Hoffa pushed him back. When they came together a third time, both men looked ready for a fight. But it was not to be; another man appeared behind Hoffa and said in a calm voice:

"What's the problem, Jimmy?"

“This guy’s the problem, George.”

George stepped forward.

"I'm George Fitzgerald; I'm an attorney, what's the problem?"

The young guy pulled a document out of his inside pocket.

"I'm Robert Kennedy. I'm Chief Counsel for the McClellan Committee, this is a subpoena. I want all your books, records and other papers."
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Yellow Roses

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A picture of health - Editor

Yellow Roses

by Janet Baldey

The day after the funeral I knew I would have to leave the village. Its crooked streets, that I had once thought quaint, now seemed sinister as if dark secrets festered around each bend in the road.

George, of course, doesn’t understand. But then, he couldn’t be expected to. He has no idea of the part I played in Harry’s death.

“What do you mean? I thought you liked it here?” With an irritated shake of his newspaper, he had stared at me over the top of his spectacles.

I had lowered my head in a mute and miserable silence. I couldn’t meet his eyes and I couldn’t explain. Things had changed. Every day, the odour grew stronger and now its sickly scent permeates the whole house.

A few days ago I had stood, my nostrils flaring, trying to identify its source.

“Are you getting a cold?” George had said.

“Can’t you smell it?”

“Smell what?” He had looked at me, his eyebrows raised.

I clamped my lips together, fighting the urge to scream. Our daughter’s baby is due soon and she wants to stay with us while her husband is away on business. George was flabbergasted when I refused. But, I am adamant. I cannot allow my daughter into the house when its very air is tainted. That is why I am determined we must leave before the baby is born.

Abruptly, I turn away staring out of the window at the maze of streets that seem to have a single purpose. They all lead to the church on the hill: the place where I had first met Harry.

#

After arriving back in England, after many years spent abroad, George and I had fallen in love with the small village, nestling in a valley surrounded by wave upon wave of forested hills. Too far away from the coast and lacking a river, it was largely ignored by tourists and was, we agreed, a forgotten jewel. Both of us thought it was our lucky day when we eventually managed to find a house that fitted our budget.
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The Last Archives

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Rationality - Editor

The Last Archives

by Shane M. Gavin

Half a galaxy away from Earth it was shaping up to be one of those storms – the kind that had yet to be seen by anyone still living their first or second lifetimes.

Elain glanced back at the barriers she had placed over the entrance – barriers of corrugated metal that had been previously wounded in another great battle with the elements; barriers of shredded tweed bags that were half filled with muddy sludge; barriers of broken tree branches and of clumps of grass-covered sod that she had torn straight from the earth with her bare hands.

DetChiev--the man who both forty years her junior and eighty years her elder--was examining the construction, just as thoroughly as Elain had done only moments before.

Another gust of wind forced the surrounding trees into uncomfortable postures, stances they had never before been forced to take. They groaned in agony as their usually strong and stiff bodies snapped to the will of one whom they usually called friend. The gust lasted for only a moment and they were silent again, save for the gentle, almost soothing rustling of their foliage – a sigh of relief that their ordeal was over. Their ordeal was far from over.

Elain felt sorry for the poor creatures. They were no longer intelligence. At least, they weren't so in such a manner that warranted compassion from its other forms. But this only meant that they weren't complete enough of mind to realise that their salvation, the peacefulness in which they now basked, would be short-lived and that their torturer would return momentarily. They did not realise that their torturer would return with a vengeance. They did not realise that he would return at the end of every moment for at least a day and a night to come.
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Went Missing

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A man of little words - Editor

Went Missing

by Christian Riley

Sam Nolan took his breakfast of cold salmon and buttered toast every morning at the bottom of a two story house three miles north of Kenai Harbor. There were no windows in the basement of that house from which to study the blue sky, yet that proved to be a small blessing for the giant man; for all the years he came to work at this outpost, Sam found little favor for the endless daylight which accompanied it.

He stood six-four, with a strong back and plate-sized hands, and could work men half his age straight to their graves. His eyes knew the inside of every processing plant in town, and his arms knew the motions of any commercial fishing job Alaska had to offer. Sam Nolan never had trouble finding work in Kenai Harbor during those lively months of the year.

There were locals who lived near Sam, and they all knew him by sight, many by name, and a few a bit more than that. One man could rightfully claim that Sam Nolan was even his friend, if it were in his nature to do so. Yet if you asked any one of those locals if they thought Sam was a tough man, your answer would be a simple one.

But Sam didn't need anyone to tell him he was tough. He remembered that day he sent three men to the health clinic for talking the way they did to that young girl. "They bore an ill-favored manner on that woman, of which I took offense to," was his reply to the officer-in-question. Sam Nolan was a man of little words, but when he did speak, it seemed everyone heard what he was saying. He slept in his own bed on that night.
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Bitter Reunion

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Woman of the night - Editor

Bitter Reunion

by L Young

It had been so long since Ariana felt fear, it took her a moment to recognise it.  Her life, hidden among the masses of Vedlam City had become so habitual fear never played a part. But tonight something was different. Ariana could feel herself being stalked.

Her last encounter with a Hunter had nearly killed her, but after a long bloody fight the Hunter's age worked against him. Out of respect Ariana left him broken, but alive, cursing her with every labored breath. Whoever or whatever was hunting her now, it wasn't Alric. He was old then and that was thirty years ago. No, this was someone new.

This part of Vidlam was a crumbling assortment of warehouses, taverns, brothels and gambling dens bathed in the stench of human filth.

Ariana had always been so careful, supplementing her diet of animal hearts with men she picked off the street. Men no one would be likely to miss like beggars or foreign sailors. She even made sure to take them to that isolated section of tenement buildings she owned, far from where she actually lived on the East end. That had been her custom, week in, week out for ten years. Not a sign of suspicion. It was what Ariana loved about Vedlam - the anonymity. In a city of a hundred thousand people it was hard to stick out.

She could go months without encountering her neighbours and no one cared. But now someone was watching. They'd seen her lead men away. Men who never reappeared.  And now they had decided to take action. Well she could too. Hunting had been a regular part of her life since the curse brought her back after she succumbed to fever all those years ago. Her parents thought the stories about red haired children who died coming back as cannibalistic Dark Fey as just that - stories.  It turned out they were wrong. Nightmares about digging her way out of her grave still haunted her sleeping hours. The easy kills had made her rusty, but the instinct was still there.

Ariana eased her way deeper into the jumbled crowd of sailors and dockworkers. Normally every noise, every person was an opportunity to feed.  Now they were threats.

As befitted her purpose of attracting prey, Ariana was wearing a dress with a plunging neckline topped with a black cloak to keep her warm. No matter what people believed, she still felt the cold.
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