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On The Other Hand, Abomination

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Moral surety - Editor

On The Other Hand, Abomination

by Stephen V. Ramey

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed....
Revelation 12:17

Two women capered for the cameras below, two identical blondes in powder blue maternity suits, identically full-figured, identically pregnant. Trey pressed his cheek to the rifle stock and sited on the closest. The shot would be clean. Bless God the Almighty.

Providence had led him to this abandoned warehouse across the intersection south of the courthouse. He had slept behind a section of wallboard to avoid security and investigated a dozen vantage points, finally settling on this one, a boarded third story window high enough to provide the angle he required. It was not enough to destroy the woman; he must also destroy the abomination within the ocean swell of her pregnant belly.
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A Boy and His Goblin

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Foul, foul, foul - Editor

A Boy and His Goblin

by Ryan Griffith

I have a companion. He is a foul-smelling, foul-tempered, foul-mouthed creature. He lives in a sack that I carry by my side. He lives almost exclusively on a diet of salted jerky and onions. He rarely washes his clothes. I fear for the state of his toenails. He is about three feet tall and skinny, a runt of his kind. His eyes are rose red, and they glow crimson in the dark. His skin is dark green, like moss on the side of an knobby oak tree. I call him Creeper, because that's what he does. Figuratively and literally.

He is also the only friend I have. He's more loyal than any dog. He's saved my life more than once. He smells pretty funny.

It was years ago. I'd been bitten by wanderlust, the traveling bug. My desire to see new places and avoid several people who were trying to kill me spurred me to go much farther than I had ever been. I crossed the Giant's Plain and then the Hot Wind Desert, which was about as fun as it sounds, before reaching the Empire's land. Hamlets turned into villages which turned into towns. Finally, cresting a hill one day with sore feet and a nasty demeanor, I spied the tall towers of Cazendar, the fabled capital of the Empire. It was something out of myth and stories, and I had almost believed that I was on a wild goose chase.
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The Brokenhearted Leper

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Are we not all lepers? - Editor

The Brokenhearted Leper

by William Knight

Froth was my cellmate. He was a leper. Not the contagious kind. The kind of man kept alive for the sport of nasty children, and dismissive nobles--who shunned his outstretched hand as if it brandished a dagger.

“She was a sight, my lad. A true beauty,” he said longingly.

I nodded, feigning interest in his oft-told tale.

“If it wasn’t for this accursed affliction.”

Light seeped through the bars, illuminated Froth’s deformity in a dazzling ochre haze. I tried not to flinch, but failed. Froth noticed and clammed up, his one good eye leaking betrayal.

Somewhere, in another cell, a woman cried. Her incessant wailing clamored off the moss-bitten stone walls. In reply, a heartless soul yelled for her to “pipe down.”

I hunkered down in the dirty straw and pulled the flea-riddled blanket tight around my shoulders.

A rat lazily tracked a course outside the bars, stopping to sniff in my direction, as if mocking my incapacitation. A pockmarked hand darted out of the shadows, snared the rat, and it disappeared in a fit of furious squealing to become a desperate prisoner’s meal.
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A Hot Time in the Old Town

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Poison of the soul - Editor

A Hot Time in the Old Town

by Desmond Warzel

I had the park almost to myself, which is just how I like it on a Saturday.

The benches were all vacant except for mine. Across the way there was a guy consistently losing a perpetual tug-of-war with an overenthusiastic dog; there was an old-timer in a worn suit coming down the sidewalk toward me, snacking on peanuts. And that was it. Nice.

But as the old fellow drew closer, I tensed up.

And my instincts, as usual, were dead-on.

Twenty empty benches in the park and he sits down next to me.

I know there aren't many things worse than being old and lonely (except maybe being young and lonely), and I don't even mind a nice conversation with a stranger. But I have to be in the mood.

Besides, I already know how World War II came out.

We both stared ahead into the distance, watching the dog's antics. One minute, two. Very awkward. I was way beyond relieved when he finally broke the silence.

"I remember when this was all houses here," he said, indicating the park's vast expanse.

Yeah, I know. And Coke was a nickel, and there were no Japanese cars, and your movie came with a cartoon, a serial, and a newsreel.

"I used to live right around here," he continued.

"That so?"
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Tragic Love

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We've all been there - Editor

Tragic Love

by Keely Christensen

I’ll start out by saying that it was not the perfect romance. We were not the perfect couple, and we didn’t have the fairytale relationship that some people would make you think we had. We were that “on the outside” couple because on the outside we were ideal. On the outside, we were everything that two people together wished they had. We looked like we were happy . . . on the outside. Well, I suppose not necessarily just from other people’s perspectives. Wade thought the same as everyone else too-that we were perfectly happy together. I guess I was the only one who disagreed.

As I looked at him across the table, watching him chew his forty-dollar steak and drink his hundred-dollar bottle of Dom Perignon, my heart sank. Tonight was the night, wasn’t it? He glanced up at me and smiled, his straight, gleaming white teeth, with never so much as a piece of pepper stuck in them, nearly blinding me from reflecting the candlelight.

“Is your food all right?” he asked, seemingly truly concerned. My stomach turned. Always such the gentleman, I thought. He was constantly so attentive; there was never any room for complaints. I finished my glass of champagne, and before I set it back on the table, he was there ready to fill it up again. I waved my hand at the air to alert him to my complete disinterest in getting drunk.

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Bootleggers

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Cain's got a rumrunner - Editor

Bootleggers

by Dale Phillips

The line of bums looked like scarecrows in the rain, and I had to laugh. Here I was, smoking a cigarette, warm and dry in my car, while they waited for a handout bowl of soup. Since the stock market crash, a lot of guys couldn't find work or enough to eat. But not me, I was smart and doing better than ever. Because I was a bootlegger, running illegal hooch to anybody who could pay. And the tougher the times, the more people drank to forget their troubles.

Business was so good, in fact, that I needed some extra help with a new job. I'd picked Davy Donaldson to be my new sucker. He had a good strong back and he could run a boat. He'd been fishing these coastal Maine waters for over ten years, before the bank foreclosed on him. That was why he was out here with the other bums.

The First National Bank in Rockport had sent Sheriff Powell and his deputy to throw Donaldson off his own boat, but Donaldson had thrown them off instead, right into the harbor. Then he went down to Rockport and slugged that banker, so they gave him six months in jail, and took everything he had. I'd have been smarter, and sapped the guy in an alley, with no witnesses.
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The Nine Lives of Chairman Mao

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The apples felt good - Editor

The Nine Lives of Chairman Mao

by Craig Gehring

Chairman Mao sat at the command table. Truil brushed past a woman making her exit and took his seat.

Mao was in the nude. The sight was uncommon enough to make Truil raise an eyebrow.

“Nothing,” said Mao.

“You expected nothing,” said Truil. “Perhaps a pill.”

“I wasn’t talking about the woman. Nothing on either count, though,” said Mao.

Mao looked at the projector table.

“You needed my council?” asked Truil.

“Watch,” said Mao. He tapped his console.
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What We Cannot Know

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I arrived to Ubahi - Editor

What We Cannot Know

by Iheoma Nwachukwu

When this story returns to me, this is how my memory opens - like a wound. In Enugu, after I told my story to two traders outside Achina village, a powerful Achina herbalist warned villagers to stop fetching water from Otalu stream; and to this day only white men with heavy cameras visit the stream.

It was not the dustiest February. Men did not go about looking like they had brown powder on beards and eyelashes. That day I went to the stream as soon as I arrived to Ubahi. The bicycle ride was a thigh-cramping distance from Akpodim village, where I attended school and lived with my mother’s elder brother. I could no longer attend the school in Ubahi, since I had been finally expelled for breaking a prefect’s head.

Days before I went to Ubahi, my friend Eugene told me that mermaids had invaded the stream in my village. We called him Sir Evil. Eugene and I had stolen cassava from the principal’s farm three times in the last term. We sat on someone’s desk watching football during break.

“Friend, mermaids have crammed your village stream,” he said, giggling. He had projecting front teeth which he tried to hide by shading his lips.

“It is so,” I answered, not believing him. I had visited home at Christmas: no such news. I twisted my lips, nodded mockingly and looked away.
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Full Force and Fury

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Gimme, gimme - Editor

Full Force and Fury

by Billy Wong

Hank wiped his longsword and looked back through the rain, to the female warrior lying prone on the tiles of the abandoned courtyard. Her graceful hands still gripped slender swords, but her arms were splayed across the ground, and blood pooled beneath her. Had he gone too far? He walked around to her front and saw her stir.

"Good fight, little lady," he said, wiping blood from his scratched cheek. His arms ached from the pace of their duel, and many cuts stung his skin.

She looked up. Ignoring his offered hand, she struggled to her elbows and knees and spat. Blood dripped from the gash his running slash had put into her chest. "You cheat!" she yelled over the water cascading down from the gutters atop the walls. "How could you throw your sheath into my face like that?"

"You tried to drop a tree on me when I wasn't expecting it. Now, didn't you say you'd tell me where your father was if I won?"

"What? I haven't lost."

He stared at her panting, pain-wracked frame. "Haven't lost? You were lying there completely defenseless. I could have done bad things to you had I wanted."
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Funeral Flowers

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The smell was even stronger - Editor

Funeral Flowers

by Edoardo Albert

The taxi driver knew where to go.

The man paid him and then watched as the cab drove away. The driver had not spoken during the journey. The man had sat in the back, looking out but not seeing.

He was going to bury his father.

The building he stood in front of did not look like an undertaker’s office. Plate glass windows held him in reflection but he did not look as he remembered.

He couldn’t see a door. He looked around, but there did not seem to be any other way in so he stepped closer to the building and stopped. A section of the glass slid open. The reception was glass and marble and steel and the receptionist was their human equivalent: clear, calm and cool. And, of course, beautiful.

He went in, and the glass slid closed behind him. He could not see out through it. Instead he saw himself, repeated again and again, disappearing into infinity.

He sniffed. The air was perfumed, a distant hint of summer meadows sleeping in the sun. Not what he had expected of an undertaker. But even death was corporate now.

“How can I help you?” the receptionist asked. Her tongue flicked, dampening her lips. Saliva glittered like diamonds on the lip gloss.

“I have an appointment,” he said. “About my... my father.”

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