by Peter Simon
Shelly stumbled out of the nightclub into
the bitter air. She staggered up the road a few paces, fiddling with
the straps on her scarlet dress, and not really feeling the cold because
of the alcohol in her bloodstream.
“Come on!” she bawled to the others.
The other girls followed her out: a little parade of rowdy ladettes.
There was usually a little gathering of beggars, hoping to exploit the
drunken revellers. Tonight there was only one.
“Watch where you're going, Shell, you daft cow! You'll trip over
that tramp!” said one of the girls.
Shelly looked down, trying to focus on the beggar out of her drunken
haze. A pitiful creature, skinny arms outstretched greedily.
“Expecting me to give my hard-earned money away!” drawled
“Get a job like the rest of us!”
“I do not want your money,” said a clear penetrating voice.
Write Or Die
by Matthew Munson
There once was a clown.
A clown called Hector
Stories about clowns often suggest a happy tone, don’t they?
This story isn’t happy.
This story is about Hector’s power. It’s a unique, unusual
and frightening power.
Hector wasn’t a normal clown. He wasn’t funny, certainly,
but then what clown is? Most clowns’ idea of “funny”
is nothing more sophisticated than big shoes, water coming out from
a fake flower and riding round on a very small bike with two other clowns
on their shoulders.
Instead, Hector was an angry clown; angry at life and at humanity –
especially at humanity, and its cruelty. He was angry at everyone. Except
his fellow clowns; he could never hate the Brotherhood of Clowns, especially
when they had given him a home. He also exempted children from his hatred;
he valued their innocence, something he had never truly had.
Despite his loyalty to the Brotherhood, Hector thought the life of a
clown to be very banal. It was fine for normal clowns – if there
is such a thing – but Hector was different. He had power.
Write or Die
Illustration by Poppy Alexander
The Great Epic of Bob
by Reese Mills
“Look; I appreciate this, but I really don’t
have the time. I’m supposed to be saving the princess.”
“Oh, really? What happened to her?”
“She’s being held prisoner by a giant, er…monster
“Yeah. I’ve seen sketches of it, but I’ve no idea
what it actually is.”
“I see. And it has the princess?”
“I’ve already stated it has the princess.”
“She’s been kidnapped again?”
“Well, are you sure you don’t need this? It’s a very
nice fishing rod. I mean, just look how shiny that lure is!”
“Alright. Fine. I’ll take the fishing rod.”
Bob, the designated hero of the kingdom, dropped his pack to the ground
and proceeded to try cramming the fishing rod (so kindly offered by
the random villager!) inside. It was no simple endeavor, for over the
course of his journey to save the aforementioned princess, he’d
accumulated a wide range of items. He had the essentials: food, water,
blankets, a sword, and armor, but he also had a large amount of stuff—not
Miss Elizabeth and Miss Beatrice
by Harry Downey
We’d had a wonderful evening. Good food, good
conversation, good company. What more do you want? And, as a bonus,
home was close enough to walk to at the end of it all. No need to worry
about the legal limits on alcohol and driving. Just stroll for about
a hundred yards and there we are – at our own front door. We were
round at the McCauley’s house – Freda and Mike – who
were new to our village but the more we saw of them the better we got
The evening was to mark their Wedding Anniversary – twenty-three
years. Apparently there’s a special word that describes each different
annual landmark - words like silk or muslin and things leading up to
gold and diamond. To me it’s a bit of a closed book – about
as clear as those birthday signs you see everywhere. Mike thought probably
‘sackcloth’’ or something would be the right one for
them – until Freda got him to confess that the years together
hadn’t all been bad.
The conversation drifted around casually, as it should with friends,
and Joyce, the woman who has kept me on the straight and narrow for
umpteen years remarked on how sorry she felt for anyone who had gone
through life alone. “Some single people accept the way it is and
settle for it happily enough while others can become increasingly bitter
as the years pass.” She mentioned a man we had known, single and
living alone who seemed happy enough with his model trains layout –
that was until anyone used the phrase ‘Toys for men’ to
him. That usually got him going.
It was time for me to tell a story. It’s a bit of a party-piece
of mine and something I enjoy, so sensing that the little group was
a receptive one I began. Sometimes I start with “I wanna tell
you a story” like Max Bygraves used to do. Corny, but it’s
fun. I always try to tell the stories differently each time and pretend
they’re new. Normally that’s a cue for Joyce to stop me
and tell everyone that she’s heard them all so often that if her
snoring kept the others awake, then she would apologize before she dropped
off. She always listens to the first lines then usually groans out loud.
I took a sip from my brandy and looked around for effect. Three faces
looking at me – two with anticipation, one ready to jump in and
try to spoil my flow. I began.
The Autumn Dance
by Becky Armstrong
The fairies frolic playfully,
their wings drenched with shimmery sun dust
their toes stick in the honey
amidst the water color of wet petals.
by John Pilkington
The Fool’s Debt
A Patrick Donegal Fantasy
by Mike Phillips
Deep underground the pursuit began. While the world
above went on undisturbed, a secret tunnel was being built. Fixed upon
a single purpose, the workers toiled as if to preserve the very life
of their Chief, but the true reason was perhaps of greater consequence.
It was a matter of honor, a matter of revenge that caused them to labor
in such a way. Money was owed. An example must be set. With the promise
of reward, the workers kept digging as the day ended and the night grew
The soil was soft and loose in the way of well tilled fields, and so
the job went quickly and with little trouble. There were times thick
roots had to be dealt with, but these were not unexpected and so addressed
in turn, hacked away with axes or cut with diamond toothed, two-handed
saws taller than the men who used them.
No structure was built to keep the ceiling and walls from caving in.
A thin wash was painted over every surface, an eggshell coating that
was as strong as stone. The wash also provided the only source of light,
a faint yellow glow that was only slightly better than the total dark
of the deep places of the world.
After many long hours, the labors were coming to an end. The way began
to turn upward. Before the night reached its epoch, they would break
through the surface and the errand would be complete.
Curse of the Moon - Part Five
Under the Smile
by Anna Sykora
Under the smile
The flashing teeth,
The Haugbúi’s Guest
by Christian A. Larsen
Axel had always had rotten luck. If he bought a chicken,
it stopped laying eggs. If he bought a cow, its milk went sour. He either
had too much rain or not enough on his farm, so that when the famine
reached his valley, he already knew what hunger was.
“Heaven’s cursed me and hell won’t have me,”
he would always tell his wife. Fearing it would come true, she would
always say an extra prayer for him at church every time he did—but
he never went. “You ask God to help us,” he said. “I’ll
stay and work.”
One day, when he was furrowing his fields, the blade of his plough broke
in two. Axel sat down and wouldn’t move. Not for food, nor water,
nor sleep, nor comfort of any kind. For three days he sat in his fields
with the broken plow until he had an idea.
He brought the broken plow blade to the town blacksmith and told him
to make it into a sword fit to cut down a troll. “I don’t
have much money,” he said. “So it need not be pretty, but
make it a strong blade, and I’ll remember you when I’m rich.”
Axel returned the next day at found his old plough beaten into the ugliest
sword he had ever heard tell. When he protested, the blacksmith said:
“It will serve you longer than if it were fairer. Besides, you
could afford no better.” And he took the farmer’s last shillings.
“What do you plan to do with that sword?” asked Axel’s
wife, but all he would answer was this: “Heaven’s
cursed me and hell won’t have me.” And taking a stout staff,
he kissed her goodbye and marched into the forest.
by MJ Wesolowski
This time, Jenny nearly shrieked out loud; her right
hand flashed out from under the blankets and flew before her in a fist.
Her eyes wrenched themselves open and she bared her teeth in a snarl
that was pure primeval terror. She genuflected in the bed, both legs
kicking out and finding only the bitter cold of night air.
Silence; Jenny peered into the blackness, her own shallow breathing
fluttering in her upper chest. She flicked on the bedside lamp that
spread long shadows across the high, stone walls and tried not to shake.
There was really nothing there, yet it had felt so real; the sallow,
soaking skin of the fingers that had held her face just seconds ago.
With all her might, Jenny forced her brain to forget the image of soft,
grey flesh and the smell of stagnant water that had accompanied the
vile clench of some unearthly hand. Already it was leaving her, evaporating
from her mind like soft kettle steam; all she had to do was regain her
breath and tell herself that they would not win; they would not get
to her; they would not get inside her head.
Jenny shook her head; anger curling her brow as she swung her legs out
of bed and turned the tap of the small sink before the window, listening
to the ancient pipes wail mournfully until an insipid spray of freezing
water rattled from its spout. She wiped some of the greasy-feeling liquid
across her forehead and reached into her pocket for the record switch
on a minute Dictaphone before beginning to speak; her voice soft, almost
secretive in the quiet loneliness of the farm.
by Tim Reed
Have you ever wondered what really happened to Oates
on Scott’s fateful expedition to Antarctica? Well, we believe
we may have found out, more than seventy years later…and completely
by accident. My name isn’t important, my profession tedious, but
a frozen piece of paper miraculously stored in a bottle - fatefully
discovered in a drill sample - has shot me and Antarctica into the public
I have seen penguins casually walk towards desolate mountains and their
deaths, and icebergs the size of Sicily, but nothing has had more impact
on me than this seemingly innocuous scrap of paper, the following words
of which are eerie in their suggestiveness, frustrating in their briefness,
but utterly beguiling and wrapped in a shroud of mystery. Read it, make
your own mind up, and wonder what really lurks beneath the ice of our
And The Leaves Were Purple
by Paul William Davies
You know how sometimes you're sure you can see something
moving in the shadows? When you're on your own at night and you're convinced
there's something lurking in the corner of the room, waiting to pounce?
I know that feeling all too well.
One unbearably humid August night, as I lay sleepless in my bed, I saw
something move. Or I thought I did.
But I dismissed it as a trick of the half-light, or a heat-induced hallucination.
I longed for sleep.
And sleep came at last, for an hour or so at least, but then I was woken
abruptly by a scratching noise in the corner of my bedroom.
I stared intensely into the pool of blackness, thinking I could see
two bright red circles of light.
Drowsiness got the better of me again. I dreamt.
by Chris Castle
Toby managed to fish his homework out of the gutter
and save most of it. He put his satchel over his bag and walked down
the long road home, trying not to feel where the numb swelling was stretching
out into the first ache of the bruise. The satchel had been his mothers
and he loved it; he didn’t care what the three boys said or did
because of it. In his mind, his mother was still with him; the strap
of it her arm on his shoulder, the weight of it her embrace.
The sun lay high on the road and he chose to walk in the sun. No cars
came down this road now; the mill had shut and no-one had any real cause
to use it. Toby veered into the shadows and out again, playing a simple
game to distract him from the pain that was spreading along his cheek
now. He started to wonder why the boys had singled him out; because
he was small and the only thing he had close to a friend was his teacher,
Mr. Wright, which probably made it worse. Toby sighed; he was only eleven
but sometimes he felt older.
He reached his house and called out for his pa. There was no response
and Toby wondered if he was asleep or drunk. He walked through the house
and then to the kitchen, putting ice to his cheek. He changed out of
his clothes then and began to prepare food for the evening. When his
chores were finished he looked out to the fields, vast and sprawling
and useless now and gathered up his satchel, closing the door behind
Toby ran for a little while, playing games, but the throb in his cheek
grew steadily worse and after a little while he simply walked through
the long grasses. He had seen things out here, some beautiful, like
the long mists that sometimes smeared over the fields, others sad and
small and terrible; the dead cats, the dry land, once his father passed
out by the oak tree. Toby walked deeper and deeper, wanting to lose
him from everything he knew, everything that was around him. He wanted
to walk off the sorrow he felt in his heart, he guessed. Deeper and
deeper he went, until, all of a sudden, he met the man in the centre
of the field and screamed.
Illustration by Poppy Alexander
Ethereal Tales Needs YOU!
you feel you can contribute towards the zine, then check out the
submissions page for the guidelines and submission form.
look forward to hearing from you!
to Shelley for this great promo pic to help encourage you all
to submit your stuff)
you don't wish to buy a copy of Ethereal Tales, but still wish to support
us you may use the button below to make a donation towards the running
of the zine