by Jen White
My cloak, they said, the bright colour invoking uncontrollable
passions. My lack of restraint, my foolhardiness, my poor judgment,
my willingness to venture out without protection, to take risks. How
arrogant of me, they said, how unwise. I deserved, they said, everything
that came to me and more. If only I had remained at home, under my mother’s
care, humble and quiet, like my sisters, like their friends, baking
perhaps, or gardening or sewing. If only I had done that, none of the
rest would have happened. No forest, no wolf, no attack. I would have
been safe, and Gran would not be dead.
It did not matter that it had been my mother’s decision to send
me to Gran with my basket of nourishes. And that it was my mother, also,
who had made my cloak. They blamed me. They still do.
Act of God
An Inspector Venn Mystery
by Patrick Whittaker
Inspector Venn felt he was getting a foretaste of Hell.
All but the most remote of the moorland fires had been extinguished,
but the night remained steeped in smoke that seemed almost sentient
as it writhed in the air and scratched at his lungs.
A network of light beams cut through the haze. Some were headlights
of the many vehicles that had descended upon the crash scene. Others
sprang from powerful torches wielded by grim-faced rescue workers who
knew there was no rescuing to be done – only body parts to be
collected and collated.
‘It blew up in mid-air,’ said Judd Crowther, the man from
the Air Ministry. He played his torch over twisted metal lying on the
scorched earth. ‘I shouldn’t think the poor buggers knew
what hit them.’
‘And what did hit them?’ Venn asked.
‘We don’t know yet.’
by Robert William Shmigelsky
The Shadow whispered under the guise of night.
The wayward slept ‘til sun rose and shone out the day.
The Light reminded of the goodness in life.
The Evening Paper
by Harry Downey
‘Depressing’ would have been as good a
word as any to describe what Longton Road had become by this point.
Whatever signs of prosperity there had been nearer the town centre were
left behind and the increasing numbers of ‘To Let’ and ‘For
Sale’ signs on the commercial properties told their own story.
Boarded up shops and the number of unrepaired broken windows added to
the overall look of neglect. Everywhere was drab and run-down and only
the occasional freshly painted shop front showed where the owner was
either new enough still to be hopeful or unwilling to accept what seemed
The scene was a miserable backdrop to a mid-November morning that would
have lowered the spirits of even the most cheerful. It was raining,
that cold, horizontally wind-blown rain that always seems to defy the
laws of Nature and be wetter than other rains. The weather forecast
had predicted rain, some sleet and gusty winds. The locals always said
they didn’t need a weather forecast for the town –’it’s
usually windy and it rains a lot’ – or at least seemed to.
The few people to be seen were scurrying to their next destinations,
some fighting with umbrellas that were proving unmanageable in the wind
that blew directly down the road from the hills above the town.
The woman was an exception in two ways. She was not hurrying, nor was
she dressed for the conditions. Her red coat, faded and torn, was more
appropriate for summer wear while her open-toed shoes matched the coat,
making them completely unsuited to the day. She had no umbrella but
was wearing a hat, small and rather attractive even though clearly not
new, with an incongruous green feather that was somehow managing to
stand pert despite the wind and rain. She was carrying a large, square,
blue and white check bag made of some plastic material. The bag appeared
Not a Swan
by Gary Budgen
Until she was six Eliza’s mother read her the
Swan Princess. The wicked step-mother had turned all the princess’s
brothers into swans.
“What is a swan?”
Her mother would smile and tell her of the beautiful white birds. There
were no swans in this town, only darker birds.
Then the real time ended when her mother, inexplicably not wearing a
seat belt, took flight through a car window-screen. Her father had broke
too fast but he was wearing his belt. From the back she saw her mother
penetrated by a jagged shard of glass as she lay on the ground in front
of the car. The blood ran down her face like the traceries of a wedding
veil. Once upon a time had begun.
The Greatest Storyteller
by Ashby McGowan
If you’ve ever sailed up the Lycian Peninsula
in a two masted schooner, then I am sure you’ll remember the tall
golden tower the tops the palace of King Drog. A tower of beauty rising
out of the sea mists, and the fumes from the tanning factory. The golden
tower, well it’s brass really, had seen better days, and so had
King Drog. The King was of extensive build. Like a house! His three
main loves in life were eating, eating, and storytelling.
But the King had become bored. Bored, bored, bored. His storytellers
had told their last story. Every original story has been copied and
rewritten a hundred times. All three Royal Storytellers could plagiarise
Princess Drogalina came to the rescue, “Father, I have an idea.
One that might remedy, your never-ending desire for fresh stories. And
at the same time bring much needed tourism to this noble Land. Anything
that makes people forget the Poll Tax is a good thing.
by Heather Smith
He should have come back hours ago. I knew, and my mother
knew. We were going to be married tomorrow, and he wanted one last night
to go fishing with his best friend. It was completely harmless. But
the brackish tributary in the midst of the wetlands had never seemed
so expansive before. I stood on a crudely-made pier and gazed out over
the water. My mother put her arm around my shoulders. It was dark; a
half-moon reflected off the murky water. As if the cosmos could sense
my anxiousness, the Fourth of July fireworks began.
“He’ll know we can see him now,” I said. “If
he was going to try to signal somehow—to wave or something—he’d
do it now, right, Mom?”
“I’m looking, honey.”
Her old eyes strained in the darkness, and my young ones couldn’t
see any better. I sighed and looked down at the dark ripples of the
water. My hair brushed my face gently as a breeze passed through. He
was missing. But I felt strangely resigned to fate’s decision.
A fallen sign floated to the leg of the pier and banged gently against
it. I knelt down to pick it up. Swim at your own risk. I hugged the
wet sign to my chest, enjoying the chill and the smell of sea salt.
“Is that it?” my mother broke the silence as another bright
burst of fireworks briefly illuminated the water.
by Joan Conklin
He watched her smooth body below the waterfall, between
the clear and breakable streams tumbling down the rocks. The way the
water moved translucently over her in a thick layer made her look like
a glass statue. Her fellow nymphs glanced toward him, giggling. She
looked at him and ran away, splashing light-infused drops onto his coarse-haired
This is how it was between Quercus and Amanita for years. Every day
he would chase her, and every day she would run. At first he had been
fun to tease, but he persisted. She would climb trees and swing from
the vines, land in the water, swim across a wide river, run up a high
hill and ten miles away, but Quercus would still find her. She would
be hiding in a cave, and out of nowhere appeared his round face and
jagged teeth, his green-coated tongue extending lecherously. She was
running out of places to go. She had no choice but to beg the river
god Diluvian for help, telling him that she just couldn’t run
The Night I met Lilith
by Fred Arcta
The good folks don't come out after sun down any more.
Too many hard lessons have been learned. The otherwise abandoned streets
swirl with the detritus of the night: hobos, hookers, dealers and a
cornucopia of other dregs of dubious vocations less readily classifiable.
It's hard to imagine them as children. These people don't bother me
any more; too many hard lessons have been learned.
Curse of the Moon - Part Six
by Jessica McHugh
Most stories begin at the beginning. No surprise there;
it’s the most logical place to start. But nothing about my life
or my story is logical, so why should I tell it in a logical way? When
you think about it, most elements of life are illogical. There are very
few things that we do in life that make a whole lot of sense. The only
thing that seems completely sensible is death. Death makes perfect sense,
as unfair or untimely as it may be at times. Death is the only constant
in life. It can't be controlled, and it can't be avoided. Many would
say the same about love. And I say, sure, love is wild and uncontrollable
and perhaps even unavoidable. The difference between love and death
is that not everyone is touched by love, but sooner or later, everyone
is touched by death. As least, as of now. Perhaps one day, humans will
achieve immortality, but that day is long off, and as I live and breathe,
it is impossible.
So, you've probably already begun to churn with theories about who I
am, where I come from, and what this is all about. But whatever you're
thinking, you're probably wrong. I was wrong for a long time too, and
though I find it more logical to begin at the end, there is no end to
this tale, so I'll conform and start at the beginning.
The Moirai in the 21st Century
by Paris Elisabeth Sea
Clotho left her spinning wheel
Upgraded to a gyroscope
She’ll track you by GPS
No thread to hand to Lachesis
Her strings are theory now
Vibrating with an appetite for fire
Pale mole upon the skin of the sun
The poem 'The Morai in the 21st Century'
was the 3rd place winner in the CV2 2007 Two-Day Poem Contest,
and appeared in CV2 volume 30, issue/no. 2, autumn
(CV2 is also known as Contemporary Verse 2, a quarterly literary journal
published in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
by Anna Sykora
“You’re so ugly,” taunted the fawn.
Away she skipped with her tittering friends, breaking small branches
in their haste, and Gabriel hung his head. Twin tears rolled from his
violet eyes, dripped down his velvety cheeks and dropped from his muzzle
to the ground. Closing his eyes he wished he too could sink into the
fragrant earth, never to be teased again by cruel deer.
They hated him because he was pale as snow and didn’t grow antlers
like they did. Sighing he turned his hooves towards the marshiest corner
of Fey Forest, where other large animals rarely ventured. The snakes
and toads there left him alone.
The noon sun hung from tangled branches like a lantern. His hooves made
sucking sounds in the water-logged earth. This was where he belonged.
Carefully he stepped around a black pit of quicksand ringed by bristly
cattails. What did it matter, anyway? Nobody would care if he never
showed his face again.
How Their Revolution Began
by Josie Gowler
Just a little more kneading and the honeybread dough
would be finished. Vannio thought that his efforts had a tang of bitterness,
the bitterness of a coward. He knew he wasn’t as good a baker
as his brother. Or his father. They’d known how to make honeybread
that would melt in the mouth. Vannio had got up even earlier than usual
– when the moon was still high in the darkened sky – to
start the day’s baking. Last night’s events had not lent
themselves to a good night’s rest. Last night… could an
oathbreaker become brave once more? Was such a thing possible? Could
he ever turn and fight again?
by Chris Castle
The same night Rudy committed his first murder he had
the man’s last word tattooed on his bicep. Rudy had walked into
the first parlour he could find; a dark, little shop, the sign barely
lit by the nearby streetlamp. There were no pictures to show the man’s
talent, no prices, or even opening hours. It was simply a doorway that
led to a single chair, a galaxy of inks and needles.
The man himself was non-descript; if Rudy had to remember his face-which
later he would-it would be a maddening, fruitless exercise. There was
not enough weight for him to be heavy, not enough scars for him to be
a monster. He was simply…there. Rudy told him what he wanted and
the man nodded; he confirmed it by holding up a sketch of the letters.
Even though it was barely more than a thumbnail scrawl, Rudy was impressed
by the details, the skill of the work. Rudy rolled up his shirt sleeve
as way of approval.
As the man began his work, Rudy closed his eyes and thought back to
the moment his world had changed. For all his talk, Rudy’s hand
had shaken when he had walked the stairs; his bladder was close to bursting.
The money was in his pocket, the job taken but his heart still pounded
as he edged up to the door. He took a breath, knocked on the door and
drew up the weapon as he listened to the dull thud of footsteps, the
small mutter of the dead man’s curses. Then the door opened.
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