12th Issue

This is the line up for the twelfth issue.
60 pages containing 25 great stories and 2 poems plus some great artwork!

Contents shown in the approximate order they will appear in the finished zine.

Cover image by Daevid Ford

Issue Twelve, our last issue is out on
Friday 30th September

 

 

When Shall We Three…
by J.S.Watts

Some stories are repeated because mankind’s imagination is naturally somewhat limited. Some stories repeat themselves because they are written that way…

We are looking at an open heath, miles from anywhere; three bedraggled figures, the only living things visible in its bleak landscape. It is dusk and there’s thunder in the air.
“When shall we three meet again?”
“For heaven’s sake, you always say that.”
“Sister, you are so bloody predictable.”
The first of the three speaks again,
“Maybe I am bloody predictable, but the question still remains.”
“Does it?” This is the second of the three. “He’s almost dead. It’s almost dark. There may never be another opportunity for the three of us to meet up like this.”
The third speaker is the practical one.
“Perhaps not, but if we just stand gossiping about it while night falls around us, I guarantee not.”
“Come again?”

 

Goodbye takes a long, long time
by Paul Newman

They held hands as they walked.
She was much younger than he was; late twenties. Her hair was pulled back out of her eyes in a ponytail. He was bald with a rim of grey along the edges. She had his cheekbones and eyes but her mother’s nose.
“I don’t know what to do, Daddy. It’s just so hard.”
He squeezed her hand, gave it a little hug all of its own, and smiled at her. “I know it’s hard, honey. It’s not supposed to be easy. Sometimes I think life tests you like this to make sure you’re ready for something.”

 

Fortunes and Endings
by Gary Budgen

Now that the sun had fallen behind the derelict factory the fairground became a jumble of grey shadow broken only the flicker of the cartoon coloured light bulbs on the stalls. Morag and Dermot had already gone ahead, down the stairs that led to the sunken waste-ground in front of the old factor but Raymond hesitated. Why was he out on this fool’s errand? A blind date. He took one last look over the stalls: Cakewalk, Wild Shee, Take Your Chance. Then he began to go down the worn stone steps towards the fair.
In the alley between stalls he tried to find Morag and Dermot. It was their idea after all that they should meet up with this Claire.
“You’re made for each other,” Morag had said.
“She’s a looker,” Dermot added, with a nervous laugh; as though he had overstepped a mark.
But why not some pub, or restaurant; somewhere civilized?
“It has to be here,” Morag said.
“Yes,” said Dermot.
And they had joined together in a conspiracy of smiles.

 

Dead on Time
by James Hayward

Dear Jean,

I’ll try to start at the beginning and work my way through to the end.
Yes, I think that's best. I know you have heard some of this before, but please read it through. Please try to understand.
You know Smithsdale; a garage, a town hall, a general store and a pub, surrounded by miles of baked hills covered in long yellow grass and grey, weather-beaten sheep. My home town until I finished high school.
I can remember when I was just barely eleven and there was a car accident right outside the pub. It was the Thompson's black Holden Kingswood V-8, and it flew round the corner, skidded, caught the roadside ditch with a front tyre and flipped over and whammed into a big old pine tree, pushing the top right in and burying metal parts in the wood. It was kind of strange as well as shocking, because no one had ever seen the driver before; he wasn't from anywhere as far as anyone could tell. It was the major news in the local paper for weeks, a change from more news about tax increases and fuel excises and stuff. Till Mr Fairyweather's tractor turned over on him and everyone forgot. The local paper made sure it had a new instalment everyday. 'THE MAN FROM NOWHERE' was the headline they ran, with variations, for nearly the whole time. And he was from nowhere. He didn't have a driver's licence, or an address in his wallet or anything, the paper said. And the police had published his picture, taken at the doctor's place with his eyes closed (because he was dead, a hundred bones broken and organs ruptured), right across the country, and no one had owned up to knowing him.

 

Children of the Snake
by Eric S Brown

Duncan kept his foot on the gas pedal as he took a drag from the lit cigarette in his hand. The car stunk like a pool hall and Geddy Lee’s voice wailed the chorus of Tom Sawyer as the speedometer hit one hundred and ten miles per hour. Beyond the fact he still was somewhere in North Carolina, Duncan had no idea where he was and didn’t care. All that mattered was that he was free. His head bobbed along with the music and the stars in the sky above gleamed like diamonds. Duncan took another long drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke out slowly, savoring its taste. A sign on the side of the interstate read Hazelwood Baptist Church and gave the exit number. Across the sign, written in what was likely dried blood, were the words “Help us”. He slowed the car and took the church’s exit. The odds of him finding someone else alive and still breathing were slim to none but Duncan didn’t believe in chance. If he’d noticed the sign, it had to be for a reason. Something had led him here. He tossed the butt of his smoke through his open window as he navigated his way around the wrecked and abandoned cars filling the town’s streets. Like most of the places he’d visited over the last two weeks, the folks here had died quickly. Decaying corpses littered the road and sidewalks. Some kind of bird sat atop the head of a dead woman who lay sprawled in the middle of the road, pecking at her exposed brain matter. It took flight as Duncan drove around her body. The virus was the worst disaster in human history.

 

Vanitas
by Anna Sykora


Eyes that gleamed in love or cruelty;
lips that moved in speech or silent anger;
tongue that kissed and fed, that lied and promised:

 

A Cat's Prerogative
by Alice M. Roelke

[People here,] Kirry thought in my direction, magnified by his genetic enhancement and the thought-boosting collar around his neck. A man, a woman, and a small child stood before my agency’s doorway, staring down at him.
I could tell how desperate they were by the way they looked at the orange cat lying in the doorway. Kirry, my big, fertile male, exuberant-looking and handsome in his collar, filled the doorway. In a flash of movement almost too quick to see, space roaches skittered over the doorway around him. He beheaded the largest one and left the smaller for the kittens to practice on.
Since he’s worth more than most people earn in a year, of course my cat gets looks of respect. But when they give him awed, worshipful looks, afraid to step over him, that’s when I can tell I’ve got some desperate customers on my hands. I was bored with paperwork anyway. I swiveled my chair and faced them. “Yes?”

 

The Picnic
by Kevin Vorshak

Warning sirens broke across the still air, drowning out the sounds of her playing children. Katherine set her gardening trowel aside, wiped her brow with the back of a gloved hand, and looked toward the sky. The weather forecasters she watched in the morning all confirmed that little or no chance of rain existed - definitely nothing threatening. Yet it was neither Saturday nor noon when the city typically did a test of the warning system. Looking down and lifting the marble sized start of a green tomato, she said “I guess the weathermen were wrong. Something must be coming.” She released it and looked up at the sound of sneakers thumping toward her.
“Mom is there a tornado coming?” a semi-breathless Kenny asked. “Should we go to the basement?”

 

How Their Revolution Ended
by Josie Gowler

Vannio looked up from his parchments as the door slammed. “Help me!” Clara exclaimed, laughing and leaning back against the finely-carved door. She'd arrived at his home like that, many years ago, the night they'd escaped together. But she hadn't been laughing then.
“Very funny.” He stood up, hands on his back, and stretched, bones creaking. He couldn't remember how long it was since he'd had a break from the papers littering his desk. Half of them still had their wax seals intact: it was amazing how many people marked things 'for the Co-Presidents’ attention only'. Sometimes the seals reminded him of bloodspots. He sighed. “So who is it at your heels this time? The evil Empire reborn?”

 

Snow White
by Leila Anani

The seven stare with muted hate; entombed in ice the maiden waits.
Electric dreams of cyborg sheep guard her in synthetic sleep

A world of dark, a world of fears
A beating heart, across the years

 

The Regeneration
by Salena Casha

“Strike the match,” the pixie screeched. Sarah’s eyes flitted across the room. Ice froze her limbs. A fire would be so warm, so comforting. She could smell parchment burning, ink turning to ash, her fingers released from cold frost.
But the Books depended on Sarah for protection. Every morning, as the rising sun crested the windowsills, she spelled defense across the doors to her family’s library. It was her one responsibility, her one duty from which she could never shirk. The shelves were her prison from dawn until dusk. Among them, she lounged in gilded chairs and let dust settle around her feet and in her hair.
The pixie tugged her ear, gnashing its sharp teeth. Its wings cast rainbows across the room. She had never seen a real rainbow, only read about the prism-like phenomenon of nature. The colors entranced her as they darted through the windows to the sweet release of fresh air. Her lungs ached and she shook her head.

 

Puppet Pete
by Chris Castle

Pete raised himself up and looked over to Mr. Cedric. The man looked like Pete himself had looked so many times before with his master’s body for support; slumped, lifeless. His face was too pale, the red trickle at the corner of his mouth too bright. The lips no longer moved, no longer gave Pete a voice. The teeth looked like dead soldiers, stacked up like sandbags.
For a few moments, Pete did nothing. He felt another splinter rise up on his cheek and then fall away to the floor; a wood shaving puddle-pile of tears gathered up by his boots. It was too much, he thought glumly. Pete silently sighed and began to scrape his body over to Mr. Cedric. Even though his timber nostrils could not smell, he knew there was the leftover scent of death in the air. As he clawed at the floor, Pete heard the scrape of his own saw-bones break the silence. He was glad of the new sound; it’s scratching replacing the memory of the last noise, the rattle.

 

Illustration for Puppet Pete
by Poppy Alexander


 

 

And With That Breath, I Was Gone
by Andrew Hawnt

Do not mourn for me, dearest. Do not think for a moment that my passing was painful. More than anything, it was a release. The trials and tribulations of my waking life are falling away from me now, layers of my past woes and torments being stripped away as the detritus of life is carried off and filed away in the place that lies beyond. Not Heaven nor Hell, it is something entirely different, and in many ways it could also be argued that it is the same.
As I came away from my flesh I could remember everything. I remembered my birth, my childhood, those difficult years between child and adult, my fully grown years and the decline that claimed me. I remembered every moment I spent alive, all of my dreams, too. Everything was laid out before me like some crystalline patchwork quilt, and then it began to fall away, piece by piece, thread by thread, vanishing into the ether as though it had never been there at all.

 

Holed Up
by Brandon Ebinger

I'm not sure why I'm writing this down. Maybe I hope that some wild eyed lunatic with a shaved head will find it and start a cult, or maybe I'm hoping that some Jesus freak will use it to bring everyone back into the fold, with irrefutable proof that evil not only exists, but walks among you. Or it could be that I want to warn everyone about what's coming in the only way I know how. Or maybe I'm just trying to get it all out, us demons have feelings too, ya know.
YEAH, I SAID IT, I'M A DEMON, A SPAWN OF HELL. I KNOW THAT IN MOST STORIES, THIS IS THE POINT WHERE I TELL YOU THAT EVERYTHING YOU'VE SEEN IN MOVIES AND READ IN BAD PAPERBACKS IS WRONG, THAT WE'RE NOT REALLY LIKE THAT, THAT ITS ALL MISUNDERSTANDING OR A TRICK BY A CLEVER MEMBER OF MY RACE TO KEEP YOU OFF THE SCENT. BUT ITS NOT LIKE THAT, PEOPLE PRETTY MUCH GOT US RIGHT.

 

Sand Crystals
by Lily

She'd been waiting for years. There was only one human male who could appease her pain and avoid her hunger. One man, and a mermaid.
All the sailors and their kings had made their offerings to her, yet none had been able to stay away from their demise. She wasn't even how she was created anymore. No more two legs, no longer separate and agile. Only the infection of scales, tracing the outline of her fused bones. One leg and deformed webbed feet which pointed both East and West.
She sat facing the North, awaiting on a treacherous rock, for the next ship that could be sunken by the sharp teeth of stone and to have her mouth filled with the flesh of a man. She was tired of the constant hunger. She was tired of waiting.
The ship was taller than expected and not as wide. So many years passed, and she'd witnessed the evolution of every vessel from masts that speared the sun and bows that cut through the black waters which surrounded her only home. She closed her eyes, her lips trembling a tune older than the rock she sat upon; older than the wind.

 

Illustration for Sand Crystals
by Poppy Alexander

 

The Dissolving Light
by Paul Davies

The old man took the small wooden chest from the shelf. Blowing a musty cloud of dust from its ornately carved lid, he placed it on the counter and looked at the motionless black clad figure before him.
“Will that be all, sir?” said the old man.
There was a cold silence. Then the dark customer said in a commanding voice, “Open it!”
The old man was shocked by the rudeness. Grudgingly, he opened the lid. The hinges creaked and rattled. A rotting, bitter smell was released into the air.
The customer breathed in deeply with a hiss. A terrible yellow-toothed grin stretched across his face. Before the shopkeeper could move away, the customer's bony hand shot out, grabbing him around the neck in an asphyxiating grip. He was lifted half a foot above the counter. The figure mumbled incoherently.

 

Endings
by Ashby McGowan

My favourite part of Chess is the Endgame. In the Endgame there are only a few pieces that interact with each other, and so it seems that you should be able to analyse every possible combination of move - by yourself and by your opponent. I said “it seems” because, sometimes, apparently simple procedures end up proving to be full of unforeseen complexities. For instance, no computer – yet built - can adequately explore the interaction of forces that exist between more than two planets.
Throughout my life, I have always tried to calculate what others would do in response to my words and actions. My gifts of analysis are well honed. I consider them superior to anything else on this planet.
And so, I ask myself, “Why do these people always say and do the wrong thing?” Is it that their brains don’t work right? Or are they just trying to make a fool of me? Trying to lie to me?
Why do all of you never listen to a word I say? I speak some of your languages as well as you do.
The People in White tell me that it is me that is at fault. Yes, I do consider your kind inferior. You call me names, beat me. And yet I would never torture another. I would never steal the eggs from out of the secret places of another being.
But I do talk to you. No matter your failings, I do try to communicate to you. Try to understand your many weaknesses. Your desire to trap and betray all who lie within your power.

 

No Matter What
by Jessy Marie Roberts

Mommy whispered that I should crawl underneath her bed, to close my eyes and make believe that I was somewhere else. Clutching my ragged stuffed elephant, my only toy, I slid across the dusty hardwood floor in my tattered blue jeans and did as I was told. I could tell she was scared; she was always scared. She peeked under the bed after I was all the way under and gave me a forced, watery smile.
“Everything is okay, baby. But don’t come out until I tell you to. No matter what.” Her voice sounded funny, like she was sick and her throat was too scratchy to talk.
I nodded and pulled Lelly, my elephant, closer to my chest.
She reached out and grabbed my leg. “Promise me, Johnny. Promise you won’t make a sound unless I tell you it’s okay.”
“I promise,” I said. I would promise anything to make her happy.
She closed her eyes and black tears slid down her face. I didn’t understand why she put all of that gunk around her eyes when she cried it away every night—especially the nights he came home late with sour breath and a mean smile.
Loud boots thunked against the floor. He was walking down the hall. Mommy tensed, gave my knee one final squeeze, and then jumped to her feet. She was brushing her skirt over bruised legs when he walked into the room, slightly off-balance. His beefy hand gripped the inside of the door, as if it was keeping him upright instead of his own two legs.
“What’re you doin’ in here, Mary?” he asked. His words were slow and hard to understand, the way he always sounded when he came home late. I know that work made him tired; it wasn’t easy to be a police officer. It was up to him to make sure that people were safe.
I wondered why Mommy and I never felt safe.

 

Herbs of Ending
by Sally Startup

The witch returned home at dawn with a basket of Nightshade, Hemlock, Aconite, Foxglove, Henbane and White Briony. The herbs of ending, gathered at night, for potency and secrecy. Small doses for the ending of unendurable pain, or to save a life when nothing else would do. Larger doses for ending life itself, when nothing else would be as kind.
The villagers all came to the witch when her help was needed, but no one actually liked to see her collect the herbs of ending, or to be near her when she used them. They hated her as much as they needed her, knowing that once the witch arrived there would be an ending, one way or another.

 

End of the Day
by James McCormick

Enough was enough Dan thought, another hour in this place would be too much. He hated this office and wasn’t even sure what he actually did apart from moving around meaningless memos. He just wanted this day over.
He ran a finger around his shirt collar, longing to rip away the burning rope that was his tie. God damn it, why was this place always so hot? The size of this complex, you’d thing the least they could afford would be a decent aircon unit. None of the windows opened either, something to do with health and safety he guessed. He gazed out the window; a red, cooling sun cast a vermilion glow over the sky. If only he could feel that afternoon breeze on his skin.
He looked around at the other damned souls in the huge open plan office, each one caught up in their personal misery, lost in their meaningless paper work. Not one of them made eye contact with him. He realized that he didn’t even know one of their names, as he was sure none of them knew his.

 

The White Lady's Farewell
by Peter Simon

To me, there has always been something uniquely magical about the autumn. It feels as if something comes in from somewhere else, and our reality briefly touches another.
As October spread its shadow over the lands, magic and mystery always rekindled in this kid's heart.
There is one autumn evening I will never forget.
Far off bonfires scented the air, and my favourite oak at the other end of the field had turned the colour of shining bronze.
I was playing outside one evening in the fields with a friend, Ian. The clocks had just been put back, bringing the dusk an hour sooner.
A chill was setting in. The sun had set about twenty minutes before; only its hazy amber corona remained. On the other side of the sky, a few stars were piercing through bunched grey clouds. Wisps of white mist clung to the darkening hills, with one red beacon shining through, piercingly bright.

 

The Last Hunt
by Teresa Ford

Running. My feet pound the forest floor and the chill air blows through my hair, caressing my chest, as I speed onwards enjoying the feeling of freedom, the wild ecstasy of being really alive! I catch the scent of prey on the air, plant my hooves into the dirt, stopping dead and raise my head to sniff more precisely the tell tale particles floating on the breeze. I turn to the left and spy a fawn, lying in the undergrowth beside the track I have been following. Looking at me with wide eyes, it doesn’t move a muscle as every instinct passed down through the generations tells it not to run and though it is afraid and so badly wants to flee, though it doesn’t understand why it shouldn’t, it stays still and partially hidden in the foliage. I nod towards the beast, realising it won’t understand what I am doing…but feel that the wise behaviour should be acknowledged in some small way.
Just then the mother appears, she tenses at the sight of me. I paw the earth with my hoof and watch as she springs away, every nerve of her being concentrated on leading me away from her baby. I allow her what she wants and give chase, the thrill is marvellous!

 

 

Roberta
by Jan Edwards

It would be light soon. The sun would climb over the escarpment and flood through the trees lining the fields around him and that would be it.
Archie peered at his watch and swore quietly, though not very gently. Late: almost half a day past their E.T.A. He leaned heavily on his stick, its steel-tipped ferrule sinking into moist turf. Pain chomped at his ankle reminded him not to do anything else quite that stupid. His non-regulation six feet and seven inches could be a pain. Over two metres that bloody nurse kept saying, as if it meant something. She treated him like a child and it got right up his nose. He was old, and he was dying, but he wasn’t bloody senile. Not by a long way. But today he was having to lean forward on undersized sticks, the only ones he’d been able to scrounge without that damned Nurse catching him. ‘Better than that bloody wheelchair they’ve had me in,’ he muttered.
Stalking toward the huts he paused to peer through a broken window. Not much to see but it gave him something to do.

 

Bottom of the Ninth
by Hunter Shea

“Is it just me, or has Jeter lost a step or two this season?”
“Are you kidding me? David Wright smoked that ball though the hole. Even a 22 year old Jeter couldn’t have gotten to it. I doubt Ozzie Smith would have touched leather to that one.”
I could only give a small chuckle at Tony, my friend and radio partner. We’d had this argument more times than we could count over the years. It was one of our staple segments for the show when we were in what used to be baseball season.
I wondered how long Jeter, Wright and every baseball player had been dead. Wondered if there were any professional athletes left. My mind wasn’t like it used to be. I had spent the good part of an hour just a week ago trying to remember my own name.
“Common sense tells me and anyone else with a brain that a 37 year old man does not have the same range in the field as he did when he was at his prime. I know you find it hard to believe that he isn’t the god of baseball anymore, but facts are facts,” I replied. I hit the cough button just before my lungs spasmed. I brought a towel to my face as much to stifle the sounds as to sop up the blood that I expectorated.
Tony put his hand on my arm but I waved him away. The show, as always, must go on.

 

The Last Show at the Wreck Bar
by Kevin Joseph

This is unusual for me. Usually, when I finish a story I’m done with it. This time I have to write it again. I keep getting stuck on the difference between truth and facts. If you happened to read the newspaper article I wrote about the last show at The Wreck Bar you got the facts. This time what I tell you can not be verified. This time it’ll be the truth.
The phone rang at 10:41 AM. Way too early after a night of way too many.
“Wulla?”
“And good morning to you, too,” it was Gail; an old friend from my newspaper days. We’d started at nearly the same time. Gail had climbed the ladder while I had, well, while I had not.
“Got something for you.”
“Don’t want it.”
“Check your calendar?”
“I know what day it is, Gail.” I did not know what day it was.
“Then you know the docking fees are due at the end of next week. Just take it. It’s a simple fluff feature with photos. I can get you six hundred: three for the story and three for six good shots.”
I was rooting around the boat looking for yesterday’s paper. You don’t pay rent on a houseboat, but with monthly docking fees, you might as well. Gail was right; we were at the end of the month and I had to come up with some cash or I was going to have to find a new place to dock. The story would take an afternoon, finding a new place to live would take days.
“Give me the particulars,” I said as I plugged in my coffee maker.

 

Illustration for The Last Show at the Wreck Bar
by Ana Héau

 

A Description of the End of Days
by Lennart Lundh

It starts with the end of the world . . .
Fitzgerald's life and mind are in a post-apocalyptic shambles. The germ-weapon surprise we call the Crazies has killed most of his kin at unexpected moments, his friends and many of his smithy's customers with equal randomness, and continues going about its work ten years after setting out. Being spared so far by the Crazies, and therefore being sane by comparison to people who died violently insane, Fitzgerald does his best to cope, to have a reasonable routine and a rational reason to go on living.

 

Storyteller
by Alan Loewen

For Teresa with gratitude

Tell our stories.
Ilea first heard the voices when very young and in her dreams she walked lands of ginger and azure-colored skies populated with fantastic peoples and creatures.
Too young to tell the stories then, she honored them in her heart and remembered.
Tell our stories.

 

Goodbye to Ethereal Tales - An Illustration
by Shelley

 

Buy It

Don't Forget...
Ethereal Tales Needs YOU!

If you feel you can contribute towards the zine, then check out the submissions page for the guidelines and submission form.

We look forward to hearing from you!

(Thanks to Shelley for this great promo pic to help encourage you all to submit your stuff)

 

If 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