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.”
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.”
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
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.
by James Hayward
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.
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
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
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?”
by Kevin Vorshak
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
“Mom is there a tornado coming?” a semi-breathless Kenny
asked. “Should we go to the basement?”
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
“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?”
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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,
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!
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
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.
“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
“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
Illustration for The Last Show at the
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.
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
Too young to tell the stories then, she honored them in her heart and
Tell our stories.
Goodbye to Ethereal Tales - An Illustration
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