Category Archives: Fiction

“The Monster Study” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

“The Monster Study” is Andrew Davie‘s nightmarish short story from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ 2014 }

DURING HIS TRIAL AT THE EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS in the Courts of Cambodia, Number 2 was asked how he could perpetrate such vile actions against fellow human beings? Silence followed as he stared blankly, a former party leader turned pariah.

The ceiling fans did little to cool the room, which had now housed the attendees for almost seven hours. Pressed shirts, which still reeked of moth balls and chemicals, now shone like they had been rubbed down with ham.

When he failed to respond, his crimes were repeated by one of the co-prosecutors. It took fifteen minutes to go through each particular count and subset. Spectators in the audience often had to leave the proceedings; their wailing could be heard just outside the room, piercing lamentations. One person fainted, and another became sick.

Number 2, as he was referred to during his leadership, looked somewhat annoyed now, a frail elderly man whose accused crimes took place nearly forty years prior. The co-prosecutor wiped sweat from her brow, and continued, stating these crimes had been corroborated by Numbers 3 and 4, whose testimony had been heard mere days before this particular trial started. She appealed to his vanity. She made bold declarations, systematically destroying everything he supposedly held dear: his patriotism, his leadership. She stated how his admission of guilt might save him from a death sentence. When she finished her remarks, she looked drained, aged, like she’d recently been paroled and released from the grips of a fever.

Throughout it all, he did not betray his inscrutable countenance.

{ 1981 }

Wes Craven sits at his desk staring at his typewriter. He is forty-four years old, and already the director of two films, which will become cult classics, noted for their graphic and sexual violence. However, he’s still mulling over what he regards as a failure with his first studio picture, Swamp Thing.

What makes matters worse, his friend and occasional collaborator, Sean Cunningham, has borne a successful series with his Friday the 13th films. Originally dubbed a failure, the third movie, now boasting a hockey mask-wearing villain, recently displaced Poltergeist as the number one movie at the box office.

Craven continues to stare. The ideas are not coming, and the frustration builds.

An avid birder, he grabs his binoculars and walks the winding path near his house out into the sunshine. The woman jogging by has no concept, no idea; this man is responsible for some of the most deplorable cinematic scenes released in the last few years. Their ignorance always pleases him; how he resembles some corn-fed Midwesterner but lurking right beneath the surface the capability for such atrocity. Flaubert once wrote, “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” This mantra epitomizes Wes Craven. Returning to his house, he goes out onto the porch with yesterday’s newspaper. He begins skipping around from byline to byline until something grabs his attention: Cambodian refugees who die in their sleep.

Craven’s heart beats a little faster.

He skims over technical jargon about cardiac arrhythmia, or Brugada Syndrome, as possible causes of death and reads an interview with an assistant medical examiner who had treated six who had died.

As Craven reads the examiner’s words, the idea begins to form in his mind.

There are no bullet wounds, no puncture or stab wounds, no signs of any trauma or foul play, the examiner says: “I’ve been searching through medical journals for the last few days, and the only thing I can tell you is those people were literally scared to death.”

Relatives of the deceased believe the deaths to be the work of Khmout Sukkhot, a demon of Asian folklore who kills you while you sleep. Continue reading “The Monster Study” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

“Believe Me” – Fiction by Jono Naito

Dreaming of the Astral Plane – Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird), 1995

A mysterious man reunites with an old friend in “Believe Me,” Jono Naito‘s eerie & alluring short story from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ X }

AN OLD ACURA PULLED INTO THE DRIVEWAY in early November, during the last of the cold rains. I had my hand down the drain of a hot tub. I was out at my late uncle’s place, which I rented to rich types from the city. The deck was broken, the wires frayed, the roof peeling back with each passing year, but I would still come up the mountain to fix it. I liked the long breaks though, when no one was there, where I could be by myself for a week or so. A water-proof headrest floated in the leftover tub water. Being there was my purpose, at the time; I thought it was all I had. I stepped around the rusted metal furniture to watch the unexpected visitor, dangling my dripping arm far from my body. The car pulled away, leaving a man with a black coat and two hard leather briefcases. Facing me, I could see it wasn’t a coat, but a robe. It took a moment, but I realized the person was somehow Nathaniel Sharp.

“I need a place to stay,” he said, at a distance.

“Do you have a reservation?”

“Rules are prisons.” He hadn’t outgrown his familiar tone. His face was thickened by age, though the eyebrows, twisted over like the touching of two bent river-reeds, those were his. In grade school Nathaniel had little, round spectacles and carried notebooks with him wherever he went. The former was still perched on the tip of his raven’s beak nose, and at least one journal dangled from his hand. My body shivered in the wind as he approached. We were both the same age, but what thinning hair I could see made me second-guess the time. It had been twenty-five years since the tenth grade, when he left school without saying a word. It couldn’t have been that long already, I thought, I was still fairly young. Nathaniel, standing quietly before me, removed his hood.

“LaFarge gave me your info. He said you had a place up here. I have money.” He pulled a clod of bills from his pocket, aligning his eyes with mine. LaFarge was the one guy I still knew from school.

I took and unfolded the cash. “Why do you need a place?”

“I just do. Just for a few days. I have news, quite the news, but I can’t share it with you. Not out here.”

He looked at the trees around us, holding the suitcases closer to himself. When we were young he thought himself a wizard, and, for some time, so did I. I became worried, quickly, that he still thought this.  “What’s in there?”

“My equipment,” he said. “The standard, everything I need to continue my work.” He looked at the cottage wall. “It is nice here. Isolated. You must like it very much.”

I nodded. It had been awhile since a friend had to lean on me for help, and I couldn’t, at that moment, think of a way to say no. “Front door’s unlocked,” I said. “Loft bedroom to the left. You can set up there.”

Nathaniel nodded and put a hand on my shoulder, the edge of his thumb resting on my clavicle. It was strange to be touched. He smiled that same, child-wonder smile.

“It’s good to see you, Ford. I have much to show you.”

He left me in the chilled air and went to the front door. I considered changing my mind, but as I unfolded the bills I saw they were hundreds, quite a few of them. Money was money. Moving about inside I heard the suitcases, percussive. I returned to the hot tub, dipped my arm deep, and pulled on the valve to drain it.

{ X }

I sat on my couch and stared up at the loft. Nathaniel had fallen asleep quite abruptly, one boot visible. The scent of incense settled on the room; lavender, a smell that I used to adore for its ability to cleanse a space of bad energy. My phone shook on the table; it was, perhaps, a new tenant, finally messaging me back. Or junk email. In both cases I didn’t get up, and instead I continued to watch the single boot like a television for the next half an hour, wondering how long he’d be like that. As if he heard me thinking, Nathaniel eventually grunted and got up.

He maneuvered himself down the steps, hood back, exposing the edges of tattoos extending from his ears, down under the collar of an undershirt. He sat in the armchair by the wall, and looked out the window, licking his lips in silence. His socks were not matching; I could see under the hem.

“I finally did it.”

“Did what?”

He untangled the robe at his feet, hiding his socks again. He looked out again.

“It’s incredible.” He ran his fingers through his hair, almost like he was removing a toupee. “We spent all those years, and now I can do it.” I began counting the rings on his left hand. “Are we alone?”

“Yes,” I said.

He leaned forward. “I can do it, Ford. I can get into dreams.”

Continue reading “Believe Me” – Fiction by Jono Naito

“Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

Home Movies – Rosalyn Drexler, 1963

“Picnic” is A.E. Weisgerber‘s potent & evocative flash fiction from our killer & cinematic Spring 2017 issue. (Fun fact: “Picnic” was also selected by Michael Ray at Zoetrope: All-Story for inclusion in the super-cool Cafe Zoetrope Short Story Dispenser!)

{ X }

IT WAS DRIZZLY AND FRIDAY AND THEY WERE POOR, so Yves and his new wife Della decided to dig out the 8mm. The projector—Bell & Howell, heavy and gray with a square-handled top—was passed down from the coat closet, followed by the Thom McCan shoe box, holding its small library of little films, each in a yellow and black cardboard box marked with catchall names like Cabin 1960, Aunt Belle, St. Anne, and such.

“Don’t forget to get that pen,” Yves said. “You can mark the one with your cousin in it.”

Della’s cousin, Pat Farelly, was back in the newspapers as his verdict was due shortly.

“Oh. Gosh right. What if they let him go?” Della brought the box into the living room.

“I don’t think he’s got a chance. Did you see the newspaper? those shackles?” Yves set down the bulky projector, unhasped its pebbly gray clamshell, shucked it. “With his limp on top of that?” The threading wasn’t so tricky, but once that lamp kicked on, it had to keep running or acrid smoke would announce holes burning through the celluloid.

With a china crayon, Della added ‘killer’ to the little carton’s subject line, and set it aside. “Remember how he locked all the doors?”  Della always selected the same films, and it wouldn’t be an official movie night without watching Honeymoon, the time the old Falcon got stuck in the snow.

Continue reading “Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

“Torture Game” – Fiction by Ryan Bradford

Clouds on Screen at a Drive-In Movie – Diane Arbus, 1960

The following SNEAK PREVIEW of our Spring 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #13, contains MOVIE MAGIC, SEXUAL SITUATIONS, and EXTREME HORROR, and is NOT INTENDED FOR IMMATURE OR UNCOOL AUDIENCES.

Now that y’all been warned, we present “Torture Game,” Ryan Bradford‘s fiendish fiction about a dark date-night at the drive-in.

(If you like what you read, you can pre-order a digital (PDF) copy of FLAPPERHOUSE #13 for $3US via PayPal and see it fly into your emailbox by the Vernal Equinox. Print copies will be available on Amazon & CreateSpace real soon…)

{ X }

THEY WERE IN EACH OTHER’S PANTS WHEN THE FIRST TWIST OCCURRED: the man wasn’t a protagonist. He was in cahoots with the killer. He, himself, was a killer. Perhaps worse than a killer, because he used likeability and charm to earn trust.

“Oh shit,” Lou said. “Oh shit oh shit.” He shivered as Nancy finished him. His fingers, crushed numb by her waistband, had stopped working. They breathed hard in the stale cab, listening to the film’s muted sound through Lou’s shitty speakers. Their arms crisscrossed into each other’s undone clothing.

Lou rested his head against the seat and let the blood return to his extremities. “Damn, girl,” he said. He hooked his finger, still inside her pants, and Nancy jumped. “Want me to finish you?”

“Nah,” she said.

They pulled away from each other. Nancy rolled down the window, put her arm out, and flicked his mess off her fingers. Pacific wind filled the car. The air felt electrified somehow—simultaneously comforting and buzzing.

Lou sniffed his fingers, still wet with Nancy. She laughed and slapped his hand away from his nostrils.

“Don’t be gross,” she said.

He wiped his hand across his jeans and then reached for the back of her head. They kissed again—sweetly, this time. The passion had run its course. He watched the movie out of the corner of his eye. On the screen, the killer slit a woman’s neck and she screamed, watery.

Nancy moved away from Lou’s lips and rested her chin on his shoulder. She had never liked horror movies, so she stared out the back window.

“You notice that car before?”

Lou turned and looked. The drive-in on the weeknights was their thing because it was usually dead. They could drink, smoke, fool around in the backseat, and not worry about the kids that usually dominated the lot on the weekends. Nothing killed a good buzz like the screams of wild children running between the cars. Tonight had been less populated than usual. The news had predicted rain. There were three other cars in the lot when they arrived. This old, brown Cadillac parked behind their car had not been one of them.

“No,” Lou said.

“I don’t like it.”

“How come?”

“I don’t know.” She paused. “It looks like it’s pretending to sleep.”

Continue reading “Torture Game” – Fiction by Ryan Bradford

“Seven Ate Nine” – Fiction by Hannah Lackoff

Death With Girl In Her Lap – Kathe Kollwitz, circa 1934

The grand finale of our Winter 2017 issue is “Seven Ate Nine,” Hannah Lackoff‘s deeply moving story of growing up, letting go, and moving on.  

{ X }

DEAR NINE,
WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE AFTERWORLD? Ha ha.  Mr. Banks is making me write this.  I don’t know why I bother.  It’s not like you’re going to read it.  Mr. Banks is though, probably, so Hi Mr. Banks!  This Assignment is Very Important and not at all Futile.
Love, Me

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
i miss u

 

Dear Nine,
Apparently last week I did not follow the assignment.  Mr. Banks was Not Terribly Impressed (his words), and he knows I Can Do Better If I Try (ditto).

So today’s assignment is to write about the last time I saw you.  The last time I saw you you were bone gray ash.  We took you to the field behind the Marshalls and we let you go.  Cage said in some cultures people mixed the ashes into a soup and ate them.  Meggie said that was bullshit.  Your mom told everyone to shut the crap up and then we all laughed so hard, and it was really inappropriate and the man from your aunt’s church turned red and told us we were being disrespectful but we weren’t really, because I don’t think you would have minded.  Then the priest guy said a few words that were all churchy and serious and your aunt cried but only her.  The rest of us were cried out, I guess.

Better Mr. Banks?
-Seals

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
u always said u would come back and haunt us
r u there?

 

Dear Nine,
Today I’m writing in cursive because it takes longer.  I don’t like this class but I like math class even less, so I’m going to draw this out for as long as I can.  Did you know there is such a thing as imaginary numbers?  I mean what the fuck?  Like regular numbers weren’t confusing enough already?  Look at the loops in my Ls.  Lllll.  I haven’t used cursive since like 4th grade.  Only when I have to sign my name on birthday checks.

School is boring without you.  It’s more than boring.  It’s horrible.  In Home Ec we’re not allowed to cook for a while because someone turned the oven on to “clean” instead of “bake” when we were making the apple cobbler and it just sort of melted and smoked all over the inside of the stove.  Now we have to take a written safety test before we are allowed to use any equipment.  They moved all the seats around so there’s no gap where you used to sit.  Same in English.
-Seals

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
what was it like?

 

Dear Nine!
Mr. Banks said since I chose not to do last week’s assignment (again) and instead use foul language and procrastinating mechanisms I have to do two this week.  I told him these were my private words and he shouldn’t be reading them but he said that’s not what this class is about and I can do that on my own time.

This week we are all writing a letter about a happy memory.  Remember when Cage and Meggie and you and me went to the lake and Meggie pushed Cage off the dock before he was ready and he sort of lost his swimsuit and we all saw his butt?  Mr. Banks is not going to like this memory.  I don’t think Mr. Banks wants to hear about butts.

But after the butt incident we went to Shirley’s and we had ice cream.  You picked the bubble gum out of yours and put it on a napkin like an eight year old and we were all grossed out but afterwards you had a big wad of gum to chew and what did the rest of us have?

Last week we were supposed to be writing a letter to your family.  I didn’t really want to do it, so I guess that’s why I used those “procrastination mechanisms.”  My mom sent your mom a card with a really beautiful painting of a little cabin on the front, next to the water.  It’s really peaceful looking and it reminds me of the lake.  Of our lake.  I think she’s really going to like it.  My mom wrote something inside that I wasn’t allowed to read.  Grown Up Talk Only.

This letter is getting long because I am really nervous to write to your mom, but I guess it’s time to bite the big one and get started.
-Seals

 

Dear Mrs. Bishop: Nine was/is my best friend and I miss her so much.  You were/are like my second mom.  I’m supposed to share a memory of you and Nine so here goes:

When we were little and we had sleepovers Nine used to have bad nightmares.  She said your house was haunted.  One time I woke up and she wasn’t there and I heard this weird rumbling noise.  I went out into the kitchen and she was at the counter drinking hot chocolate and you were waving a vacuum around, sucking up the ghosts.  It was really nice.
-Celeste Ingalls

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
i heard a noise
are u there?

Continue reading “Seven Ate Nine” – Fiction by Hannah Lackoff

“Unfurring” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

illustration by Rebecca Ann Jordan

“Unfurring” is Rebecca Ann Jordan‘s sensual and tender, yet animalistic and violent short fiction from our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

AND WE’RE RUNNING RACING RUNNING the powder-man behind us but our tails flick too fast for his eye. Game, this is a game but terror spikes up my spine-like-snapped-liquid and I’m laughing little squeaks and ragged wheezes, my fellow fox. How up we’ve been stitched in this place of fur and ears and whiskers, how forgotten our selves have been, as if it’s really our bodies this dead canine’s using.

But who were you really, in the before? Before this game of borrowed skin? I forget everything; all slips from my mind as this fox-body slips from the wavering line of light drawn neatly as war on the ground. I can still taste you on my tiny-spiked tongue. I can still feel your calluses furring me all over. You I can still remember turning my knees backwards and my skin to graying red. Game. This is a game and you’re behind me, teasing my eyes around, letting me feel competitive.

The hunter draws behind him the cloak of dark.

You can run yourself gone past where the hard line of shadow chases us, but me I’ll turn, I’ll end him and win, I’ll hide behind the tree no shadow can cross, and when the man smelling like powder comes—I leap upon him, all his plaid and metal and I’m not game for this game anymore. Him I remember. He comes flashing back like a gun, he who tore you from me in that before, his ripping of your life away, all his subtle yanking of the years out from under us, some of which we ran together, most of them we didn’t or did, jaggedly.

And him I’m sinking my teeth into now, tasting the mettle of his blood and feeling the way he bucks beneath. I’ll stop him forever so you can keep on running, my love, the wind combing back your ancient gray into the red of my memory.

Continue reading “Unfurring” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

“I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb

 

Dante & Virgil Enter the Forest - William Blake, 1824
Dante & Virgil Enter the Wood – William Blake, 1824

Three friends suddenly find themselves in a strange realm in “I Feel the Same Way About You,” one of two diabolically surreal flash fictions by Jan Stinchcomb in our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

THE GIRLS ARE STUCK IN THEIR FUTURE.

It’s Emma’s fault since she was driving, but Cait and Lex know it’s not cool to say this out loud. They’re stumbling around in some rich person’s kitchen. At first they’re hesitant to touch anything but then they can’t help themselves. There is a bowl filled with tiny silver spoons and a set of crystal goblets. A dark forest is visible through the enormous picture window.

Cait picks up a leather-bound planner and flips through the pages. “Guys. Look at this. It’s mine.”

Lex’s hatred is swift and certain. Something about Cait always sets her off.

“See. My name is here, on the first page. This is my house. I’m married. I’ve got twins.” Cait squeals like a little girl. “I knew I would have twins! Lots of the women in my family do.” She looks around. “And I’m rich.”

There is a woman gathering firewood outside in the forest. She wears an ugly, tattered poncho and a sad face. Lex peers at her and startles into the realization that she is looking at herself. She tries to act as though she hasn’t noticed anything but Cait makes the connection and laughs. “Is that you out there, Lex? Don’t tell me you’re one of the forest people.”

“It’s not my fault,” is all Lex can say. She wants to wave to her future self but is afraid this might make her complicit.

Emma doesn’t say a word.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Lex.” Cait has never been happier. “You always have to be the rebel, don’t you? Well, there you are. Outside.”

“I’m not staying in this kitchen,” Lex says but she’s terrified of going outdoors. She dreads brushing up against her older self. That woman is haggard. Starving. Lex tries to think of what she did to deserve such a fate. She knows Cait is not a nice person, but still. How did they go from carpooling in the morning to living in these separate worlds?

Emma’s eyes are black and bottomless. Her hands are ice. The girl Lex knew is gone, but she puts one arm around Emma and leads her to what must be a sunroom. It is all glass, beautiful, something she will never have.

Emma doesn’t seem to weigh much anymore. She glides alongside Lex to a wicker couch, where they both sit down.

Soon Cait appears, exultant, with coffee on a golden tray. “I have an espresso machine! So I thought, why not?”

Lex refuses to drink. She knows if Cait drinks, she will seal some horrible deal. At first, out of spite, she says nothing, but then she screams at Cait to put the cup down. Continue reading “I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb