Photograph by Kelly Stiles
Night Comes Softly
by Kelly Stiles
Night comes softly, and the crickets chirp their spell-binding lullaby. In a small thicket the nymph lulls to trance-like slumber as the last rays of light disappear.
She awakes to the night stillness. In the distance a blurred shadow moves across the darkened sky, blotting out stars it crosses before. The nymph, petrified of so still an hour, watches the silhouetted figure pause before it moves into the brush. Relieved, the nymph lay her head down, awaiting the cricket’s comforting tune.
A small rustle nearby, and she gazes up at jaws coming down. She screams only once, and the green grove tinges red.
Kelly Stiles is an English major going into her senior year at the College of William and Mary. Though this is her first publication, she hopes to one day have a novel published. She is currently a moderator at the Fifthwind Writer’s Forum.
From the Spirit Photographs of William Hope (1863-1933)
From the collection of the National Media Museum, Creative Commons
The Ghost of Henry’s Past
by Caren Gussoff
My mother told me love is a fight, that’s why the heart is shaped like a fist, that’s why they say it’s beating. So, you’ve got to treat love like a fight — most times, you can count to ten, most times, then, you can walk away, never caring who called you yellow because you are a civilized woman.
But I didn’t listen to my mother; I loved carelessly, I held my heart in my hand and threw it like a stick of dynamite into a crowd to rescue the most injured.
It was Henry, my Henry, and I nursed him back to health. He went down over meals like a hummingbird; he went down over me like a hummingbird.
You need to listen to me, girl, my mother told me, because you don’t look like much — none of our women do — but this is a power you need to use well.
Henry. Most off his breathing came through his mouth, his fidgeting shook the breakfast table, but his black eyes held the light just so, and I married him.
My mother told me nothing can keep you from true love, not time, not space, not sickness or war, not ruin, and not death.
But I didn’t listen to my mother and now we sit alone with the ghost of Henry’s past.
Caren Gussoff is a Clarion West grad, a co-editor of Brain Harvest: an Almanac of Bad-Ass Speculative Fiction, a member of SFWA, and has been published/will be published by/in Serpent’s Tail, Seal Press, Abyss & Apex, Cabinet des Fees, M-BRANE SF, and Birkensnake. She rambles about stuff she likes over at www.spitkitten.com.
Image copyright Wade Bowen, 2006
A Little Part of Me Dies
by Lane Bowen
“Run,” I tell my diminutive shadow, “before the Chicken-Crow of Ammon-Tok can pierce us with his quills.”
My shadow grips my hand tighter and tilts his dim, insubstantial face up at mine.
The chicken-crow waddles into the aisle and his empty glass eyes lock on us. Athletes and cartoon clowns and monsters and birds and bears and bees turn on their cereal boxes to see how my shadow and I will respond.
“Who picks the supermarket for his big showdown with otherworldly evil?” asks a gymnast from the box of Special K over my shoulder.
As if I planned on the bloated crow finding me on a midnight milk run.
The bird-thing squawks and charges, I flee, and my shadow’s tiny fingers sift through mine as he stands his ground. I don’t hear a thing except the slap of my feet on the tile, but when I return to the cereal aisle both my shadow and the raptor of Ammon-Tok are gone, and neither Aunt Jemima nor Captain Crunch will ever speak to me again.
“Vavilovia” by Livia Llewellyn
“Splinters in the Dust” by T.J. McIntyre
“The Garden of Death” by Maura McHugh
“Piecework Re-Imagining of the Sea” by Kaolin Imago Fire and Deborah Rosenblum
“Good for the Gander” by Don Pizarro
“Beyond the Sun Before the Moon” by Jazz Sexton
“Tag” by Brett Troxler
We’d like to congratulate and thank our Micro-Fiction Contest winners — Kelly Stiles, Caren Gussoff and Lane Bowen — and our runners up — Livia Llewellyn, T.J. McIntyre, Maura McHugh, Kaolin Fire, Deborah Rosenblum, Don Pizarro, Jazz Sexton, and Brett Troxler. The contest was a success and lots of fun. We plan to offer similar contests seasonally. The next Micro-Fiction Contest will be in August, so contestants keep your micro-pen handy.
Check back for upcoming podcasts of our first, second and third prize winners, courtesy of Pod Castle.