Going Up

swing

Image credit Gamze Bozkaya via Unsplash

“Get back here, Deric! Do it now!”

The minute Enoch Fischer noticed the boy was missing, he knew there’d be trouble, but he didn’t suspect that not only had some fool strung up a swing at the edge of the cliff, but that the fifteen-year-old would use it.

“Relax. I’m fine. Can’t I have some fun once in a while?” The boy turned his head around as far as he could, but Enoch still could hardly hear him.

“That’s not fun, it’s suicide. Get off this instant.”

“Poor choice of words on your part, Dad.” He was laughing, taunting his adoptive father the way he had since he was able to walk. At the apex of the arc out into empty air, Deric pulled himself up by the ropes, twisted, and then falling, grabbed the seat with both hands. On the return swing, his legs were low enough to drag on the dirt and grass pulling him to a stop.

“You should have seen the look on your face.” He stood and swatted dust off of his pant legs, still laughing at the effect his stunt had on the older man.

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The Other Side of the Fence

fence

Image credit: Mattias Milos via Unsplash

Gabriel peered though the tear in the chain link fence that separated Lucia from the foothills. The foothills used to be part of a State Park before the west coast cities separated from the rest of California. They kept enough land to go on hikes or walk their dogs, but except for a few community gardens, they had all their food flown in.

He was only sixteen and had been born after “The Schism,” the separation of what his Grandpa called “The Left Coast” from the more rural and conservative parts of the state. He said that other big cities had done the same thing, not just in the U.S., but in Canada and Europe, too. The state capitol had been moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles, and people in the “rightist” coastal areas, like Orange County, had chosen to sell their houses at a premium, and move to mid-sized cities here or in other states such as Idaho, which was a pretty popular destination.

“What makes you so special?”

In spite of his Grandpa, his parents, and most other people he knew, including the kids he’d grown up with, he was curious. What did the coast cities have that the rest of California didn’t? They had video games, but so did he, though not from the same manufacturers, and “coastie” products were deliberately overpriced for what they called “hicks” and “deplorables”or just plain not sold outside the cities.

Same thing with movies, music, and most of the other stuff produced in the big population centers. Yeah, the central part of the state had their own tech and entertainment products, but not the same ones. He’d never see the latest superhero movies or TV shows made by Marvel or DC unless they were pirated, and he suspected that what he and the other kids saw, listened to, and played weren’t quite as good.

“Hello.”

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Pushing Back Darkness

light and darkness

© Silvia Grav

“A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.” -Jewish proverb

Racquel always felt nauseous when she tasted darkness. Other people think the dark is quiet, serene, and cool, like a summer’s evening, but it was really bitter, hot, and moist like a swamp, and tiny, beastly things swarmed unseen in the ebony abyss. If she wasn’t careful, she could swallow them, and even one would torment her for days before being eliminated into the toilet.

She wasn’t always like this. It used to be that light was light and dark was dark. The sun rose, she turned on a lamp, she walked into her office building, there was always light. Then the sun set, she left work, went home, went to bed, and turned off the lamp on her night stand. Then it was dark. There was no good or bad to it.

But then things changed.

“If you don’t learn to turn off the lights, our power bill will be through the roof.”

“Shut up, Jason. Shut up, shut up, shut up!” She wanted to scream at him but she never did. Racquel passively nodded her head, and holding back her tears, she’d turn off the lights, one by one, and go to bed. She hadn’t been afraid of the dark since she was very little. Why was she afraid of it now?

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When Julia Wore Her Thorns

maslk of thorns

Photo credit: Enzzo Barrena

The mask of thorns was almost a part of her now, as if it were growing out of her skin instead of inexorably piercing it, boring through muscle and bone. Blood, thick as syrup, slowly described glacial paths across her face, then down her delicate throat and onto her chest and shoulders.

Julia’s body was paralyzed in a sea of stones. At first, they felt crushing, and she impotently thrashed and screamed in claustrophobic terror. Now she could barely feel them, just like the thorns, her nerves disconnecting from pain, or for that matter, from pleasure as well.

Was it irony that brought her the tiny, yellow bird, or was that Vaughn’s idea of a joke, like the parable of the Zen Monk, the Tiger, and the Strawberry? No, that’s not right. The real meaning of the parable was not to let yourself get distracted by pleasure when you need to save yourself from imminent danger.

But the bird was the only kindness in a world of horror, and trapped as she was, Julia had no hope of saving herself.

“Don’t be stupid,” chirped the bird. “Vaughn didn’t do this to you. You did.”

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Is There a God in the Moon?

dark moon

Photo credit: Duks Visuals

Tristan Schaefer wasn’t sure if this was magic or just the drugs kicking in. Vixia’s single moon Tatis always seemed unusually large in the sky when it was full, especially compared to Earth’s, but now it was impossibly reflective, as if the forest were perfectly mirrored and inverted on its surface.

“Izola!” Where was she? His wife had been with him just a second ago, but she had vanished and so had their campsite.

The Ambia Country spiritual excursion was supposed to be the highlight of their tour of the colony planet. Only one person out of two who entered the park were allowed to inhale the Mist to seek out the Way, the conduit to the spirit realm. Izola was supposed to keep him rooted in the physical plane so he wouldn’t lose himself in the vision. She promised she would be with him every second, but it couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes since he first inhaled the psychedelic they’d purchased with their tickets at the park entrance . Where could she have gone?

“Merhaba, Traveler.”

He’d been staring at a flight of birds crossing the gray and black moon and hadn’t noticed the man approach. He was an Indigenous. No one knew what they called themselves, and the colonists had to call them something.

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Oozing

ooze

Photo credit: Brooke Shaden

Shame oozed from her pores and covered her in syrup that smelled like sex. No matter how much she washed, it just kept coming, so she sat. It had happened in the kitchen and Lela thanked whatever powers there may be that no one was home besides the cat.

But the cat was bad enough because he was the problem. She could normally control herself and suppress the urges, but Percy always brought out the worst from within her. If only Simon and Lovelle hadn’t taken the stray in.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

He didn’t even “meow,” just turned his head away from her as if he shared some measure of her humiliation, or perhaps it was merely disgust.

“Leave me alone.”

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The Moon God’s Consort

lunar

Photo credit: Luis Gonzalez Palma

Cavillance was ashamed. How could it come to be that a virgin could conceive and then bear a son? But she had been so hungry and the fruit looked so pleasing and succulent that she partook.

It was all a trick. The fruit was his seed, but whose seed was it? The virgin goddess gathered together the deities of the Incan people and cried out, “I demand that the father of my child show himself!”

The vast celestial amphitheater grew silent. Copacati, the lake goddess stifled a giggle. She was such a gossip and probably knew who the father was, but she’d never admit it.

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What’s So Scary About Dexter Brock?

glove

Image credit Matt Seymour via Unsplash

“Oh, there it is.”

Robin looked up from her seat on the bench to see a familiar face, but didn’t have a name to attach to it.

“What?”

“My glove. Thought I’d lost it.”

He could have been as old as her Grandpa, but he was just the guy who took care of the grounds around the high school.

“Oh. Okay.” She reached over to pick up the brown, leather glove.

“I’ve got it.” He sounded nervous or maybe mad.

“Hey, I was just handing it to you.” Now she felt insulted. Who did he think he was, anyway? She was just trying to be nice.

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Reconstructing Gwen

deconstructed woman

Photo credit: Flora Borsi

Gwendolyn Anders was being deconstructed. No one else could tell the forty-five year old divorced woman was falling apart. She couldn’t afford to let anyone know. She had to keep moving, go to work each day, make sure her two kids got to and from school, did their homework, ate healthy meals, made it to soccer practice.

She did her best to adhere to the “supermom” stereotype, and as far as the rest of the world was concerned, she was successful.

Inside where no one could see, she was bleeding to death.

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Cut Off

communication

© Nicolas Bruno

“I think we’re going to make it, Peter. Both our pods are headed toward Sanctuary.”

“It seems that way, Elsa, but it’s a big planet, and we have no manual guidance control. Each of our onboard computers will handle the descent, but for all we know, we’ll land thousands of kilometers apart.”

The Colony Ship Frazier had done its job admirably. 3,268 colonists made it 99.9999 percent of the way from Earth to the new planet code-named Sanctuary. Then, on orbital approach, the Langstrom-Edwards fusion drive experienced a catastrophic malfunction, resulting in the destruction of the majority of the crew and passenger sections. Only 512 people made it into their one-person lifepods and safely evacuated the Frazier, but as far as Peter and Elsa knew, they were the only two headed for the new planet. The rest of the ship’s complement were most likely lost in space.

“Keep talking, Peter. I feel so alone in this metal bubble.”

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