Volume 2 Issue 6

The first thing I noticed about…

In this issue, writers were asked to use this very leading phrase to launch their stories. The stories this issue are doubled in length, resulting in six juicy stories to satisfy your reading appetite. Enjoy!

(2) Sonya by Kelli J Gavin
(3) Daily Routine by Louis Kasatkin
(4) To Tell the Truth by Copper Rose
(5) Mismatched by Henry Bladon
(6) Reality Show, live! by Sunil Sharma
(7) Resurrecting Shelly by Dawn DeBraal


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Volume 2 Issue 5: Sticks and Stones


The first time I heard this saying was in preschool. I do not remember the specific context, most likely it had something to do with my fiery best friend with the sharp comebacks, but I remember my confusion. Yes, getting physically hurt was undesirable but surely words were stronger than fists.

A bruise will fade, a cut will scab over, a broken bone will mend, but verbal attacks become permanent landmarks in our memories. The sting of a paddle is far less than a carefully crafted verbal lashing. A victim of spousal abuse will stay with the abuser as long as there is an apology afterward, a declaration of affection and remorse. Loving words can override vile behaviour, over and over again and just as easily work in the opposite direction: vile words can override loving behaviour.

Maybe the true phrase should be “sticks and stones may break my bones but names (or words, as I learned it) will break my heart, crush my soul, and trigger World War III”.

This week, we have six stories that explore this old English rhyme.

(2) Verbal darts do not hurt by Sunil Sharma
(3) Eye on Pete by Copper Rose
(4) Sticks and Stones by Louis Kasatkin
(5) Wishing for it by Kira
(6) Boxed Collection by Kelli J Gavin

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Volume 2 Issue 4: Red


My mother was born a brunette with raven black hair that glowed blue in the sunlight. Her complexion rivalled Snow White, making her an exception in a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired family. She had me later in life, back in the days when thirty-six is older than it is today. Her style had changed by the time I came along, becoming more comfortable and casual than when she had raised my older siblings. I was born at the very end of the seventies but a decade earlier, my mother had been very fashion conscious and made the most of her dramatic features. She never wore pastels or flower prints or anything soft and flowing. My mother kept her color palate minimal but bold, choosing to wrap herself in black, white, and red. Very few people can pull off red on a regular basis but it was my mother’s signature color at one point and deservedly so. Her nails would be bright cherry red as would her lips, matching everything in her wardrobe.

As an adult, I have tried to do the same but red makes my face look flushed and here in Japan, people only have red cheeks when they are inebriated. So I avoid the color for myself though I appreciate it on others. Red is not an easy color to pull off, but those who can do so with aplomb.

Which leads me to the stories for Issue Four. Eight stories showcasing red as a political statement, as a symbol of hatred, of passion, a memory, a dream. All the stories this week are rich with the color, the authors imbuing their prose with a boldness only red can provoke, and doing so with much aplomb.

(2) Old Reds by Lynn White
(3) The Red Beach by Sunil Sharma
(4) The Lover of Tulips by Kelli J Gavin
(5) Red Mantle with Baboob by Andriana Minou
(6) Broiled Flounder by Michael Natt
(7) Butterflies by J. Rohr
(8) Red Flags by Henry Bladon
(9) Vermellow by Debjani Mukherjee

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Volume 1 Issue 36: Oh, the horror.

I have never liked horror stories. As an overly empathetic person, it is impossible for me to watch slasher films or read about the brusque removal of entrails. I have never understood the point of gratuitous violence, of being purposefully revolting, nor have I ever sought to understand. 

With Issue 36’s prompt though, I have begun to consider the appeal. With horror stories, death and gore are expected. The only happy ending is escape. Horror stories address, very boldly in most cases, the senselessness, the obscene viciousness of this life. In dramatic stories, death usually occurs to emphasise life while in horror stories, it is the opposite: life emphasises death. Horror stories give us a safe (albeit offensive) space to examine our human condition along with all its heinous possibilities while (not-so-gently) reminding us that death is part of life (and vice versa). 

My dearly departed friend Alan, the one to whom this issue is dedicated, died at the age of 33, just a week shy of his birthday. His death was horribly simple, shocking in how quickly and quietly his existence was snuffed out. There was no gore, no chainsaw or blade, no pool of blood to step around.
And this is the true horror story: it is incredibly easy to die. An absolute cruelty when you consider how very hard it can be to live. 

The fifteen stories in this week’s issue lead readers in an exploration of fear and fright, using every possible route.

(2) The Carnival by William Falo
(3) The Crawly Space by Dawn DeBraal
(4) The Auditorium by Kelli J Gavin
(5) Messy by Annalie Kleinloog
(6) Stick Figure Family by Sonora Taylor
(7) The House with Secrets by Sunil Sharma
(8) Madhukar’s Wife by Debjani Mukherjee
(9) Failed Attempt at Prompt #36 by Copper Rose
(10) Inside the Caravan at the Mexican-American Border (or Seasons Greetings) by Karen Petersen
(11) ISLAND by Lauretta Kaplan

(13) All Hail the Printing Press by Lesley Crigger
(14) Final Lot by Christy Kunin 
(15) Masked and Relentless by Kathy Sanford
(16) Don’t Look by Olivia Wagner

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Volume 1 Issue 35: P.S.A.

In Japan, there are PA poles everywhere. Since we are a country so prone to disaster, it is necessary to have them so every citizen can be warned, no matter how remote they might be. During the great Tohoku earthquake, among the heroes who were lost were those city employees- mayors, clerks, secretaries- who stayed to man the PA.

When I lived on the island, the PA was used a lot and not always for emergencies. Most of the time it was to tell the fishermen not to go out due to rough waves but there would also be the announcements about house-raisings or bake sales.

Here in Hiroshima though, I never hear the PA. So last summer when the flooding began and the crackle of the PA was constantly letting us know about landslides and overflowing rivers, about evacuation centers, well, it was to be taken seriously.

Unless, of course, you did not understand what they were saying. My coparent has a way of tuning out Japanese in a rather ignorance-is-bliss sort of way. After a day of the PA blasting warnings and him hearing the announcements as background static, the dangers got close enough to trigger the phone alert system, which were in English on his phone.

He texted me frantically, did you know about this?! Landslides! Flooding! What are we supposed to do, we are in an evacuation zone. Mandatory evacuation! Should we evacuate?

I had, of course, already told him what was going on but until he saw it in English, it was not real to him. They discussed this phenomenon on the news afterward, foreigners continuing about their days as if it was just a bit of rain, while Japanese people cleared the shelves of toilet paper and bottled water, headed for higher ground. 

Perhaps it is a bit like that tree in the forest parable: if there is an emergency warning but you don’t understand it, is it actually happening?

This week we have five stories of public service announcements that warn us, bring our attention to dangers that did not exist until we read about them.

(2) “Symphony No. 9 and terror” by Sunil Sharma
(3) “All about music” by Jose Varghese
(4) “Notice to All Adults (First-World Version)” by Kathy Sanford
(5) “PSA- Please Stop Asking!” by Kelli J Gavin
(6) “Lake Rumour” by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Volume 1 Issue 34: Dawn

I used to live on an island far out in the middle of a steely blue sea. During that time, I was in communication with a friend who meant more to me than I meant to him. The imbalance of our relationship was rooted in our very different situations that created very different perceptions of this world. I was off living in on the other side of the planet, teaching kindergartners; he was stuck back in our hometown, working long hours in the service industry without much hope of change.

Nothing captured our imbalance more accurately than a quick exchange of photos we shared, on a morning (my time, evening his time) when I got up before dawn to walk down to the harbor in time for sunrise. Sunrise and sunset were the only moments in the day when we shared the sun at the same time, a fact that felt rather significant then.

So I sent him pictures of the glorious sky, the pinks, purples, oranges, reds painting the heavens as the sun eased itself into another day.

In return, he sent me two pictures he had taken early that morning: one of a very dead possum, ghostly in the camera’s flash, and the other of what I thought was a bowl of flour, being weighed on a kitchen scale.
It turned out that it was not flour.

Two different dawns, two different worlds.
 
This week, we have seventeen different dawns, seventeen different worlds.

(2) “Static Dawn” by Christopher Roper
(3) “Dawn Awakening” by Rekha Vallippan
(4) “FLASHPOINT” by Louis Kasatkin
(5) “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?” by Elaine Mead
(6) “Awakening” by Kira Writes
(7) “Once Upon A Time At Christmas” by Christy Kunin
(8)
(9) “The Avowal” by Debjani Mukherjee
(10) “May the Night Take Me” by Kelli J Gavin
(11) “Lauds” by Kathy Sanford
(12) “The Sun is Rising” by David Ritterskamp
(13) “A Misty Dawn” by Jose Varghese
(14) “First Light” by Sunil Sharma
(15) “The Scammer” by Julie Eger
(16) “Cowboys” by Kristin Ferragut
(17) “Goin’ to Dirt” by The Poet Darkling
(18) “Trapped” by Audra Russell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Volume 1 Issue 33: Trees

Volume 1 Issue 33 

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I grew up in an area known commonly as ‘the sticks’. There were more trees than people, more trees than stores, more trees than cars and roads and stray dogs. My relatives were all within ‘yelling distance’, right through the woods. Behind my grandmother’s house, there was a small creek where brackish water rose and fell twice a day. On the other side, the woods stretched for square mile after square mile without a single human occupant.
I used to wait for the school bus under the awning of a sprawling live oak, draped with curly Spanish moss. Great trees like that served as landmarks then, before there were strip malls and traffic lights.
A few years ago, a hurricane toppled half of the trees on my parents’ property. The news of the loss was conveyed to me, on the other side of the planet, in much the same way that the news of a beloved grandparent’s death would be shared. And I mourned the felled trees as if they were family for the trees did raise me, shape my understanding of the world.

Immobile and yet always growing, silent and yet never in silence, trees are as persistent in our imaginations as they are on land.

This week, we have a collection of fourteen stories as diverse as a forest. Included in Issue 33 are:

(p.2) Drought by Annalie Kleinloog
(p. 3) Warriors by Louis Kasatkin
(p. 4) Beneath the Old Oak by Scott-Patrick Mitchell
(p. 5) Summer Fell Into Fall by Kelli J Gavin
(p. 6) The Secret Tree by Jenny Birch
(p. 7) The Kindness of Trees by Audra Russell
(p. 8) Words, Wind and Magic by Cindy Potts
(p. 9) Bending Trees by Ania Vesenny
(p. 10) The Curse by Sunil Sharma
(p. 11) Seasons by Christopher Roper
(p. 12) An Autumn Farewell by Kathy Sanford
(p. 13) The Woodpecker by Lesley Crigger
(p. 14) Why I Love by Tonika Reed
(p. 15) Home of the Weaver Birds by Jose Varghese 

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Volume 1 Issue 32

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The saints surely have come marchin’ in with this issue. We have thirteen different stories from around the world, defining the word ‘saint’ from a wide spectrum of meaning. We see “saints” who beg, who suffer, who give everything away (including their last scrap of clothing…). It is a beatific collection to read this week, following on the heels of All Saints Day. In this issue, you will read the following heavenly stories:

(p. 2) Amazing Pleasure Kelli J Gavin
(p. 3) Sunil Sharma
(p. 4) Thomas McDade

(p. 6) deb y felio
(p. 7) Louis Kasatkin
(p. 8) Riham Adly
(p. 9) Cary Crossen
(p. 10) Kathy Sanford
(p. 11) Karyn Powers
(p. 12) Debjani Mukherjee
(p. 13) Annie Bien
(p. 14) Karen Petersen 

Also, don’t forget that nominations for The Pushcart Prize are still being accepted until next week. Please know that the nominations are anonymous so if you happen to nominate yourself, that is between you and yourself. It is your opinion, after all.

The podcast for Issue 31 will be up later today and I will be contacting the selected authors for Issue 32’s podcast later very soon.

I am also working on the printed edition that will be released next month. It is coming together nicely and will include a Mercurial Stories tote bag. Very exciting (for those of us who collect tote bags)!

Also, I have an idea about putting together a bilingual/multilingual issue in the future. This is just a seed right now but if anyone is interested in discussing it with me, you know where to send your thoughts: mercurialstories@gmail.com


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Volume 1 Issue 31

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When I was a kid, there were abandoned houses scattered throughout the woods surrounding our house. Most were forsaken when the head of a family died and the remaining children had no interest in living in the sticks. Eventually, the houses would be ransacked and occasionally attract squatters but there was one house that managed to escape such a fate. It was a small concrete block house, built by distant relatives on a front lot of some less distant relatives.

They were quiet people and had one child. They built a dock and hung a tire swing and sent their child to the local school on the yellow school bus with all of his varying degrees of cousins. One day though, he came home sick from school and he never left his bed again. It was a long, harrowing illness and in the end, he was buried in the family cemetery a mile down the two-lane road that ran in front of their house.

Their loss was devastating. One night, they simply got in their car and never returned. People assumed they would come back once they were finished grieving but they did not. Perhaps they never finished grieving. Regardless, the little block house they had abandoned just stood there on the side of the road, filled with furniture and clothes, toys and cutlery. For some reason, no one ever ransacked it, even though the door was unlocked. No one ever squatted there either, despite the comfortable furnishings.

On my twelfth birthday, I had some friends over for a slumber party. I am a late September baby so when they arrived in the afternoon, we had quite a few hours of daylight to kill before it was dark enough for horror movies and pizza. My best friend at the time suggested that we go to the little block house, having heard it was haunted. I protested, said we would get in trouble, and she taunted me by calling me Miss Pretty Pure. Of course, I relented and made a point of leading the way. I hated being called Miss Pretty Pure and she knew it.

Stepping into the house was like stepping into a time capsule. Everything was olive green, yellow, and orange- the tell-tale colors of the seventies. The shag carpet, the flower print on the walls, the rough velour armchairs: all details were bought before any of us intruders were even born. There was an odd juxtaposition of cleanliness and vines, thorny rambling vines that we had to avoid in order to explore the six rooms of the place.

All the interior doors were open except one and this was the one I was commanded to open by my friends. I knew it was the boy’s bedroom, the place where he had exhaled his last breath. There was a sticker of a baseball in the middle of the door with the name Scott written across it. Little Scotty is what everyone called him.

I took a breath, walked down the hall and opened the door. His room was small but welcoming with fading sunlight streaming in through sun-bleached blue plaid curtains. There was a bookcase with a row of dusty little league trophies and a stack of curling comic books by the bed. On the bed was a yellow chenille bedspread and underneath it, for just a second, was Scott. He looked at me then closed his eyes and vanished. I did not jump because I was not scared. Instead, I just stepped back into the hallway and shut the door.

“We shouldn’t be here,” I said firmly and walked through the living room to the front door, giving no opportunity for taunting. I understood now why the house had been abandoned, why it was left as it was. I think we all understood for no one said a single word until we were in my backyard where my family was waiting for us with a cake and a stack of takeout pizzas. Scott had never seen twelve candles on a cake for him. This is what I was thinking as I blew them out, forgetting to make my wish. He was forever eleven and that was more haunting than the apparition.

The house is gone now, of course, along with the trees and palmettos and cousins. The family cemetery remains though with no one around to maintain it you can hardly see it from the road anymore. And as for Little Scotty, I am not sure what happened to him when they threw away his sick bed, his row of trophies and stack of comic books. Perhaps he is still there somehow but I know he is also here, in my memory forever. Little Scotty, my very first ghost.



And yes, that was a true story, or as true as a story can be when based on a twenty-seven-year-old memory. Isn’t that the way with haunted houses, that the ghosts are never as chilling as the truths of the living? More than the actual spirit, I remember the kitchen and the two cups sitting by the sink, white with a bold yellow stripe running around the middle. The disappearance of his parents breaks my heart even now, especially since I have an eleven-year-old, soon to be twelve-year-old, of my own.

This week, we have five tales of five different types of hauntings from contributors Kelli J Gavin, Sunil Sharma, Louis Kasatkin, Jean Wolfersteig, and Debjani Mukherjee. Very diverse in content but the common thread these five stories share is that ghosts take on all sorts of forms and can haunt a heart just as readily as a house.




The House Isn’t Haunted Anymore
Kelli J Gavin

He always knew it would be this way.  He spent six amazing months falling over every word she said.  He couldn’t get enough of her. Up late at night talking about all that they desired in the future. They spoke of past hurt and pain, the joy they experienced with each other and what they wanted from each other.  Every moment of every day, if he wasn’t with her, he wanted to be. He thought of her touch, the curve of her lip, the way she smiled when she caught his eye. He may have felt from the beginning that he loved her more. More than she loved him.  He was enamored with her. She may have cared for him, possibly even been entertained by him, but he never felt that she actually loved him. She was almost too good to true. She wasn’t particularly beautiful by today’s standards. Her hair didn’t shine. Her eyes didn’t glint in the sun. But she was funny, carefree and passionate.  She never did anything she didn’t want to do and she was good at everything.

When she left, she hugged him. Only a hug. Not a kiss, not a tight embrace, not a proclamation of another time and another place.  A hug. A simple meeting of bodies. She smiled yet her attention seemed elsewhere. Almost as if the act of saying goodbye to him was a chore and not voluntary. He tried to catch her eye to see if there was something more going on.  She wouldn’t look at him. She wouldn’t look into his blue eyes. Maybe she couldn’t. He wondered if she would have stayed if he had met her eye.

She now had been gone just as long as they had been together.  Six months together, now six months apart. He was convinced the home that they shared was haunted, mostly by her absence.  Little reminders of days gone by. An earring found under the bed. A whiff of her perfume even when he was home alone. He admired the way she folded the pillowcases in the linen closet. But then hated it at the same time.  He threw them on the floor and didn’t want to deal with the perfect folds at that time. Why did they have so many pillowcases? He found himself ordering pizza the way she liked it, then changed the order to something she would have turned her nose up at. He believed he could hear her humming when he came in from work each evening. He would stand in the dark back entryway of the home they shared and pray, that she would be there this time. She never was.

He wondered if there would ever be a time he could say, that it didn’t hurt so much. He prayed there would be a day when the house that they shared wasn’t haunted by her anymore.


Bio:

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, Hickory Stump, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                   Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com



 

The Ghost of R. Kipling
Sunil Sharma

Grandpa was a great storyteller. Here is his favorite:

In Shimla, I came across a hotel with a large sign: Discover history.

—What is the historic thing? I asked the portly owner, Wilson, the last Anglo-Indian family left.

—The Kiplings used to stay here in summers. We rebuilt the property. The Raj connection.

—Rudyard Kipling?

—Yes.

—Why demolition?

—It was in ruins. Remodeled the old colonial-style bungalow. Kipling enthusiasts visit us for that feel.

—OK.

The city was crowded with tourists. All hotels were full except this one, despite its good location, tranquility, nice garden and cheap tariffs.

Puzzling!

After checking in, I had this sudden creepy sense— of being watched by an unseen figure.

Spooky!

Never believed in the post-industrial mythology of haunting but something was definitely odd.

What was that?

I could not figure it out.

The answer arrived soon.

.

After a light dinner, smoke and stroll, I went to my corner room for the night.

And discovered R Kipling sitting in the chair, as a special guest!

Wanted to scream!

The author commanded serenely: Welcome to this encounter of a different dimension.

—Thanks. Why this conversation at this unearthly hour? I asked.

—You taught me for long.

I nodded.

—Chance brought you this place. The adepts are chosen for such Shakespearean trysts.

I smiled: Or Dickensian. Real haunting?

Rudyard: Writers never die. They get reborn. Resurrected by readers.

—Yes. I confirmed.

—Once you wanted to probe me. Go ahead.

I paused and then said: Yes, I do want to question you.

—Please do.

—Why did you paint the natives badly? The binary of whiteness and darkness? Civilized and savage? So predictable and overstretched. This supposed racial superiority of the West! Apes in need of salvation and light?

—Is it so? Give me the lines, angry post-colonial reader.

—Sure. I quote from that pathetic apology to imperialism, called “The White Man’s Burden”:

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace….

The ghost replied: What is wrong with that paean to the West and its civilization?

—Why not a Caliban in this insidious text? Counterfoil and argument?

—His trace is there.

—Very weak, in fact.

—Not everybody is Shakespeare. Besides, the age of empire is over.

—Sorry! The neo-imperialism is back and you are their latest icon.

He was mum.

I observed: Writers are either a presence or a specter. You have become a ghost that haunts the West and the East. Things change. The sullen peoples rising up against the empires everywhere. Half- devils against the full devils!

Silence.

—The country of your birth represented so poorly! Disgusting racialism!

He remained quiet.

—Savage wars, to be reversed. Retold. We reclaim, re-write R. Kipling!

He turned paler and then….

End it your way, reader!


Bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



Les Autres
Louis Kasatkin

The unexplained disappearance of the reclusive author had never been properly investigated, at least not to the satisfaction of his fans, his readers and most of all his adopted son, the wannabe reporter on the local rag.
For years this state of dissatisfaction festered amongst the interested parties, who if nothing else managed to commemorate the renowned scribbler’s vanishment with an annual pilgrimage of sorts.
Then one year with the weather being particularly inclement, even for the usually desolate Scottish lochs, only the reporter had made it to the venue, the deserted house. Whereupon finding himself alone resolved in an instant to make a foray into the abandoned domicile to perhaps in his own mind satisfy an unquenchable curiosity.
Nothing actually came of that quixotic foray, nothing that is apart from a chance discovery, in the drawer of an antique dresser of a manuscript.
A suicide note perhaps? maybe not. A last will and testament? no one, however, questioned its authenticity when it was scanned and reproduced in the local weekly under the adopted son’s byline. The absent author alluded to his own ineluctable disappearance in the form of a poem. Simply perhaps to add to whatever mystery was bound to ensue from his vanishment.

When winter’s cadence sounds,
burn their pictures
the photographs of the dead
burn them,
so that they shan’t
trouble you again
when winter’s cadence sounds;

the gardens are shrouded
in snow
upon which no earthly foot
will fall,
and the door chimes dormant
hang suspended by a thread
of your own disbelief;

an imperceptible menace
waiting for a breath,
a snap of cold winter’s
air to cut the thread
and send it crashing,

crashing onto the floor,
where you shan’t hear it
except in your imagination’s
ear firmly fixed on the
sound of winter’s cadence.


Bio:

Louis Kasatkin is Founder of the renowned U.K.based Destiny Poets and Editorial Administrator of http://www.destinypoets.co.uk. Other than that Louis is an inveterate blogger and polemicist, local community activist and has been described as a general nuisance to the status quo. The rest you can google for yourselves.



 

I MOVED
Jean Wolfersteig

You woke me in the middle of the night in my last year of college. Standing at the bottom of my bed – tall and blue with a bandage circling your head like a turban – you looked so real I thought I’d left the back door open. Then, you faded away. In the days that followed, I found the shower running, doors wide open, and knick-knacks rearranged when I returned home from my classes. The house was built in the 1800s, and no doubt its bones ached with some tragedy. I imagined you were angry you’d been seen.

I moved

to a trailer on the other side of the county where I’d found a job. I relocated from a liberal college town to a rural hamlet to work at the local psychiatric hospital. It was a huge culture shock. Woefully, when I came home at night, the doors I’d locked in the morning were open, the shower running, the knick-knacks shuffled. I realized you’d moved with me. I went on vacation. The landlord found the doors open, the shower running – and fifteen hundred feet of telephone wire missing from beneath the trailer. There was a cemetery across the street. What did you have in mind?

I moved

to a tiny house on a hill with a bathroom bigger than the bedroom, living room, and kitchen combined. I lived there happily for a few months. All was quiet. I thought you’d found your place in that cemetery and finally left me to my own life. Until one night while I was sound asleep in the darkened room, my cat flew through the air, screaming and scratching at my arms and face. The air was heavy and drenched in evil. I hurried outside and waited on the stoop for the sun to rise. The cat took off for good.

I moved

to an SRO at the psychiatric hospital where I worked. It was a strange place to live. Long hallways lined with single rooms and communal bathrooms, occupied by poor people doing shift work. Food service workers. Housekeepers. Ward staff. Cooking meals illegally on single burners in their rooms. Buying and selling drugs in the common areas. Telling stories about crazy people. Trying to feel better off than patients, as if they weren’t imprisoned, too. I kept to myself. Ate packaged soup and crackers. Showered while others were not around. Read. Went to work. I couldn’t feel you anywhere. I supposed I’d finally found a place to live where you didn’t feel welcome. But neither did I.

I moved

to a lovely little house in another town, less isolated, more tolerant. Almost perfect. No more anxieties about fitting in. No more worries about your ghostly presence. But something isn’t right. The air goes cold, ruffling the hair on my arms and the back of my neck. And there’s a bad smell in my shower drain, like ammonia and rotten eggs.

Maybe it isn’t the house that’s haunted.


Bio:

Jean Wolfersteig retired as CEO of a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York and turned to writing fiction and teaching yoga. She is currently looking for a home for her novel, The Room Where the Elephants Go to Die. Her short fiction has appeared in the Akashic Books Mondays Are Murder and Duppy Thursday series and will soon appear in their Fri Sci-Fi series. She lives in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and, in the tradition of her beloved Catskill Mountains, thrives on ghost stories.



Haunted House
Debjani Mukherjee

Titli kept running up and down through the spiral stairs of her new house. She just loved her new house. Before they used to stay in a flat where there was hardly any place to play but here in this big house with so many rooms Titli is very happy to fly around. One by one she checked all the rooms and selected the one in the southwest corner of the house, the one which has the biggest window of all, opening to the garden.

The whole day went in unpacking. Her parents took the room at the opposite side of the long hallway joining both the rooms at both ends. Titli unpacked all her toys and arranged them on the shelves beside the bed. Put all her clothes in the closet and arranged her little bed with a pink bed sheet. And then she hopped to the garden. She just loved the garden with so many trees. In Kolkata, there were very little trees planted only by the side of their building but here she got a whole garden to play in. She was no more sad about leaving her friends in Kolkata. She actually started loving her dad’s transfer here.

After dinner, Titli kissed her parents good night and went to her room. The big jalousie wooden window on the garden side was kept open. Titli slipped in her bed but couldn’t sleep. This was her first day in the house so she felt a little uneasy. She went to the window and closed it as she was unfamiliar with the solid darkness of the countryside. She didn’t remember when she fell asleep but woke up in the middle of the night by a whistling sound. It was coming from the garden. Titli tried to sleep ignoring it but the sound kept growing and after a while, it became so clear that she felt like it was coming just from the other side of the window.

She got afraid and hid her little body under the bed cover. But the sound kept growing even louder and this time she felt that it was coming right from under her bed. She shivered in fear and clutched the pillow hard pressing her face into it she wanted to call her parents but the room was too far and she knows her voice won’t reach to them. Suddenly the whistle stopped Titli slowly pulled down the cover from her head and looked around the room. There was no one in the room and just then the bed moved. Titli screamed like mad but no sound came out from her throat. She screamed again but only a silent gush of tears spilled through her eyes.

The bed stopped moving. She sat up on the bed bathed in her own sweat. Collecting courage she stooped down the bed to see what was there under the bed, but there was no one. She felt a little more courageous and stepped down the bed to run to her mother. She sprints to the door only to find it closed. She kept the handle twisting but couldn’t open it. She screamed in horror and banged the door vigorously but no sound came out at all. She felt her heart in her mouth and fell down on the floor and there it was written clearly with blood “Turn around I am just behind you.”


Bio:


Debjani Mukherjee
 is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories, and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines.




 

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