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 2 Issue 3

This is our first photo prompt but it will not be our last. I selected this one because it just says so much: a powerful emotion is captured but along with it, a stillness. Is he reacting to the newspaper before him or is he hoping the newspaper will distract him from something more disturbing outside of the frame? Or is he reacting to anything at all? Perhaps the sun is too bright, perhaps he is exhausted from taking care of his colicky grandson so his daughter could get some much-needed sleep.
So many story possibilities in this one picture, six of which are laid out with incredible creativity in this week’s issue.

(2) Lunch by Dawn DeBraal
(3) Trash by Kelli J Gavin
(4) Submerged Vanity by Henry Bladon
(5) In the cafe by Sunil Sharma
(6) Father’s Day by Michael Natt
(7) A Search by Debjani Mukherjee
(8) The Obituary by Mark Kodama
(9) The Other Side by Brandy Bonifas

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Volume 2 Prompt 2


My mother always has some bizarre detail woven into her letters about the mundane. Last week, I got one that included this gem: so your brother had a blackout up there (the electricity, not your brother) and he and the neighbor went to investigate. Turns out a raccoon had bit into the transformer somehow, messing everything up. And they know it was a raccoon because the poor thing was there on the ground, still smoking.

Which made me think, we have not had any stories focusing on the other species of this world. Of course, the word wildlife could be twisted into different meanings and that is fine. Just make sure the story includes wildlife of some sort or the other and you will be aces.

As always, 500 words or less and due on Thursday, February 21st by 8 pm.

Volume 2 Issue 1: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Hey there and welcome to Volume 2 of Mercurial Stories.

My grandmother had always said she detested the smell of roses, called them funeral flowers, and because she was my first kindred spirit on this planet, I adopted this attitude towards the beloved bloom.

So when Frankie Oscar the Third showed up on Valentine’s Day at my junior high school with a dozen of them cradled in one arm and a heart-shaped box of chocolates covered in fake roses in the other, I found myself more nauseous than delighted. Nauseous and embarrassed. I had gotten a bigger present than any other 8th grader and from my high school boyfriend at that. I should have felt smug as well as delighted. But I did not.

The note he had included in the card made it all the worse. It read just like all his other letters, I love you, sweetheart. Again, wasn’t that what I was supposed to want to read? And yet I found it incredibly boring, the same sentence over and over, hastily scribbled on wide-ruled notebook paper.

My mom told me that I was supposed to keep the roses in the empty chocolate box, a sort of romantic trophy that I would eventually be sentimental for. So I cut off the flowers’ heads and tossed them into the box then stored it at the back of my closet. Later, on a laundry-washing weekend home from college, I came across the chocolate box when looking for an old marbled composition notebook. There inside were the rose heads, their red petals now shriveled and black. The sickly sweet smell flooded the room. I put the lid back on, walked out to where my father was burning a pile of leaves, and tossed the box in whole.

It might seem a little strange, in light of that story, that I should select, for a story due on Valentine’s Day, the prompt “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. And yet I decided on it because I assumed that my writers would have wide-range of perspectives about the holiday. And I was not disappointed.

Today we have five stories with titles from the now extinct Conversation Hearts candy, the small candy with big messages.

(p. 2) MY SWEETHEART by Louis Kasatkin
(p. 3) Soul Mate by Anna Lindwasser
(p. 4) Flirt by Kelli J Gavin
(p. 5) XOXO by Annie Bien
(p. 6) Soul mate by Sunil Sharma

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Volume 1 Issue 38: Resolutions

A year ago, I started this endeavour as an attempt to balance my writing practice with my Japanese study. It was, essentially, a resolution. Like all resolutions, I faltered many times. I wanted to quit every other week, questioned the conception of such a foolhardy resolution, was puzzled by the evolution of the project. It grew from the seed of my desire to write regularly and became an entirely different tree, filled with the fruits of others’ labours.

Accepting the tree as it was, letting it grow into what it is now, was more meaningful than establishing a better writing practice, it turned out. Supporting others in their own literary resolutions required a creative skill set that I did not possess at the beginning of 2018. Many people question the point of New Year resolutions and this is a much overlooked value of the tradition: setting a goal and heading towards it, even if you end up far away from your intended destination.

One glaring aspect of sticking with this project over the last year has been a very practical one: the realisation that I cannot do everything. Teaching full-time, raising four young citizens of the world, and running this website has consumed all my minutes, leaving no time for my language studies. And since I cannot let go of two of those elements, I am afraid that I must surrender the time given to Mercurial Stories so that I can focus all my non-work/non-parenting time to my studies.

I am an immigrant. I shed the nomadic expat identity when I started thinking about high schools and universities here in Japan for my kids. I have always resented studying the Japanese language because it took away from my writing but I also discovered over the course of this past year that I want to become a translator, specifically a literary translator. My reading and writing skills can still be of use, combined with my ever-expanding understanding of the Japanese language and culture. Thus, I no longer resent the time and effort I must invest. It is a long road ahead of me and first I must dedicate one year to an intense course of study that involves total immersion: reading, writing, and eventually speaking in Japanese for at least 70% or more of my days. This means that editing an English language flash fiction journal will not be feasible.

Know that it is a hiatus, not discontinuation, but it will likely be a lengthy one: it is possible that I will not return here until 2020. The website and FB page will stay alive so you can read (and link to) stories from past issues. And when I have passed my proficiency exams, I will let you know what the next prompt will be. Until then, I just wanted to tell you how grateful I have been for your participation with this “resolution”. Thank you for your stories, your encouragement, your readings, everything. It has been a very interesting journey.

Okay, now on with the show….

This week we have seven resolute stories to get you going for the New Year:

(2) To the Letter by Copper Rose
(3) A One-Liner by Mark Patterson
(4) Why I Do Not Make New Year’s Resolutions by Kelli J. Gavin
(5) Dating at 50 by Karen Petersen
(6) A Village Outing by Sunil Sharma
(7) Unbreakable by L Swartz

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Volume 1 Prompt 38

I know that New Year’s resolutions are unfashionable but still, hands up those of you who are still crafting your overly ambitious list for 2019? Don’t be embarrassed, I think it is endearing. The calendar turns over and we believe we can as well, starting anew so we can achieve all we wished for the previous year but better, for now we possess the wisdom gained by not accomplishing a damn thing on last year’s list. 

In this final issue of Volume 1, write your own resolution and give it to one of your characters. This is a two-week prompt and you get a whopping 1000 words to work with in this very special New Year’s issue. 

Okay, get writing. Submission details can be found here.

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
(12) Last Chance Diner by Mark Kuglin
(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 Prompt 36: Oh, the horror

I grew up with a kid named Alan. He and I had the same last initial so we were always sitting one in front of the other throughout school. Alan and I shared a love of reading and music, though on both fronts we had vastly different preferences. He liked Megadeath, I liked Bob Dylan. He liked Dean Koontz, I liked Tolstoy. To each their own, I would say now, but it is possible that I was not so open-minded in my youth. Alan, on the other hand, possessed a surprisingly liberal attitude from a young age. Alan could readily appreciate Dylan and Tolstoy whereas I could not tolerate Megadeath or Koontz. I found it particularly irksome when Alan went through a copycat stage with his writing, mimicking Steven King and Dean Koontz in the stories that he wrote for English class. After perhaps a little too much complaining on my part, he wrote a story that featured me.

It was not a long story. Basically, I went over to his house to spend the night with his younger sister and he invited me out for a walk. Living in Florida, there was naturally a swampy area along the path which made it easy for him to tie me up, duct-taping my mouth first, of course, and push me into the water, where I was immediately devoured by alligators. I thought it was hilarious and I did let up on the complaining after that. 

Five years ago, Alan died, just a few days shy of his thirty-fourth birthday. His death was sudden and heartbreaking for everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. Today, November 26th, was Alan’s birthday. In honor of my horror-loving childhood friend, I am asking you writers out there to craft some horror stories that would make Dean Koontz’s skin crawl. And, due to the fact that I am busy with the print edition, I am giving you two weeks to complete your stories with an expanded word count of 1000. Let the blood ink flow, writers. 

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