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 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 Prompt 34

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The quiet of the world as it turns from night to day. The light just before sunrise, dim and yet somehow everything is visible, still but visible. Emptied streets, shuttered shops, a lone runner.  A few birds stir but hold their songs until the great star shows itself again, as if they are unsure that the cycle will continue to repeat itself. There are lesser stars still in the sky, minor in their distance and influence. The moon seems listless, already fading. A young woman looking old sleeps on the bus stop bench, torn tights and black leather boots, her purse serving as a pillow. For her, dawn is not a beginning but the end of a long night of flashing lights and dizzy laughter, of hoping strangers would be anything but. The first bus of the day approaches, its driver used to collecting stray people. The sky shifts from lavender to pink and the birds let loose their pent-up melodies. A new day has dawned.

This week, include dawn in your stories, whether it be as setting, action, or person. Dawn can have many different meanings: I want you to choose one to weave into your story.

As always, 500 words or less. Submit by Thursday, November 15th here.

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.




 

Volume 1 Issue 26: Breakfast


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Breakfast.
Break fast.
The etymology of this word held a strange fascination for me as a child. The idea that we had somehow engaged in a fast, which seemed to be an exclusively spiritual act to me then, merely by going to sleep was intriguing. Our reward for making it through that harrowing period of dreaming and drooling on our pillows was a meal, a meal decidedly special. The food that was served for breakfast did not appear during the other meals, at least not in my household, and if it did it was because we were doing something zany like having breakfast for dinner. It was not until I moved to Japan that I realized that the American breakfast experience was not shared universally. That you can, in fact, eat the same food you eat for lunch and dinner in the early morning was a new revelation. Eating fish and miso soup was definitely healthier than a stack of pancakes with a couple of sausage links on the side but it just did not have the same feel as a “real” breakfast. Over time I have realized that it is the ceremony, rather than the food, that we breakfast-lovers cherish: the slow sit-down meal at the threshold of another day, a chance to discuss our dreams just disturbed, our plans yet to be enacted, all with a cup of coffee and a side of bacon/natto/fried tomatoes/dosa/olives/pao de queijo/akara.
The breaking of our fast.


This week we bring you six original stories from around the world about this daily rite, written by Kelli J. Gavin, Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez, Katherine Brown, Richard Wayne Horton, Sunil Sharma, and Tim Clark. Top off your coffee and butter your toast, it is time to get reading. Enjoy!




I Love Breakfast

Kelli J Gavin

When I was a child, my dad went to the movie store and rented a few VHS tapes for our family to watch once a week. He often would return home with a Western movie for him, a kids’ movie for my sister and I and a classic movie for my mom. Those classics were movies such as Gone With the Wind, An Affair to Remember and Casablanca.  I would sit with my mom; she would share with me if she had seen a movie before and if she remembered anything special of mention. One night, we sat down and she told me she had the best movie for us to watch. That night, we watched Breakfast At Tiffany’s. That was the night I developed an affinity for black dresses and expensive Tiffany’s jewelry.

When I was in Junior High, my dad brought home the movie The Breakfast Club.  A Brat Pack Classic that was released in 1995, my parents were wise to wait a few years before enabling my sister and me to watch John Hughes films.  A typical teen comedy, I loved this film. I loved how each character was so vastly different, yet they all craved the same thing. A human connection.  I watched that movie three times that week before it was due back at the movie store.

One of my favorite bands is The Newboys.  I have enjoyed their music since I was 14 and have seen them in concert more times than I can count. Originally hailing from Australia, they were a novelty, wrote catchy lyrics and their music was unlike anything I was listening to at the time. I devoured everything of theirs that I could get my hands on.  As an adult, still enjoying their music, I could barely wait when news of new album coming out came along. And then in 1996, the song Breakfast hit the airwaves. I was confused and intrigued. They don’t serve breakfast in hell? What? I am not sure to this day what that song means. But you bet, I absolutely still sing along every time it is played on the radio or my iPod shuffles it into a playlist.

Looking back, I see an odd pattern. A pattern that all has something to do with breakfast.  A woman who raves about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but doesn’t really eat much. A bunch of misfits serving time in detention on a Saturday morning.  And a song about the amazing attributes of breakfast food that could never possibly be served in hell. I am not sure what the common thread is, other than realizing I love breakfast. Movies, music, and food. I love breakfast. Please pass the syrup and orange juice.


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, 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




Breakfast
Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez

I love waking up in the mornings next to her, and looking at her silhouette against the morning light coming through the window. She sleeps on her side, and I can either see her beautiful back, or her hands over her breasts holding her face. I usually wake up first, with the morning lights. I know better than to wake her up, she needs her sleep in the mornings.

My master plan is to get breakfast for her. I jump out of bed and get dressed. I’ll be going to the Pret A Manger just around the corner. She likes savory breakfast. Bean soup, a sandwich with egg and avocado. I’ll take the typical British muffin with sausage and eggs. The city is waking up. You can hear the ever-present sirens of London. I look at the busy passersby going places with this attitude of boredom in their faces. They have no idea that my paradise is just around the corner.

I get back to our little room. It is peaceful here. There is still this smell of our loving last night. As I close the door I hear the deep breath she takes when she wakes up. I can hear her move in the bed and look the way I came in. She is rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands.

  • Hey, you got breakfast?

I place the food on the table and proceed to remove my clothes to get back in bed. I want to cuddle next to her and feel her warmth. We always sleep naked and I love her for that. I embrace her and whisper “Good morning”. She makes space for me, looks at me back with her beautiful blue eyes and answers “Good morning”. She puts up her lips looking for a kiss, which she gets.

Except that she is wrong. It is not just a simple good morning. It is a fantastic morning. It is a magic moment to be able to lay next to her. To breath her in. To admire the thousand whirls of her hair in her face. To feel her warmth through my whole body. To caress her soft skin while I embrace her. To have her feet play with mine under the sheets. To experience how my little heart can not fit in my chest out of happiness. To feel the gratefulness towards this woman who chiseled away at my walls until love poured out of them. She feels my soul with her kisses and makes me the happiest man alive.

Sorry Pret. Your food will have to wait a bit. There is some unfinished business that I will have to attend first here in our love nest.


Bio:

We are a couple in love writing about our adventures together. She is the creative half, artsy and perfectionist. He is the rational part, good with words and total chaos.  Bear hugs and short dresses… Together we look at open relationships, arrangements, and what it means to be loved in the 21st century. We publish in Medium under: https://medium.com/@ursushoribilis




But a Simple Breakfast
Katherine Brown

Elegant cloths flow over the table but are barely visible beneath the array of dishes crowding the entire surface. Fresh fruit assortments of apples, oranges, and bananas line a silver tray. Warm biscuits rest on a platter beneath a tea towel. Sausage swims in steaming white gravy, ready and waiting to be poured from the delicate china gravy boat. Mounds of eggs and stacks of bacon battle for room on a gold-inlaid china plate. Cold fruit salad in a crystal bowl beckons those with a sweet tooth. Tantalizing scents waft from the skillet potatoes tossed with onions and peppers. Freshly baked banana bread looks loftily down at the plain wheat toast. Jelly and jam nestle in between each main dish. Butter softens in the center of it all. Each place setting, with magnificently gleaming gold dinnerware, is softened by linen napkins and awaits an honored guest to choose their spot for this magnificent feast. Tall crystal wine glasses sparkle welcomingly in anticipation of being filled. The beverages line the countertop ready to fulfill any order: water, tea, orange juice, apple juice. At the last moment hot, sticky cinnamon rolls float in from the oven. The aroma draws the long-awaited diners into the room. Each face is filled with awe at the elaborate assortment intended simply for them. Eyes dart excitedly from favorite food to fancy décor. Each person takes their place and hold hands as grace is said.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is exactly how breakfast commenced during holiday visits to my great Aunt in Oklahoma for my entire childhood. She and my mother worked together in the kitchen creating a literal feast. That iconic breakfast where we were treated like royalty simply over breakfast before church is something that seems completely magical as a child and is still unforgettable as an adult. My sister and I try to pitch in a little these days as well because the tradition has continued.

Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I learned that the fancy plate underneath the plate for your food is called a charger.

Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I learned that it was okay to eat potatoes for breakfast. (And I do love potatoes.)

Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I should have learned which fork you use first, but somehow didn’t commit it to memory.

Breakfast in Oklahoma was synonymous with love and family.

Somebody pass the biscuits, please!


www.katherinebrownbooks.com




Obit
Richard Horton

I pulled into a breakfast joint in the town where I went to college and ran with poets 40 years ago.  I got out of the car and headed inside, but when I got there, I saw that the cafe was connected to a series of flea markets, one-room museums and snack shops, all lined up, room after room, connected to each other by a door.  I could look through them all without going outside. College was close by, and I had plenty of time, so I gave it a go. The people behind the wooden counters in the rooms were friendly and I occasionally stopped to talk with them even if I wasn’t buying anything.  I decided that if I came to the last store, I would exit its front door and return to the café from the outside. After a few stores, I came to an empty room, not yet rented. It gave me a weird feeling. I passed through it and went through the next door, into a hallway that had a door and windows looking out on the street.  This was reassuring so I walked to the end of the hallway and pushed through the next door, into complete darkness. It must be either a closet or a windowless room. I couldn’t even see the other side. So I turned back into the hallway which had the street door and stepped outside.

This was the beginning of a day spent searching for my car, the breakfast joint, and the nearby campus.  About two in the afternoon, I saw a dispenser full of free campus newspapers, pulled its door open, and sat down under a tree to read it.  Whoo, I was bushed! I got to the events page and discovered several bookstore readings taking place later in the evening. Great. I turned that page and came to obits.  I thought, campus obits? Come on, now! But I went ahead and read them. That’s when I found my own obit.

I’m still trying to find my car, and, man, I tell you, when I find that breakfast joint, I’m going to order two of everything!  Then I’ll get a real campus newspaper. Freakin’ college kids these days, with their joke newspapers! Mmm! Short stack and waffles too!  Coffee, orange juice, three, no, four eggs! And for meats…

 


Bio: 

Richard Wayne Horton has received two Pushcart nominations and has published a chapbook, Sticks & Bones, available from Meat For Tea Press.  He has published in Meat For Tea, Bull & Cross, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and others.




The Date
Sunil Sharma

Marriage was to be discussed over breakfast. He said even a hurricane cannot stop a Romeo!

But he never turned up. Somebody else did—and altered histories.

Here is how this Maupassant/ O’ Henry- type tale unfolded in downtown Mumbai.

.

Rita occupied the window seat of The Rendezvous, awaiting Mr. Right, if not the Prince Charming. After a whirlwind of courtship—online exchanges; long phone chats; short meets, all compressed into a fortnight—the two decided to give it a try in the breakfast tryst. She was elated—earlier attempts at romance had failed badly, due to the increasing expectations and other norms of evaluation—commercial viability of the possible alliance; respective career trajectories; current incomes and finally, behavior towards the parents and overall gender-roles, post-marriage home. Naturally, the parties could never arrive at a consensus!

This time you will be lucky! Her flat-mate had predicted, after a peg too many. That pleased her. All the five girls—in desperate search for soul partners— wished her success. They were the only family in the megapolis.

Moved to tears!

.

As she waited for the suitor, she recalled an earlier conversation:

—Any real-time fairy-tale endings in life, granny?

—Yes, child. There are.

—The princess finding her prince, love, big castle and royalty?

—Yes.

—You never found one, ma?

The Ancient One smiled: Got a secret lover but don’t disclose it to grandpa. The bearded bastard would kill!

The teen smiled and asked: How can I find true love?

—No worries, kiddo. It will find you!

She expected to find true love on that morning mission in a manic city of millions. After a long wait and unsuccessful attempts to reach him, the sad reality sank in. She was duped… again.

—Have you ever checked the mirror?

Her last boyfriend had screamed, when caught in bed with another girl. And then given the answer: Check that pug nose. The ugly specs. The uneven teeth. The coarse skin. Who would love a Ms. Plain Jane?

She took a year to recover from the hurled insults by a violent man—and then went in for a makeover with a vengeance. Blue lenses; blunt hair-style; regular bleaching and facials; long heels; trendy minis and tops—enough to make her look like a girl from London rather than provincial Ghaziabad.

Appearances can be treacherous!

As she was about to get up, in silent tears, a nerd easily slid into the opposite chair and asked in a familiar tone: You read Robbie Singh?

Offended, she countered: Why not?

—Dark fantasies?

— So what? Humans need fantasies. Inverted realities. Anticipate future—such utopias.

He declared: Genius!

—How?

—Brilliant defense of my best-sellers.

A stunned silence: My ideal! Before me!

After a long breakfast and varied discussions, she immediately grabbed the unexpected proposal: the fan and her idol to wed after three months.

Fiction never looked so real; real, fiction!


Bio:

Sunil Sharma, a writer-freelance- senior academic from Mumbai, India, has published 18 books, solo and joint.

He edits Setu:

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

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




The Sounds of Isolation

Tim Clark

“This morning, for breakfast, I had waffles, sausage, bacon and two eggs over easy.” The man in the back seat said. There was no response from the front of the car. He fidgeted with his tie and twisted his cufflinks.

“I buttered the waffles, put the sausage on top of that, laid the bacon in over the sausage, put the eggs on top and poured syrup over the whole thing. It was delicious.” He continued, glancing nervously out the window. The front seat was silent as a tomb. So, the man took off his glasses, pulled a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and carefully cleaned the lenses. He held them up to the window to admire his work.

“Yesterday for lunch I had a salad with cabbage and kale. There were tiny grape tomatoes laid over the top formed into a pattern, almost an ampersand, and top of that they sprinkled vinaigrette dressing. It looked fantastic, but it was a little bland.” The man said, his hands fumbling with a pen he had removed from the pocket in his briefcase. In his mindless tinkering he accidentally unscrewed the top and the cartridge, spring and opening mechanism fell on the floor.

He looked at the pen, laying in pieces on the carpet, sighed and started to bend down to pick them up. He thought better of it and decided to leave the whole mess there. It had been a gift from his boss, a reward for a job well done. He had always thought he did a better job than a pen indicated, cheap bastard, anyway. He would be damned before he picked it up and reassembled it.

“Since the salad was so healthy I went all out for dinner, a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, and two Scotch whiskeys, neat. Followed by a brandy and crème brulle for dessert, and one more brandy as a nightcap.” By now he was looking out the window and not even thinking about what he was saying. It was just words.

He went through his favorite foods, a divorce, his ex-wife’s rehab from prescription diet pills. He talked about the lousy way he was treated at work, his fascination with the butter sculptures at the state fair. A dam had broken, somewhere between describing airline food and the new shoes he was wearing.

“You have arrived at your destination,” the voice said. It sounded distant and fleeting.

After he got out the man stood there, looking at the building swallowing all the people, masses of humanity rushing toward the waiting beast. “I hate driverless cars.” He said, and nobody paid any attention.

Somewhere, thousands of miles away, a circuit lit, clicked and a data packet arrived from the car. “Man,” it contained in a series of ones and zeroes, “those humans are stuck on a loop. They never stop.”

“Don’t worry,” came the digital reply, “the way he eats he won’t be around long.”


Bio:

Tim Clark is a blogger who wants to be a writer, a warehouse associate, a happily married man (for 28 years) and a father of two from Columbus, Ohio.

He is an occasional and proud contributor to Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper, and is thrilled to be allowed to write a monthly column for The Wild Word.  And he has a blog, visible here.



 

 

Volume 1 Issue 25: On This Day…

Image result for stack of newspapers

What happened in the world on this day in the year you were born? That was what we were tasked with finding out this week, a rather overwhelming prompt, as I have been told. Even I could not narrow it down in time but did find many possible future stories (to add to my teetering stack of possible future stories).

This week we have two very interesting tales from different points of time and space by Kelli J. Gavin and Sunil Sharma. Reading these two stories connects us to the past while reminding us that some stories never change, simply change characters. Please enjoy some time traveling and be sure to come back again on Monday for our next round of writing and reading.


Cries For Freedom
Kelli J Gavin

Cries for freedom are only sometimes heard
Mostly ignored and trampled on
Turning the Bantu’s into slaves
An easy choice for early traders
Traded as slaves for centuries
The Bantu people continued their cries

Cries for freedom are only sometimes heard
Mostly ignored and trampled on
Ruled by countries they would never see
Fearful of losing all they had ever known
Speaking a language not their own
Their cries never ceased

Cries for freedom are only sometimes heard
Mostly ignored and trampled on
The Liberation Front fought long and hard
Independence gained not a moment too soon
Mondlane and Machel had a vision
Of a country ruled by its people

Cries for FREEDOM are only sometimes heard
Mozambique no longer ignored and trampled on

June 25, 1975

 


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, 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



Lessons
Sunil Sharma

He wanted to be part of history—before becoming history.

But history is not kind: It favours only few individuals and hates the masses—the first lesson delivered by his high-school teacher that resonated so well.

Initially, he had felt cheated. Father had always insisted that it was possible to rise up in society—even for a lower-middle-class, small-town, ordinary guy, in a vibrant democracy!

Soon, he realized, he was bypassed. Grim realities caught on —lost father; dropped out; became a sales-person in a shoe shop to support a large family.

Hardly 19 at that time!

Life—raw, prosaic and brutal! Dreams belonged to another age and class.

The man who wanted to be the king became pauper, instead.

He wrote in the diary.

Selling shoes to customers was a daily challenge. Surviving on a meager salary was another existential battle.

Democracy and its promise of deliverance—a plain lie!

An epiphany recorded as a diary-entry.

.

When he turned 25 on March 25, 2018— a marginal man and doomed to be that only—somebody suggested the second best option of entering the annals—by checking the famous people or events, on that date.

Cool!

If not a general or emperor, he could bask in the reflected glory of the great.

Inder Kumar was curious to know what happened on his birthday.

After going through many such sites on his smart phone, Inder Kumar, a lean man with a perpetual hungry look, embarked on a journey backwards in time and found few incidents as most exciting, on that hot Sunday afternoon, propped up against the stacks of shoes, re-visiting memorable incidents.

.

Here, the selection:

—1199

King Richard, the Lion Heart, killed.

.

—1965

The Third Selma to Montgomery March.

.

—1811

PB Shelley rusticated from the Oxford for his easy on atheism!

.

—1957

“Howl” by Ginsberg banned!

.

—1911

The fire in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, New York, kills 146.
.

They met in the late night.

—What did you fish out from the dustbin of history? Asked his friend Raju.

—Some fascinating facts. Said Inder.

—What kind of facts? Asked Raju.

—Random things.  Made few internal connections between these occurrences separated by time and space, yet linked together, in an odd way.

—Tell me these discoveries made by a bright man, denied his greatness.

Raju did not sound sarcastic.

Inder recited the list of items culled from the belly of the past and offered his observations: That a king could be killed by a boy who is a commoner. People power can shake the well-entrenched system through a long march. Oxford and courts can ban writers on stupid reasons and continue to treat thinkers, as threats. That the poorly-paid workers can die in an inferno in an advanced democracy. Considered garbage by the capital! Yet, these disenfranchised guys made history in a modest way!

—Hmm!

—Alternative reading of events only!

——————————–

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/



 

Volume 1 Issue 24: The Last

It has been a long two weeks. Crazy all that can happen within, what, twelve days. On the upside, these fantastic stories also show what is possible within the confines of 264 hours. With the world changing at the current breakneck speed, extinction is a regular occurrence, whether it be the extinction of a philosophy, a habit, or a species, many ways of life, of thinking are coming to an end. The stories this week take the time to pause and shine a spotlight on what it is like to be the last, whether it be a dragon or cupcake, the last to love or the last to see.

Please enjoy this week’s excellent collection from Linda M. Crate, Kelli J. Gavin, Sunil Sharma, and Katharine Brown.  



 

Child of the Dragon
Linda M. Crate

The night was clear and warm with a sky full of stars and a white moon so bright that she was blinding. It was a comfortable night which most were marveling at in the kingdom, but he could not agree with this night.
The world was far from beautiful.
He was the last dragon.
His father had told him that he should settle down and marry a lovely female dragon, and have a family of his own. His father warned there were two few dragons in this kingdom, and that perhaps there would come an end to their time. He had not heeded his father’s warning thinking that his father had been silly, and he had plenty of time to find a wife and family. Now he was the last dragon!
A tear slid down from his obsidian eyes onto his golden scales. He was the last dragon, there were no more and there never would be again. What would his legacy be, that he was too stupid to procreate and thus brought the end of his species? He turned away from the light in his cave, and glanced into the dark and lonely darkness before him. He wondered if he could find a way to be happy?
He was the last dragon, but that didn’t mean he was the last creature on earth. So he used his reserves of magic and fashioned himself into an elf. He was tall and beautiful, he thought, as he looked into the pool of water. His skin was a soft white song like that of clouds, his hair was golden, and his eyes were an obsidian night without moon or stars. They glittered like black opals in his face, and he found that to be quite lovely.
His mother had used to hoard gems before the humans killed her for them when he had been but a young dragon. He and his father had been away collecting water for the rest of the pack of dragons, but when they returned his mother and sisters were dead.
His father became withdrawn, quiet, and rather moody after that. Abraxton didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. He may be the last dragon, but that didn’t mean he had to be alone forever. He was going to make the most of his life whilst he still could.
Walking into his cave he found clothing that had been discarded from a previous victim foolish enough to think he would slay the last dragon. Perhaps, he had thought the prestige would earn him a spot in the king’s court or win the favor of the princess or something.
Abraxton climbed down from his cave and into the crowd of people that were scurrying about below. Faeries, elves, and humans walked past him without suspicion or even notice.
He raised his brows. Well, then. Maybe there was nothing extraordinary about his appearance as an elf, after all.
But then a woman with dark brown hair and soft hazel eyes spotted him, seemingly smitten. “I’ve never seen you around the kingdom before,” she remarked. “Who are you?”
“I am Abraxton.”
“Like the dragon?”
It was then that he realized his folly, but it was too late to amend what he had said. He turned away. “I am the dragon.”
“You are—oh?! Are you really? I’m Princess Lovina.”
“A princess without her crown or guard at this hour?”
“What can I say? I prefer to be alone, sometimes. Having too many people around can be suffocating. I think you might understand that?”
“Aye, humans can be exhausting. But I am the last dragon. I yearn for more of my kind. Yet that will never be thanks to my stupidity. My father always told me that I should settle down and get married, I never listened. I always thought I had more than enough time.”
Lovina listened to him with a sympathetic look on her face. “You wouldn’t be the first to feel that way or make that mistake. Look at the poor dodos. They weren’t able to save themselves from falling, either.” She placed a hand on his arm. “But you can still live a happy life.”
“Do you think?” he asked.
“I do,” Lovina nodded.
The two became fast friends and spent many evenings together. Abraxton was always in his elven form, however, not wishing to attract suspicion or his own death. After several months, however, things between them had gotten pretty serious and they both had fallen for one another.
“Abraxton?”
“Hmm?”
“Should we have children would they be…”
“Nay. They’ll take after this elven form I fashioned for myself or you, I suspect,” he answered. “They may have the ability to turn into dragons, but they’ll never fully be dragons.”
Lovina nodded. “I still want children someday,” she insisted.
“With me? Knowing what I truly am?”
“Of course.”
“You don’t think me a monster?”
“If I did, would I still be here?”
“I doubt the king would let his daughter marry someone who has no proof of his life. Among the elves they would say that I were an enigma. I cannot piece together a history that would make sense to your father.”
“I don’t much care about all of that. I only care about you.”
“I care about your future,” Abraxton protested.
“It will be with you,” Lovina insisted. She placed a hand on her belly. “And we’ll know if he or she is a dragon in nine months time, I suspect.”
Abraxton blushed furiously. “I didn’t realize that this had happened already,” he remarked, looking at her side, but he heard the second heartbeat clear as day now that she mentioned it. “I think we should always be together, it is what I want, but I fear your father’s answer.”
“Don’t,” Lovina said. “We make our own destinies. Mine is with you. I don’t care what father says.”
Abraxton smiled softly. “If you insist,” he remarked. “And I will always take care of you both.”


 

All Five Senses
Kelli J Gavin

When I attempt to explain how it feels to be me, few understand. Actually, no one. The heft, the weight of my burden is more than anyone will ever experience.  I don’t expect others to understand me or what it feels like, and I am afraid I have stopped trying to impress on them the difficulty I face daily. I no longer attempt to even drop hints that I can see them. That I can see them and they can’t see me.  To be the last one left with vision is no longer amazing. It is so very heartbreaking.

Yes.  Possessing all five senses is an actual gift, and I am fully aware that others wish they could be me.  But to be the only one that has functioning eyes? I still do not understand how it is possible. I had intraocular lenses placed in my eyes in my late thirties when cataracts and glaucoma threatened my vision.  For some reason, the plastic lenses protected me from losing my vision when the ocular virus started to spread. When I turned on the news and heard about the thousands of a people a day that would lose their sight instantly, I gasped as I believed that it was only a matter of time and I would face the same fate.  That fate wasn’t mine. Every person I saw, every person I came into contact with, every person I love, lost their sight. And I visually witnessed it all. I never came to understand why there was an viral outbreak and why I was the only one immune to the globe crossing ocular virus. Now I believe, some things are better left unknown.

I would sit, silently, watching. Everyone who walked by me on the street would nervously pass me. Can she see? Should we ask for help?  I was able to tell that they could sense my physical presence even when they could not see me. I had free reign of the grocery store until the food trucks stopped coming to town. No one stands in line for food when you can’t find where the lines are even being formed. People, desperate people, stumbling trying to find someone who can help, someone who can direct them to food and water. I was wounded severely once when I thought I could be the one to help a group of moms with young children.  They clamored at me, reaching, grabbing, wanting my attention, wanting my help instantly. Bruised and bleeding as if I had been in an alley attack, I limped back home. I couldn’t admit to someone I could see. If I did, I would be risking my own life. I had the one thing everyone in the world needed. The ability to see.

When the phones, televisions and Internet stopped working, it was one thing. But eventually radio silence.  Those that had the manual capability to reach out by transistor radio eventually stopped doing so also. Did they give up hope?  Did the depression hit so quickly that they no longer saw a purpose in creating and fostering human connections? When staying home, in self confined jails became too much to fathom, the loss of life was no longer measurable.  No one had the physical means after a month to even attempt to tend to the dead. So there they lay. Where they decided their life would end. Floating in the rivers. Rotting in their homes. Stretched out if napping on the stairs of the church where they once went to Worship on Sundays.

I knew that I needed to flee. I would risk my mental stability by living alone, rather than my physical life by staying where everyone would eventually want to take advantage of the most horrible gift anyone could possess.  The gift of sight on a non seeing planet wasn’t a gift but a torment. I had every book at my disposal. I read and made notes and tore out page after page from the books left abandoned at the library. I would teach myself to grow food. To hunt. To build anything I would need.  To possibly figure out if I was capable to create energy which could be turned into electricity which could be turned into light. I gathered batteries. I gathered wires, I gathered seeds and containers for water. I made time lines and plans as to what I would need to accomplish and when. My plans were foiled when sickness took hold.  Maybe pneumonia. I am not really sure. I was about a week away from preparing to leave town when I was racked with severe coughing. There wasn’t a doctor that I could see, and I wouldn’t even know if there were medications nearby that I could get my hands on.

So here I lie. In my bed.  Dozing. In and out of consciousness.  This has taken me two days to write this down. Not sure who I am writing it down for. I know this sickness will end me.  If this notebook is found, who will be able to see it? Who would read the words on this page and be so flabbergasted at the fact that I am the last person with sight? No, someone will find it by searching with their hands for anything that is useful. This notebook will turn into paper to fuel a fire. Fire to keep someone warm. Until they decide that the church stairs seem like a mighty fine place to…


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, 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 Last Romantic
Sunil Sharma

As soon as he rushed into the compartment, breathless and disoriented, the train began moving across Vienna that looked different: A certain melancholia that attends the intersection of dusk and an advancing night.

Evening: In-between space characterized by a sublime mix of mellow darkness and dying light— divine works in chiaroscuro.

Forlorn and lost.

From the window- seat, he could feel the overpowering sadness of the hour. The offices were getting empty and streets filled up—fast.

Close!

Few seconds late and he would have missed the connection to Paris!

Once settled, he found her opposite.

Their eyes met and diverted—at the same time.

What quickly registered were a freckled face; the goggles on a disheveled head and an aloofness, typical of the solo female tourists.

That demeanor, oddly, was fascinating!

There were others. An Italian family—boisterous, chatty, loud—reminded of his family. The remaining travellers were on another planet—plugged into phones or lap tops.

He took out the book.

—Ayn Rand?

He looked up—into the smiling eyes of his co-passenger.

—Do you take Middle Eastern males to be savages?

She replied: No offense, please. Just curious.

The lilting tone soothed.

—Fine. No offense, either.

They relaxed.

—I am Anne. Freelance travel writer. Boston.

—David here. Manager. Berlin.

The strangers shook hands. Train hurtled down.

—Travelling Paris? She asked.

—Yes. You? He asked for the sake of conversation.

—Yes. Doing a piece on Paris and Multi-cultural Perspectives.

—Cool!

—Your first visit?

—No. Come often. You?

— I, too, keep on returning. Paris beckons as a besotted lover. You cannot resist Paris.

He nodded.

She continued: Ayn Rand in the summer of 2018 is a revelation…

—That too in the hands of an Arab.

She smiled: Not that implication. Ayn Rand is not that popular these days but some iconic books have an amazing afterlife. And ways of turning up in strange places!

—Right. Once I saw Ibsen in an Indonesian village—in an old paper shop.

—Yes. I once saw Thoreau in a Shanghai house of a factory worker, dreaming of a passage to America.

—Globalization! He exclaimed.

—Migration and its sources of inspiration. She observed.

—In a way, border-less world, ideas travel faster and we develop standardized tastes.

—Yeah. We are all Potter fans. Believers in magic. Fantasy sells.

He nodded: Yes. Books can change beliefs.

—So does travel.

They talked best-sellers and movies and found a lot in common.

—Travel often? He asked.

—Yes.

—Escaping America.

—Hmm! Maybe. She said.

—Or searching for the nirvana?

—Perhaps. You? Searching the Exotic Paris?

He smiled: Searching for the soul of the city that once hosted Joyce and Proust.

She was floored: You are highly cultivated!

—A dark prince! A Moor?

She won his heart by that dimpled smile!

.

They reached Paris late as the train got held up due to some technical problem. Decided to spend more time together by exploring the nightly life. Crowds everywhere. The sidewalk cafes were full. They drank the best wine, ate dinner and leisurely walked down the river-front, enjoying the breeze and the spectacular scene. The Seine reflected the lights. Every nationality could be seen there on the boulevards.

Another world!

Paris, the truly cosmopolitan!

—Certain things are fated. David said, holding her hands, on the bench, near a bridge.

—Indeed. Never thought I would have you as a companion!

He smiled: Frankly, I took you for a snobbish Yankee.

She was equally frank: I took you for a boorish Moor.

They both laughed.

—We have destroyed the power of stereotypes. Said David.

—Thanks to Ayn Rand and Paris. Anne said and added: Paris can cast spell on folks belonging to different cultures and make strangers into friends. Paris is heavenly!

—Yes. The cities can be mysterious. Deep South, such things are not possible. David said.

After a long silence, David said: There are strong coincidences. I cannot believe such things happening. But here we are—the Moor and his princess, in this city of love and romance, on a pleasant night, along a beautiful river. This is magical!

Yes. Anne said, in Paris only, odd things can happen. The city has its own enchantment and can dissolve barriers. This mood can be best summed up by the immortal Rumi: This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.

David went lyrical:

For you, in my respect, are all the world.
Then how can it be said I am alone
When all the world is here to look on me?

Anne said; Indeed! A midsummer night’s dream coming true for us, the ones chosen by Cupid on this lovely night. So bizarre, yet true. Fated, perhaps.

David beamed. I am a hard-core Romantic, last of the tribe.

—Yes, you are. Anne confirmed.

They began walking towards the shadows.

Then it happened.

The cops swooped down and arrested David who did not offer any resistance. Took him in an unmarked van. No witnesses.

.

Next morning, David was the national headline:

Top Terrorist Arrested

Paris: According to the police, the dreaded terrorist Abu Hassan has been captured. Called the Lone Bomber, he has successfully evaded arrest by assuming identities. Going by many aliases, Abu—a chemical engineer—has been on the move across the EU, the recent one being David. He is part of a fringe group that targets Western installations by planting bombs. He is the most deadly bomber, working solo, responsible for some lethal attacks in recent history. The cops are further investigating his role in other bombings. The main role in the operation was played by an undercover female agent by the name of Anne.


Author-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/



 

I’m the Last
Katherine Brown

Look to the right, the long glass surface sits empty. To the left, my view is the same – vacant space accompanies me. Such a terrible feeling of sadness overwhelms me. Alone. Unwanted. Plain, dull, monochrome, of no interest to anyone. Not long ago, I had made a long journey surrounded by friends, family even. We had been assigned an incredibly important task. It was a sacrificial mission, but one of the most honorable and joyous kind. Our kind were born to die and we accepted that, looking forward to fulfilling our purpose for the good of others.

Had it truly been only this morning I had been brought forth in a dizzying whirlwind of activity? Given a post of honor behind the brightly lit glass walls? Chosen with eleven others to venture forth into the world from the safety of our glass abode. Oh! How long ago and far away the keen sense of excitement and adventure feel now.

The client came in wringing her hands, anxiety pinging in her high-pitched voice. Special. “They have to be special, and all different” she insisted to the man in charge of our fates.

And let me tell you just how glorious it was to be numbered among the special, to be packed tightly into the transportation box and bid farewell by all those left behind with faces pressed to the glass enviously. Pride welled up within me. You could practically smell the joy wafting from my warm insides.

It was a lengthy and jarring ride to our destination. I’ll admit a bump to my head caused me more than a little distress, leaving a mark. At last we arrived and were released from the confines of transport. Placed strategically, like sentinels on watch for the slightest sign of trouble, we began the wait for our end. One by one it happened: a painfully shy girl grabbed onto Red like a lifeline, an older woman snatched up Lemon like an old friend, Chip was hastily sent to rescue an upset toddler. On and on they went, but not me. Nobody sought me out though I waited patiently.

I held onto hope for as long as I could, but I grew tired and stiff. Beads of perspiration soon trickled down my head. It became abundantly clear – a mistake had been made. I was not special. I should not have been sent to this place.

I suppose, as you’ve been kind enough to listen to my woes, I should introduce myself to you. My friends, when they were here, called me Nilla. It is short for my given title, Vanilla Bean. I am a cupcake. The last cupcake. The last cupcake at a child’s birthday party. The only cupcake not sprinkled or colored or flavored enough to fulfill my purpose and bring joy. I am Nilla, and I am afraid. I don’t know what happens from here.

They are dimming the lights now. Several of the lowly bars and dips around me are being scraped, most painfully it appears, into large black bags. I can’t imagine transport in those would be at all safe or comfortable. Will they send me there too? No. No they have passed by my post. Suddenly, a small scrap of a girl in a pink tutu comes tiptoeing towards me. She glances around, then scoops me up and whispers around a giant grin, “Shhh, you’re going to be my little secret.” Then, she twirls in a circle and off we race from the room.

I am Nilla. I held my ground. I am the last cupcake. I am a secret prize.


Bio:

Katherine Brown lives with her husband and step-daughter in Texas. A passion for books from the time she started reading led Katherine to dream of writing books and opening up a brand-new world for others as well. As a teen, Katherine discovered a new joy in composing poetry. Publishing her first two children’s books in 2017, Katherine hopes to continue writing long into her future and to inspire in others a love of reading for years to come.

www.katherinebrownbooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/Katherine-Brown-Katie-Author-1007999836006370/



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