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 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 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) “Love by Dawn” by Mark Kuglin
(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 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. 5) Mark Kuglin
(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 30

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Listen to the podcast episode for Issue 30.

In this week’s issue, we have seven different visions of scenes just out of the corner of the protagonists’ eyes. Through these stories, we see that these incomplete sideways glances afford clues that our imaginations feast upon, confirming hopes as well as suspicions. (And among all the insight we gain from these indirect views, perhaps one lesson is that one should be a little more cautious regarding the tilt of the screen.)

This week’s contributors include: John Sheirer, Mark Kuglin, Sunil Sharma, Kelli J. Gavin, deb y felio, Kira, and Jenny Birch.



Change is Good?
John Sheirer

She sat in her favorite overstuffed reading chair in the early light of a Sunday morning at home. He peeked over her shoulder to see her cell phone. Their bad-tempered cat perched just behind her head atop the chair back, blocking his view of her phone.

She wasn’t reading today–just clutching that damned phone six inches from her nose.

“Finished the book for book group?” he asked, sauntering behind her chair to try for a better view of her phone while pretending to look out the window into the backyard.

She drew the phone down almost imperceptibly, tilted it just a few degrees away from his line of vision.

“Yesterday,” she replied. He hadn’t noticed her reading yesterday, something she usually did most of Saturday afternoon. He couldn’t actually remember what they did yesterday afternoon. A movie? No. Walk? No. Late lunch? No.

The cat wasn’t really bad-tempered. The cat just didn’t seem to like him, instead preferring to snuggle near her head on the chair back and stare at him. Judgmentally? he wondered. Maybe.

Her phone emitted the tiny whoosh of a text message launching into the mysterious world of cyberspace. He never texted. He couldn’t remember seeing her text before either.

He craned his neck to see her phone screen. When she got that phone a year ago, she had taken a photo of him and installed it as her background photo. She said she liked the blank look on his face. “Not smiling, not frowning,” she at the time. “Just being you.”

He thought about how she carried his image close to her in her purse or, better yet, in her pocket, thin layers of fabric between his face on the phone screen and her skin.

The texting screen evaporated from her phone just before he could focus his eyes on the tiny words there. He recognized the home screen with her icons arranged into all four corners of the glowing surface. But his face had been replaced on her phone screen. Instead, there was a photo of the cat spread across that same chair back.

“Why is the cat on your phone?” he asked.

“Hmm?” she murmured. “Oh, no reason. Sometimes change is good. You know?”

He didn’t know.

The cat stared at him simultaneously from the phone screen and from the back of her chair.

Then she held the phone’s power button down until everything went dark.


Bio:

John Sheirer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 26 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. Find him at JohnSheirer.com.



Bane of My Existence
Mark Kuglin

Up until that moment, everything had been picturesque and idyllic. I had been lost in thought and daydreams, for over an hour, and thoroughly enjoying my solitude. Although I was sitting at a busy outdoor cafe— and could hear the nearby traffic and conversations of other patrons and passersby— it was like sitting next to a babbling brook in a peaceful, quiet meadow on a gloriously sunny day.

 

I was thrilled to be in such a wonderful mood and I felt carefree. I could feel each nerve ending and all of my senses were heightened by my inner stillness. Combined, it created a magical world of ideas and infinite possibilities.

Tragically, it ended the moment I spotted Jerry— out of the corner of my eye. In an instant, I knew my solitude was over. The odds of him leaving me be or passing on by were zero. He would stop.

Jerry was— and still is— the type of person I derisively call a trumpeter. There’s no need to describe him because I am sure you are well acquainted with his ilk. Trumpeters— like Jerry— come in all shapes, sizes and forms and they occupy every imaginable role in life. They’re the ones who feel compelled to loudly announce their arrival without any regard to what you may be doing. And after forcing themselves upon you, they chronically interrupt in order to deliver a non-stop monologue.

To make it worse, Jerry brought the added bonus of being absolutely clueless as to how his behavior affected me. And trying to point out his deficiencies— in a kind way— was an absolutely futile endeavor. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t have a part in anything.

******

The moment Jerry saw me, he made a beeline for my table, took a seat without asking and said— without preamble, “It isn’t healthy to be spending so much time alone.” But before I could respond, he emphatically stated and then asked, “You must be depressed!…What’s going on with you?”

“I am..er..was completely fine..,” I started to say.

“That impossible,” Jerry interjected. “I could see your depression from down the block.”

“Actually, you’re…”

“Nonsense,” Jerry tsked. “There’s no way you can fine. Healthy people don’t spend their time alone.”

“How dare you, “ I said— in an assertive tone. “Who are you to call me unhealthy?”

“Now, now,” Jerry tsked again. “No need for that…Besides, you proved my point”

“What point?” I asked— with anger in my voice.

“Anger and depression are identical…Anger is outward and depression is inward.”

At this point, I should have gotten up and left him sitting there. However, my anger got the best of me. “As hard as it is for you to believe,” I shouted, “I was fine until you walked up.”

You don’t have to be an asshole,” Jerry interjected.

“Actually I do,” I countered. “You left me no other choice.”


Bio:

Mark Kuglin is an American expat currently living and working near Ensenada, Mexico. He writes fiction, poetry and the occasional essay. Samples of his work can be found on his website markkuglin.com or by following him on Twitter @cr8fiction. Additionally, he has a profile and a page @markkuglincreativewriting on Facebook.




The Exchange
Sunil Sharma

A quick exchange of smiles but could not escape him.

They sat on the sidewalk café. She wanted to catch the early-morning glory of the ancient city.

—I love the way sun paints Venice in gold! She exclaimed.

He nodded, adjusting the camera.

—I want the best shots. He said to the woman.

—Me, too.

The shoot began.

He asked her to tilt her head a bit against the bridge in the back. The Cathedral shone brightly. The waters sparkled. A gentle breeze blew across a slumbering street. The view was magical!

She walked with certain poise. Stopped. Bent a glance and smiled!

Setting his heart on fire! That Mona Lisa smile. The very quality was ethereal.

Then he realized it was not for him—but, maybe, for someone else. For a second, her eyes wandered, face lit up and lips formed into a grin, faint but sublime.

Out of the corner of the eye, he saw her fleetingly smile at a stranger clad in red T and blue denim, holding up a long stem of red rose. He smiled back. The tall rival stood inconspicuously among the American tourists and when the photographer looked back, the competitor vanished in air.

Afterwards, her face became serene.

Action in a jiffy!

Robert Browning echoed in an agitated mind;

…she liked whate’er 

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere

Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, 

Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without 

Much the same smile? 

Am I reading too much into a smile? He thought.

After some time, they went down to the bridge. She posed by pouting like Marilyn Monroe. She radiated joie de vivre that was infectious—waving at the kids, gondoliers; the Vietnamese waiters; Asian and Chinese tourists; nuns; old lady residents with small dogs; in fact, everything. Even he got affected and smiled at the world, forgetting a competing suitor.

She wanted to capture the famous spots.

Some poses were solo; others, in crowded plazas, train and bus stations, museums, and, the  water taxis.

—I want a bit of Venice for posterity! She exclaimed, this beautiful French woman, hardly 24, with a lilting voice.

He followed as pet. Both sought immortality. He, from photography; she, modeling. Their worlds were different, yet converged in Paris apartment full of ambition where ethnicities hardly mattered.

While returning to the hotel room, she was a bit tensed, glancing back, often.

His peripheral vision registered these sideways movements of a person in perpetual rebellion.

For a sec, he saw a familiar figure but turning around, only a blur of action—a spot of red fading in a side alley.

They slept heavily after lunch.

When he woke up, she was not there.

A scrawled note: Sorry! Email the pictures.

Hit him hard!

Going through the pictures, he got the vital clue: In a frame, outer edge of the scene, a blurred figure, in red T, holding up a long-stemmed red rose…


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/




What I See
Kelli J Gavin

I see more than most people
Maybe because I am always watching
Knowing that if I pay attention
At some point it will happen
Out of the corner of my eye
I see exactly what I need to
The smiles as I turn to walk away
The joy of my kids when I say yes
My husband’s look of adoration
My friends wiping tears in laughter
Of course I see many things when
I am face to face with other people
But it is that afterthought
That sinking- in feeling
That emotion that isn’t always shared
That is what I look for
That is what I see
Out of the corner of my eye
I see exactly what I want 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



Looking Both Ways Before Crossing
deb y felio

Out of the corner of each eye, her only vision of world events, Her world of narrow views and half formed opinions about what she thinks she sees. Half exposed, half hidden, sideways glances and steps keep her adjusting to cracks in her perspective.

She once believed looking inward toward the other corners would offer a balance — the two extremes in the middle, but the middle was only a nose trying to sniff out the truth.

She often wishes for eyes operating from a focused straight ahead and forward approach. An approach providing more certain and collaborative witnesses verifying and affirming a common rather than an exceptional reporting.

Once considering operations to bring her eyes into a more popular and accepted form, the surgeon rolled his stool to her side, looked her in the eye and asked her, if not she then who would bring to the public forum another, often overlooked, view of the world?


Bio:

deb y felio is a witness poet exploring and writing on the mundane, the miraculous and the under-represented sides of historic and current issues. deb lives and writes in the hills of Boulder Colorado and is active in the Denver Lighthouse for Writers and the Stain’d art community. Her work is published in multiple online sources) and in the print anthologies Hay(na)ku ( Eileen Tabios, editor) and in Minnie’s Diary, A Southern Literary Review October 2018.



Out of the corner of my eye
Kira

Out of the corner of my eye
I can see you’ve sent a reply
My blood pumps, quick!
I must take my phone and… blink!
Another notification appears.
Distracted, the thought of you disappears
And I’m lost in a firework of stimulation.
Yet, I quickly realise who should receive my adoration
And, out of the corner of my eye
I wish I could see my favourite Gemini.


Bio:

Kira is a writer and blogger as well as a languages teacher. She creates short stories and flash fiction, and is in the process of writing her first book. She also writes about mental health, video games, teaching, and likes to show off her photos.

All of this, because she aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.

Onwards to her writer’s den!
http://www.jackofwritingtrades.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades

 



By the End of the Day
Jenny Birch

She couldn’t look directly at them, or the whole thing would be ruined.

Paul would have a fit if he saw them, cloistered behind the new drapes they’d spent all weekend hanging.  But she knew as long as she didn’t look at them, they’d stay in one spot, more or less quietly.  She just wanted to sit.  Just for a minute.

“You can’t see us!” someone squealed, rustling the sheer fabric.  Maybe less quietly, then.  But at least still in one spot.

“Where on earth did my precious babies go?”  She tipped her chin to the ceiling and arched her neck so that she could scan all parts of the room – except the windows.  “They were just here a second ago!”

Four tiny eruptions of joy.  Her skull echoed with the reverberation of it and she resisted the urge to tip sideways, bury her head in one of the throw pillows.  She almost gave in, but then noticed the jelly splotch she’d land in, remnant of the rainy-day picnic she’d granted at lunch.  She’d have to wipe it up before Paul got home.

The oldest jostled the younger ones.  “Shhh!  Not too loud, or she’ll find us!”

She tipped her head so that she could just barely see them, piled like stacking cups in the too-small space.  She knew what Paul would say: They’re going to hurt themselves!  Or rip the curtains! 

But she would have gladly sacrificed the drapes a hundred times over for these precious seated moments.  There wasn’t even anyone on her lap!

“Let me think,” she sing-songed.  “Now a few minutes ago, they were in the kitchen having a snack, and then –“ she tapped her chin – “they were gone!  Like magic!”

The baby, truly a baby no longer, laughed and then snorted, which set the rest of them off.  They collapsed in a heap, the drapes tangled around them.  She wished she could turn her head, make sure they weren’t pulling the rod from the wall.  She hesitated, then turned away.  It wasn’t worth the gamble.  The drapes were probably fine.

The garage door rumbled unexpectedly, a full twenty minutes earlier than she’d been expecting.  She shifted, flipping the pillow jelly-side down and fluffing it up.  There was nothing to be done about the mess in the kitchen; no use even trying now.

The kids started pulling away from one another.  “Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy’s home!”  Just as Paul’s footsteps reached the top of the basement stairs, there was a great, roaring rip, and the drapes tumbled to the floor.  He was opening the door into the family room when the rod, with a groan, followed it, clattering to the floor and scratching the hardwood.

Paul surveyed the scene with a frown and furrowed brow.

She rose and went to the children, smiling her apology at Paul.  At the windows, she draped herself in her children.  They nestled into her, wiggling against her chest.  Loud, chaotic, but at least all in one spot.


Bio:

Jenny Birch is a middle school ELA teacher and freelance writer who writes primarily contemporary and YA fiction. She hails from Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her wonderful husband and two crazy-awesome sons. She is an active member of the SCBWI and Penn Writers. She can be found on Twitter @TheRealMrsBirch




 

Volume 1 Issue 28: Fire

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We have five elemental stories this week, each ablaze with intensity and searing with imagination. This week’s contributors include Kira, Sunil Sharma, Jenna Mason Stay, Kelli J Gavin, and Francine Witte. Warm yourself with these glowing stories of passion, loss, adventure, connection, desire, and fear.




Fire Fall
Kira

Have you ever felt like one of your dreams was real? I hadn’t, until then.

I was wandering around in a forest nearby. Fall had started its work: a fiery red was now slowly making its way into the woods, replacing the lush green I had started to get used to.

I preferred red. Red was fire and passion. Fight and fire.

I took a red leaf in my hand. Contemplating it made me feel powerful. Energy coursed through me, I felt invincible. I started to get worried when I felt a burning sensation going from my head to my arm, but it also felt familiar, like an old but impulsive friend.

Hi, anger.

A sharp pain, gone in an instant. The leaf caught fire, immediately destroyed.

And then, I blacked out.

I woke up in the middle of red maple leaves. Still groggy, I got up and resumed my walk. How come I had fainted so suddenly? I started hobbling, unsure and confused. I probably needed some rest. The flush of energy was gone, I wouldn’t be able to try my magic for a while.

Exhausted, I arrived in a clearing. It truly was a beautiful place: the sunlight was shining upon a red carpet of leaves. It was noon. Soon, the forest was bathed in a bright red light, so much that I couldn’t see the trees clearly anymore.

The forest was on fire, and it was magnificent.

This vision made me feel so much better. The bright light was comforting, the wind was blowing softly, ruffling through the leaves, making some of them fly away. Fall was here, softly announcing the Earth’s coming slumber.

Small issue: I didn’t see the arrow pointed at me on time.

It went through me, stuck itself into a tree behind me. A sharp, piercing, short pain rushed through my entire body. Blood came out, my face was twisted in surprise. I collapsed, then felt nothing.

I leapt to my feet, alarmed and confused. No time to be tired. I was still in the forest, lying in the middle of red maple leaves. I was fully awake this time. I was in danger. The dream felt so real… It had to become true.

A shot of anger pulsed through my veins. They had transformed me, and now they wanted me dead?

I was going to burn them all. It was a kill or be killed situation.

I dashed towards the clearing, hid behind a tree, sneaked a peek towards the general direction the arrow had come from. I couldn’t see for sure…I would have to lure them out.

Desperate for a solution, I lit up a stick and threw it towards the middle of the clearing, then rushed behind another tree. Three arrows missed me. I heard ruffling noises in the shadows. I was surrounded.

They were in for a world of pain.

I’m not completely human anymore. Remember that next time you try to fire anything at me.


Bio:

Kira is a writer and blogger as well as a languages teacher. She creates short stories and flash fiction, and is in the process of writing her first book. She also writes about mental health, video games, teaching, and likes to show off her photos.

All of this, because she aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.

Onwards to her writer’s den!

www.jackofwritingtrades.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades



The Campfire
Sunil Sharma

—There!

Silhouettes.

Sounds—growling, howling, roaring, barking, laughing—enough to unsettle urban imagination fired by a mysterious forest, on a wintry night. The campers, huddled around a merry fire, shivered by the strange.

Part of the Gothic Trail, they were there seeking adventure.

—Where? I cannot.

Rahul said, the usual skeptic.

—There.

Said the guide.

—Yes. I can see. Said Reema, adding:  Glowing eyes. Edge of the lake.

The fire was continually fed. It leapt up high. The twigs burnt up fast in its yellow belly; the fierce flames, insatiable; warmth, comforting.

The bonfire lent a golden tinge to the faces. The shadows cast by the blaze were menacing.

—Look!

An outlined figure, shimmering.

The campers experienced a chilling sensation.

—Who is it?

The guide declared: Princess’s Ghost!

—What?

—Yeah.

—Ghost?

—Every jungle has got dark denizens.

—Hmm. Do not believe.

Rahul said.

—I believe.

Said Reema.

Many colleagues nodded: There are dark forces.

Rahul smirked: Imagining things!

—You should not have joined the believers.

Said Reema: eyes red, speech, bit slurred.

The all-young corporate group from Delhi was getting excited slowly. The brooding forest and the strong wind added to the Otherness.

The lake glittered.

—Wherefrom comes the ghost?

Reema asked the guide.

—From the 18th-century fort.

—Why does she roam the night?

—She wanted to marry a commoner. When her lover was killed publicly, she jumped into the lake and died young and unfulfilled.

Rahul exclaimed: How romantic!

Rajesh countered: No. Real. These things happen.

—What about her lover?

Another camper asked.

The guide was silent. Then: Some folks have seen him also. Two separated lovers in different locations, on full-moon nights, pining.

—What if she pops up here?

Asked another woman.

—You will die of fright!

They laughed.

—Haunting in the outdoors!

Exclaimed Rahul.

They drank and ate supper. The moon shone on the trail leading to the fort. Trees swayed like drunken giants.

Wolves howled somewhere deep in the tropical forest.

—I can feel the spirits of the jungle.

Reema said.

—Oh! Revisiting the Sea of Trees?

Teased Rahul.

Rajesh replied: Even Aokigahara is real. There are realities outside human ken. We should not be dismissive.

—I am not disrespectful. Just stating my view.

Argued Rahul.

—Do not spoil the show! Rajesh admonished, every inch his senior in the office.

—Hush! Exclaimed Reema. I saw the spirits hovering behind the campfire.

—Where? Asked Rajesh.

—There.

They peered.

Fleeting figures in the damp air.

A piercing cry.

Blood-curdling!

The group fell silent. The fire crackled. But the air underwent a change. Most felt evil lurking in the shadows.

—OK. I will check.

Before others could stop, Rahul ran down.

They waited.

his loud scream echoed; desperate, chilling.

The men took up torches—to chase the scream, near the lake…


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/



 

The Fire-Handler
Jenna Mason Stay

She watched the flame danced across her fingers—the sparks, the colors of the flames. Most people thought of fire as yellow or maybe orange, but fire was red and blue too. It burst with bits of green or blinding white as it caught trace minerals on her skin. It was both loud and quiet, like the moment before sunrise, before the world turns back on again. It was sweet and tart, hard and soft, a study in contradictions. It was life.

The flames tickled, and she brushed it back down from its subtle creep up her arm. She liked it best when she held it in her hands. She could turn it and turn it, roll it from her palm to the back of her hand and back again.

No one wanted to join her. She couldn’t understand that—the way they stood back and watched. They were fascinated too, she knew it, but no one approached. Were the flames really so frightening?

She shrugged and stomped out an ember that had landed in the dirt. So be it. They wouldn’t know the glory of the flame, and she would not have to share. As long as she held the flame, she would be alone, but that was enough.

And then.

A figure stepped from the crowd. He was tall, and his face filled with fascination as he approached—cautiously, as if she might bite. When he came close enough, the light of the flames reflected in his brown eyes, and she felt the beckoning call from a fire that for once she did not control.

“What’s it like?” he asked, almost reverently.

“Like the world,” she said. “A tiny world, burning in your hand, and all the comfort and warmth and discovery and joy you will ever know, all encapsulated in one spot.” She held up her hand, and she watched him watch the flames dance, swirling around her hand like the sand on the beach.

Mesmerizing.

He looked at her then, and his face glowed. “May I try it?”

She blinked. No one had ever asked this. Hadn’t she thought—known—that no one else would ever join her? “You … want to hold the fire?” she asked, and she could not restrain the surprise.

“I’ve heard said it can be done, even by those without the gift.” He shrugged shyly and looked away. “I hoped you might teach me.” When his eyes returned to her, they held back nothing, and his tone was confident, certain. Warm. “I want to know.”

He was right. It could be shared. Even now she felt the fire aching to grow. She smiled. “Yes, I’ll show you.” She reached out her hand, and his joined hers.

They touched, and the fire flowed between them, the flame lighting both their hands, bursting into sparks of brilliant light. Her smiled widened. This was how fire was meant to feel—strong, powerful, true.

And oh, how it burned.


Bio:

Jeanna Mason Stay does most of her writing in fantasy and fairy tales, making up new ways to look at old stories. Occasionally, though, she hears a siren call from some other genre. Jeanna’s most recent fairy tale is “Breadcrumbs,” the story of a post-traumatic Gretel searching for healing, published in Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Tales.

Jeanna loves fireflies, serial commas, and her husband and children. Not necessarily in that order. She dreams of one day owning a herd of Chia sheep. You can find her at calloohcallaycallay.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/JeannaMasonStay/.



 

Burn
Kelli J Gavin

I catch fire more often than I care to admit
I catch feelings that fan the flame
I wonder if others burn the way I do
I wonder if they have pulled all the alarms
You can only fuel the fire for so long
You can’t watch from afar

I burn up rather quickly
My throat tightens
My hands wring
My eyes wince from the smoke
I wipe the soot from my skin
My feet tread carefully

Not sure where to turn
Not sure if the floor will hold
The beams crash behind me
The flames shoot up each wall
Five alarm fire I am afraid
No one cares to respond

The flame is extinguished
Usually by me creating distance
The ruins are all I have left.
The embers continue to smolder
I have to work at regaining my composure
I don’t have anything to cling to

It must be obvious
I sweep up the remnants
Nothing left to piece back together
At  least the walls have been scrubbed
New rugs have been laid
All prepared for the next time I burn


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





Woman, Man, Fire

Francine Witte

Woman

I’m saying this because. I need to live same as you. I gave you my heart. It was plump and red. I had a photo of it. You even took it. But then you started saying busy and work. Now that photo is blackened and curled. The fire started as quick as love. As wrong as love. I don’t even think you are listening.

Man

Trouble is I am listening. Listening when I should be walking away. I saw your troubled heart, your broken photo heart. I knew it needed fixing and I couldn’t. I’m glad the photo burned. The house, the shrubs around it. I worried about that stove. I can always smell the future, the burn of it. Trouble is you didn’t listen.

Fire

First of all, I need to live. I need to eat in order to jump into my full yellow, blue hot at the base. The two of you so tasty. How could I resist? Started with dry and brittle love. Forget about the stove. The spark of romance out long ago, but this burned better. Woman still holding on. Man over. Out of balance works just fine for me. I can clean a mountain of its pine trees, leaving nothing but scraggled hands. Your love was an easy meal.  


Bio:

Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.



 

Volume 1 Issue 23: Fly On The Wall

Image result for fly on the wall

This week we have three stories that play with the phrase “fly on the wall” in rather creative, unexpected ways. Two returning writers Kelli J. Gavin and Sunil Sharma, as well as first-time contributor Debjani Mukherjee, have given us readers three very distinct and yet equally enjoyable short stories this week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 



The Van That Went Missing
Kelli J. Gavin

I sat shaking outside the closed door.  I learned back in the chair and rested my weary head on the wall.  When the door closed, my heart started to race and my mouth was so dry. What was being said? Who spoke first?  If I stood up and walked a bit closer to the door, would I be able to hear anything that was being said? I have never wished more than at that moment to be a fly on the wall.

My Freshman year of college, a campus van went missing. It hadn’t been seen in over 24 hours.  Someone decided upon learning that the vehicle was missing, to report that I had something to do with the disappearance or knew something about it.  Lots of practical jokes were played and often Freshmen were blamed. Usually, pointing the finger at someone was done in fun. But a campus van was missing and I was being blamed.

“I have nothing to do with the missing van.  I have been the target of a few pranks directed at underclassmen. They just want to see how far this can go.” I started out with gusto.

I was quickly interrupted by the Student Affairs Officer. “Four people have come to the Student Development Office.  One said that they overheard you talking about the van and that you know more about where it is. Two people said that they were told you were responsible for the van disappearing. And the fourth person only said that we should start asking you questions.  Are you telling us all four are lying? What do they have to gain?”

“Yes. They are lying. They probably thought it would be funny to blame the Freshman girl who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. I have never even driven a car before!” I exclaimed.

“You don’t even drive? Ever?” The Campus Security Chief asked.

“Never in my life!  This is a prank and I bet you anything the van has been hidden and you will find it soon.”  I shouted louder than intended.

They looked at each other and then at me in total exasperation.  I was excused from the office and then asked to wait in the lobby. Twenty minutes had already passed.

Both crossing their arms over their ample middle aged stomachs, they entered the lobby where I was waiting. “We just got a phone call from the athletic department. The van was found unlocked in Faith Village (married student housing) with the keys on the front seat. A note was left with the keys that said, “Sorry, needed a vehicle. Hot date.”  You may be excused.”

They were silent. I laughed. I didn’t just l laugh. I cackled.  Made a fool of myself laughing. I stood, bowed, and left as quickly as I could. I needed to get out of there before I let on that the boy I went on a date with was the one that referred to me as a “Hot Date.”


Bio-
Kelli 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. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Masks
Sunil Sharma

Perhaps, it was meant to end like that only.

Masks— a room full of them!

—How are you?

I turned around to face a mask facing me.

—What is that?

—The Noh-men or Omote.

Replied Harsh, my ad-hoc host.

—Got a big collection.

—Yeah.

He removed the mask: Welcome home, buddy!

—Thanks.

I replied.

—You keep on surprising.

I added.

—Well, the collection is worth three lakhs.

He said. I nodded.

—Harsh is crazy!

An announcement in a female voice.

—Meet your new sister-in-law, Smita, crazier than me.

We shook hands. Moved to the sea-facing balcony.

—How is the view? Harsh asked.

—Nice!

—Hmm! Nice! Yaar, it is spectacular! Worth 15 crores, this 24th-floor house in this part of the vertical Mumbai.

A waiter poured drinks. The sun-set indeed looked beautiful!

—Not for me. I do not drink.

I said.

—Come on! A French import. Cost me a fortune. A bit?

—No thanks.

—Your loss!

They both sipped.

—How is life?

Harsh asked.

—Going on.

—Where you live?

Smita queried.

—Virar.

—Never heard about that place.

She shrugged haughtily.

—You are lucky.

I said. She remained grim, playing with her diamond ring.

—So, what is going on?

Harsh again.

—As usual. Nothing exciting. You?

—Lots of excitement. A model as a wife. Wonderful kids. Going abroad for three-week vacation.

I smiled.

—Are you still there?

He asked.

—Yes.

—Want to join my start-up?

I said nothing.

—Manage that. Will pay five times more—for old times’ sake. And a car and chauffeur to drive you around in the city.

I kept mum.

—Think over. Do not get stuck in that hell-hole for life. Move up—as I did.

I nodded.

—Not many old friends would make such a life-changing offer.

I smiled. Smita looked at my workday clothes and rolled her eyes.

—That is why I called you up for this meeting. A big offer for my old friend.

Just then, my cell rang.

—Boss calling!

I went inside the huge hall where different masks stared at me from varied angles. After I finished, I made for the balcony—that wide deck full of flowers and a privileged view of the city-sprawl.

Her voice made me stop.

—Why?

I felt like becoming a fly-on-the-wall. Fixed—listening.

The voices grew louder. Smita’s tone was high. His, subdued.

—We go a long way, hon. His father was my father’s chum. Come from the same Kolkata. We spent college days together.

—So?

—Try to understand, hon.

—You try to understand, dear Harsh. Not worth our time and money.

—I know. He is not worth but we need honest guys…

A mask swayed in the sea-breeze.

Then others began dancing—frantically.

And an Oni mask fell off before me.

———————————————-

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/



The Bagatelle
Debjani Mukherjee

The aroma of the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon float from one room to the other. The rusty flavour of roasting onion on a low flame swirled out, from the kitchen and unfurled its blanket on the open varanda showing the cracks out its wall and the bedroom on the other side of it where Mithilesh was reading a book on contemporary art. Sunday is the only day when he finds some time for himself. Tito was playing In the Varendra. Mithilesh can see him from his armchair, striking the tiny metal balls with the bagatelle stick. This was his childhood board game which was kept safe by his mother and now gifted to Tito. Old games like this are vanishing from the toy shops nowadays. The various types of games they used to enjoy at their childhood are all getting replaced rapidly by the virtual game world of the computer.

The aroma of the cooking coming out of the kitchen is enough to tempt even a non-foodie like Mithilesh. His wife Keka is a great cook always coming up with delicious new dishes. Mithilesh always appreciates this quality of hers in his mind but never poured down in audible words. Unlike Keka he is a quite person less expressive in his emotions. Keka keeps on muttering about this but basic human nature is hard to change.

The aroma of the afghani chicken watered the mouth of the seven years old. Tito waddled to the kitchen with his bagatelle, his little hands with unstable balancing skills tilted the bagatelle and dropped all it’s little metal balls just in front of the kitchen door. The balls bounced off to different directions. Some behind the flower pot by the kitchen door. Some under the big wooden chest filled with age old bronze utensils. Some inside the kitchen. Tito put down the empty bagatelle in front of the kitchen door and scratched his head. He sat down on his knees bending his head low and got busy seeking the tiny balls from their hiding place. He slipped his little hand under the huge wooden chest and moved to and fro to search them. He got one and then another the little fingers continued hobbling around when he heard his mom talking over the phone. It’s Rudy uncle she was talking to. Rudy uncle is a musician he knows how to play the piano. They went to his house several times. Where there is a big piano kept in the huge black and white sitting room. Tito saw him playing it several times. Mom was still Talking to Rudy uncle. Tito got almost all of his balls and kept them back on the board again and this time he took it up carefully and slowly went back to his Papa blanching the bagatelle balls rolling all over the board.

“What is it, Tito?” Mithilesh asked softy pulling Toto near to his lap. “I lost two balls,” he said. I slipped the bagatelle in front of the kitchen door and all the balls rolled there and there. I got them back but two are still missing. “Why didn’t you ask Mom to find them back? “ Mithilesh asked in a pampering tone. “Mom was talking to Rudy Uncle. She was inviting him for lunch today. She was saying Mithilesh never appreciates any of my cooking, I don’t like to cook for him but I love to cook for you and today I cooked your favourite Afghani chicken. Please Come fast I will be waiting for you eagerly.” Mithilesh couldn’t say a word he froze on his armchair.


Self-introduction 

    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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