Volume 3 Issue 3

Like bears leaving their caves after a long winter, we are beginning to ease out of our long confinement, creeping slowly out into the sunlight, squinting, vulnerable. We know that winter will come again but until then we must go outside, we must sit under open skies, roll in grass and decipher the clouds.

Will we remember to appreciate the sunlight, once the novelty has faded? Or will we instead take everything, libraries and plazas and mountain tops, for granted again, as if they are everlasting, as if we are everlasting?

I don’t know, actually, for I do not include myself amongst those who fail to notice the seasons or express their gratitude for a park bench under a sprawling oak. There is a lot to be said for being indoors, for focusing on the small, everyday details that accumulate into our lives. I am already back to work full-time and miss those weeks stuck inside, my creativity unleashed and unfettered by lesson plans and curriculum design.

Perhaps I have always been fortunate in my location, either by the sea or mountains or as I am now, between them both. There was a short stint of my life where I lived in a completely flat urban concrete-scape. It was not for me. It was like living inside, surrounded by trains and glass and humans rushing here and there, consuming, consuming, complaining.

Of course, now even that sounds like a dream, packed commuter trains, festivals crowded with people in yukata, lined with food stalls, squeezing in between other families for flower watching picnics, along the shore to watch fireworks. All of us pressed up against each other, a sea of humans, rolling along, outside but at the same time, inside of a moment in time, contained in our collectivity.

Our isolation forced us outside of that solidarity, exposed us to our individuality, our dependence on interaction and addiction to movement. Now we are opening the door, stepping outside to step back within.


This week, our story is from regular contributor Kelli J Gavin.
Kelli and her writing will be featured in the upcoming podcast episode.

Behold by Kelli J Gavin

Pages: 1 2

Volume 3 Issue 1: The 1950s

Hello there and welcome to Volume 3 of Mercurial Stories.

Perhaps you are wondering, considering the global tragedy going on, why I chose such a prompt for this week’s issue. It was not done flippantly, I can assure you. I chose the 1950s as this week’s challenge because it is a time period that is often seen with rose-colored glasses, cited as being a period of innocence and decency. It is the darling of the right wing conservatives, the period the current president of the United States refers to when talking about making America great again.

Of course, like any era involving humans, the 1950s were not great, even for those who benefited from that brief moment of economic prosperity. The 1950s seemed great only when compared to the horrors of World War II. The 1950s was a time of delusion and denial, when the world suffered through a long stretch of post-traumatic stress disorder and treated our collective psychological wounds with consumerism. In America, men returned with night terrors but instead of dealing with what had happened, they bought cars and houses in the suburbs and set themselves up for disappointment. They were sentimental for a time before they intimately knew the raw cruelty of humanity. They set about creating a world that replicated a time period that had never happened; humans have always been cruel and have rarely known peace.

At the same time, those who had not benefited from the status quo, such as minorities and women, came out of the war with the realization that change, even seemingly impossible change, was actually possible. For a while they played along with fantasy, left the work force and returned to the kitchens and fields. But the seeds had already been planted by that point. And when the fantasy was disrupted by what some called disorder and others called progress, well, that was a great period of hope for our species, a period when our capacity for cruelty was balanced with our capacity for compassion and true decency.

I have been thinking about the 1950s a lot lately not because of the nostalgic rhetoric of right-wing pundits but because right now we are facing a similar future. A pandemic is not the same as a war, obviously, but it is a sudden shock to our psyche, as we bear witness to the senseless loss of life that we are incapable, at this point, of stopping. I hear many talk about the things they miss about life before quarantine, as if life can just go back to being normal, as if normal was working for everyone. We are learning a lot during our respective confinements, learning about our priorities and shortcomings, and most of all about our commonalities, our need for connection and interaction. Just as it was impossible in the 1950s to return to a time that never happened, it will be impossible when the pandemic is over to go back to our old mindless habits, habits that were destructive and prohibitive. And yet, just like in the 1950s, I suspect that many will still try to do so (as we see many already doing now), and the result will be something equally captivating and fleeting. I look forward to seeing the dawn of that transition period and the even greater change that will follow.

Until then, stay safe, dear readers and writers.


In this issue, we have four stories of the 1950s:

(1) Rebel In Color by Yash Seyedbagheri

(2) Red Dawn by Mark Kodama

(3) Nineteen Fifty Something by Lynn White

(4) Remote Control by Dawn DeBraal

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Volume 2 Issue 8

For my seventh birthday, my uncle took me and my cousins to the circus. I was not particularly interested in circuses but according to the poster (this was back before the internet), they had the one thing in the world that my seven-year-old heart desired: a unicorn.

So we drove in the cranky Dodge Ram to the sports arena in the nearby city of Jacksonville and went in. Everything was gaudy and tawdry and absolutely fantastic. The roaming spotlights, the smell of elephant shit and cotton candy, the sequins and ruby red lipstick, it was so different from how I usually spent a school night. And then, the unicorn. I gripped my best cousin’s hand in anticipation. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages…

It was not a unicorn.

It was a goat.

I tried not to show my disappointment to my uncle and his wife (second wife so I did not call her my aunt). They had gone through so much trouble for a niece that they barely knew, despite the fact that I lived next door. It was before the scandals, the accusations. We were just family then.

And I did learn a valuable lesson that night, on the cusp of my seventh year: in this life, people will try and convince you that the mundane is sacred. Keep your eyes open for barnyard animals disguised as mythological creatures.


This issue, the last one for a while, features four excellent stories:

(2) The clown that was not by Sunil Sharma
(3) Elasto Man and the Siamese Sisters by Dawn DeBraal
(4) Round and Round by Lynn White
(5) Welcome To My Circus by Kelli J Gavin

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Volume 2 Prompt 8

Let’s put on a show this issue, writers: the greatest show on Earth. This issue, let’s put up the big tent and see what we can do. You have 2000 words and an extended deadline, enough time and space to dazzle and wow the audience/readers. Let’s see what you can do, writers.

Volume 2, Issue 7: Heat

Last summer, the heat was a killer. Every day, the news reported more causalities of the brutal heat wave, old people, young people, people who worked outside, played outside. A first grader died during a short excursion to the local park, prompting a nationwide campaign of keeping the children indoors, protecting them from the heat.

And now that summer dawns again, everyone is worried. Will the heat be as cruel this year, will it make us suffer, make us melt?

Heat, anthropomorphized into a killer so that we have not something to blame but someone.

In this issue’s collection of eight stories, heat influences and threatens, heat appears as an actual weapon and as a vehicle of remembrance.

(2) On a hot day some strange kinship by Sunil Sharma
(3) In the Heat of the Night by Dawn DeBraal
(4) The Newspaper Reporter by Mark Kodama
(5) Palm Leaf by Abu Siddik
(6) Cremation by Subhash Chandra
(7) HEAT by Louis Kasatkin
(8) Lakeside by Lynn White
(9) Marshmallows by Kelli J Gavin

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Volume 2 Issue 6

The first thing I noticed about…

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

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


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Volume 2 Prompt 4

Color prompts are always fun, don’t you think? So far we’ve done blue, yellow, and white. Let’s heat it up this issue with red. 

You get a longer writing session this time and double the word count as well. Make the most of it, writers.

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

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