The Sun was setting far away in the ocean’s horizon, without me having a chance to enjoy a surfing moment. From morning until then, there was not a single wave to see or feel.
It was a man resting under a coconut tree who made me lighten up. Asked what was his secret in maintaining a glowing smile without the Sun and waves, his smile became broader.
“It is the fish! They talked to me. They told me sweet things…” he managed to say, his first words. At that moment, it was self-control that kept me from bursting out loud with laughter. Respecting other people’s opinions about their world was part of me.
It was after screening for any traits of ridicule on my face with his keen eyes, that he went on with his story.
The story’s plot involved a miserable man, who went to have a deep swim in the afternoon ocean, in search of shells and pearls to sell. When the assignment was almost complete on the ocean’s floor, a shoal of zebra fish came swiftly, only to halt a meter away from where he was. “A man from this ocean will bring you a chest of gold and precious stones, right on your doorstep,” one of the fish said to him.
Probably as a sign of concluding the story, the strange man lit a roll of weed, and lazily fixed it between his cracked lips. It was at that moment, when his broad smile changed into wild laughter, that I left him to wait for the imaginary treasure man.
As I stared across the beach on the main road, a figure of a man appeared from the full-moon’s reflection on the ocean, carrying what appeared to be a chest!
Teddy Kimathi writes poetry, news-stories, quotes, and short stories. He has poems published in Leaves of Ink, Three Line Poetry (Issue #25), Shot Glass Journal (Issues #11 & #13), and Every Day Poets. His first poetry-book, Painting of Life in Poetry, was published by Lulu Press.
Clarice was the kind of child who enjoyed picking out the soft insides of a bun. That’s what made her ideal for performing autopsies. The human body is rather like a hot dog bun, she used to say. The skin is the slightly denser crust of the bun. But once you slit it down the middle, the softer, more delicious parts are revealed, in all their juicy glory.
She remembered her first experience dissecting a bun. She had found an encyclopedia showing the entire human anatomy, and had been so entranced that she studied it for hours. She wished for a cadaver of her own, to play with. When she asked for one for Christmas, her parents laughed at the silly games their daughter loved to play with them. So she took a hot dog bun and, drawing a face with a sharpie, proceeded with the Y incision on its sternum. A Y incision doesn’t work overly well on a hot dog, but she managed to pry it open, and began removing small pieces. She would pull it apart piece by piece, shaping each into a tiny organ. Later, she put the whole bun back together, each little organ in its appropriate spot, except for the liver. She returned the bun to the bag.
When she asked for a cadaver again for her 11th birthday, her parents grew concerned.
It didn’t take long for Clarice to graduate from autopsies on buns, to autopsies on small animals. She never killed them herself, mind you. She only took ones that were already dead, and tried to figure out how they died. She soon became quite good, and the neighbourhood kids would bring her any critters they found, to watch the master at work. She would dissect them, make her pronouncements, and put them back together, stitching them up with her mother’s needle and thread. None in her audience knew enough about anatomy to check that all the pieces were present.
When she reached university, she began to study forensic science with gusto. Her professors were amazed at how fast she learned, and how adept she was with the scalpel. Years of training do help one.
Graduating top of her class, she was offered a position straight out of university, working for the local police department. She took it. Being the last person to open up the dead bodies, no one ever noticed how few healthy livers made it out of her workspace.
And still, Clarice slices opens her buns. She makes a single vertical incision now, rather than the Y. But always, she reaches in, and pulls out a small piece. She shapes it in to a liver. She places it in her mouth, before greedily attacking the rest of the bun, devouring it whole. Her cravings are getting worse, and this delights her.
Martin Chandler is a writer and composer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is currently dodging cars in Monterey, California.
Before we left Earth, I was in love with a woman named Rhonda. I know, right? Rhonda. It doesn’t exactly sing. But she did — alto, knew all the harmonies to all the songs. Or it seemed like she did, she was that good at making them up. I used to find crazy radio stations, playing styles I normally would have hated, just to hear her jamming with those loonies.
Rhonda loved her cat Rufus. Rhonda and Rufus, like a couple from an old TV show. But Rufus didn’t love me. In his eyes I was the annoying neighbor who wouldn’t take a hint and leave. He used to tow my sneakers around her apartment, worrying them like a dog with a bone. They always ended up closer to the door when he finished with them. Or he’d crawl into my lap, all sweet, and Rhonda would coo at us, and he’d dig his claws into my leg. In and out.
“He’s kneading you,” Rhonda said. “That’s what they do when they’re happy.”
Sure, he was happy: happy to be gouging my thigh, and probably dreaming of taking a swipe at somewhere a little more delicate.
Not that I left because of Rufus. You don’t have to flee a whole planet to escape a housecat. I think I might’ve won if I’d stayed to rival him — and that would have been a shame. In the end, Rufus was going to die in that house. I was just stopping through.
That’s the way relationships go. The chances of incorporating another human being into your happily-ever-after are slim under any circumstances. And personally I’d picked out my ending years earlier: “And he left with the Mars colonists.” That didn’t leave room for anybody else.
I’d signed up a decade before I met Rhonda. There’s a wait list about an acre long, on top of it costing a kidney and a half. That’s a metaphor; it actually cost cold hard cash, which is also a metaphor because I paid by debit card. Plus they take half your weekends. You’ve got to learn all this survival crap.
Anyway. The call came. I had made a downpayment. It was my dream. Et cetera.
I sat on Rhonda’s couch, my last night on Earth, watching reruns with her. I microwaved some popcorn. Rufus licked my fingers and dug into my thigh. For a couple of hours, it felt like we were a family in a catalog, like we’d stay right there forever.
I wore nice neat clothes kind of hoping Rhonda would mess them up. But she was tired, and she had to work early the next morning. She dressed in gray sweats and kicked me out early with a quick kiss. “See you this weekend? You don’t have space training Saturday, do you?” She said it with a little half-smile, the leftover amusement from early days when she thought my dream trip to Mars was a fantastic joke.
I shook my head. “Not this week.”
When she closed the door I was halfway down the first flight of stairs. I crept back to leave a letter by her door, where she’d step on it in the morning.
Outside, the moon hung low and yellow among tree branches. I put my palm on my car’s window and stood for three breaths.
Then I went back. Collected my goodbye. And headed home.
I set an auto response on my e-mail: “Sorry, Jason has gone to Mars! (Yes, really.) Thank you for your friendship or business in his time on Earth. Best wishes!”
So I guess she’s found out where I disappeared to, by now.
I threw the letter out, with most of the stuff in my apartment. She didn’t need a memento, and neither do I. Better for both of us to move on with things.
Bet Rufus is pleased, though.
Some nights — well, using the term loosely — during the long flight through space, after the lectures on colonization, on air-supply safety or homestead construction or greenhouse gardening are through, I can sit quiet, meditating, and feel Rufus’s claws going in and out of my leg. I remember Rhonda’s rich alto harmonies, and the way she laughed, burying her face in Rufus’s fur or my shoulder, almost interchangeably. I’m glad I don’t have a letter or a photo to get maudlin over, or to scare off the girls on this trip, the available few from among whom I’ll need to find a mate to populate a new world.
Wilma Bernard has previously had work published by Metro Moms and Youth Imagination, as well as here at Every Day Fiction.
The truck stop at the junction of 64 and 81 was just what Darrel needed. Oil, sun glasses, Red Bull, beef jerky, ammo. The man at the counter had a gruff countenance and an impressive beard. He gave Darrel a plastic bag with a hole in it and K-Mart lettering on the side.
Darrel brought his recycled bag of goodies back to his beat-up station wagon and didn’t waste any time admiring the sunset.
Fuck the po-lice, thought Darrel as he pulled back on to 81 South.
There were plenty of run-ins, back in grade school, but they didn’t amount to much. Still, they would definitely have his fingerprints.
“Fuck the po-lice,” said Darrel.
A giggle erupted from the back of the car, and Darrel slammed on the brakes.
“Aw, shit no, Eleanor.” Darrel screeched across two lanes to pull to the side of the interstate, anger dripping off his forehead in fat beads of sweat.
“Hehe-eeeee,” squealed the stowaway.
The smell of burning rubber wafted about the car as they came to a stop. Darrel put the emergency brake on and turned to face his niece, who was grinning mischievously from behind the backseat.
“You been back there for an hour?” he asked. “You can’t go to the god-damned grocery store without a pee break, and you been hiding for a fucking hour?” He felt his face turning red. Leave it to a five-year-old to ruin his getaway. Leave it to his slutty sister to forget how to play mom.
Eleanor began to cry.
“If you was your mother, I’d drop your sorry ass on the side of the road,” Darrel said. There was no use even trying to calm the girl down. He ought to drag her out of the car for a good spanking, but then some buttoned-up yuppie would call the cops on his way by.
Cops were the last thing Darrel needed. Cops and baby girls.
“How am I supposed to get you home, girl?” he asked.
“Don’t wanna go home!” wailed Eleanor in a high-pitched shriek.
“Won’t.” The tears were gone, replaced by a sturdy pout.
He couldn’t go back to his sister’s, anyway. They’d be questioning her by now. He’d hoped that some misplaced sisterly obligation would keep her quiet, but now… now she’d tell them everything. He wouldn’t stand a chance. A tall, bearded redneck in a scuffed-up suit that didn’t fit and a cranky mixed-race child wearing — were those playboy bunnies on her pajamas?
“Eleanor,” he began.
“Won’t!” she shrieked. “Momma don’t want me anyway. She leave me with Gregory an he don’t even remember dinner.” Tears brewed in her eyes again. “Uncle Darrel, I’m hungry.”
“She drops you off at Gregory’s? The man who used to shoot at Maggie’s dog?”
“Yeah.” Eleanor’s bottom lip quivered.
“And he don’t feed you?”
“No. He only got tunafish inna can.”
“You lying to me?”
Eleanor shook her head. Darrel sighed.
“Climb on up here, girl.”
Eleanor scrambled to the front of the car and sat triumphantly in the passenger seat next to him. He was about to ask her what, exactly, he was supposed to do with her, when the inevitable happened. A highway cop pulled up behind him. No blinking lights, just a chubby police officer who must have gotten bored of Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Here’s how it goes, baby doll,” said Darrel. “You gotta pee, okay?”
Eleanor creased her eyebrows together and scrunched up her button nose.
“No I don’t.”
In the rearview mirror, Darrel watched the police officer get out of his car and shuffle towards them. He estimated that he had less than ten seconds to get Eleanor to play along.
“It’s pretend, see?” he said, forcing a smile. “You pretend I’m your daddy, and you gotta pee, and no matter what I say you just gotta pee worse and worse. It’s funny, right? Because that man back there, he don’t know you’re pretending. It’s just you and me that know.”
“Like a trick?” Eleanor asked, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
“Just like that,” Darrel said as he rolled down the window.
“Do you need any help?” asked the police officer.
“No sir, officer, I just stopped to look at, uh, directions.”
Eleanor began to squirm.
“Yeah, where you headed?” the officer asked.
“Headed to… Charleston. West Virginia, not, uh, South Carolina.” He cleared his throat. “I think we’re all set, though. Called and got directions.” His hands were sweating. Did the cop notice? Darrel could hear the distant squawk of the dispatch radio. Incessant.
“Daddy, I gotta pee!”
“Yep, well, you’re goin in the right direction. Visiting family?” The cop rested his chubby arm on the frame of the car above the window and leaned down.
“Thanks. Yep. Yep. Visiting grandma, right, E-? Right, Emma?”
Eleanor nodded mid-squirm, then pouted. She was doing better than him, with his sweaty palms and his stunted speech.
“Ain’t that sweet. So where you coming from? Up North?”
“Richmond.” Stupid. Stupid, stupidstupid.
“Oh yeah?” The man furrowed his brow, as if looking at Darrel for the first time. In the distance, the dispatch radio squawked away. Every other muffled word sounded like ‘bank’ or ‘robbery.’ But maybe that was his imagination.
“Da-deeeeeee!” It was the same shriek that had pierced Darrel’s ears moments ago, but this time it was almost musical. Darrel masked his grin with a reproachful glance, and winked so only Eleanor could see.
“Darlin, would you give us one moment? This officer is tryin to be helpful.”
“I’m sorry to hold you up,” the cop said. “You best be going before this one has an accident.” With a nod, he departed.
Eleanor exploded in a bout of giggles.
“All right, little lady,” said Darrel, pulling back on to the interstate. “It’s a long drive. Buckle up.”
A trunk full of twenties, a loaded gun, Red Bull, beef jerky, and a baby girl. Just what he needed to get all the way to Mexico.
Amy R. Biddle is a sailor and writer who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her debut novel, The Atheist’s Prayer, is a dark comedy about a fairy-worshiping suicide cult. Amy has also written a smattering of poetry and articles both online and in local newsletters, and one of her poems was selected for the 2013 Poetic Republic collection. In addition to writing, she co-runs Underground Book Reviews, a review site for quality independent literature.
Okren crested the granite cliff face with a last, shuddering heave. His muscles — though honed through labor — felt new and untried. Perhaps that was the purpose of the pilgrimage, he pondered as he knelt before the stone altar and fought to catch his breath. Not just holy sacrifice, but humble penitence as well.
He shook his sweat-slickened head. Such thoughts were beyond him. The prelates dealt with those matters, learned the secrets of plants and animals, told the stories of the skies, and predicted the coming of the blood moons. Their old throats sang the songs of the great wars and spurred the Chosen onward with righteous fury and the ghost of vengeful justice.
Okren scanned the twilit sky for the pale sister-lover of Great Herune. There, in the east, she waited, full-bellied with child. The blood sacrifice of labor had yet to mar her features. Soon, but not yet.
The icy winds shifted and bore to him the acrid scent of campfire. Okren stood, the leather of his armor creaking with the motion. There, across the clearing, tucked into an alcove in the mountain, firelight flickered. He drew his spear.
The weed-choked flagstones shushed his approach as he circled the altar towards the light. Only when he neared did he make out the figure sitting behind the flames.
“What are you doing here, female?” he barked. Okren’s grip tightened about the haft of his weapon, though he would not shame himself by bringing it to bear on a woman. Not unless he had to.
The stranger shifted, the ochre blaze of the fire casting her exotic features into the realm of daydream. She rose with care, the threadbare quilt about her shoulders parting enough to expose the mound of her belly.
“Dovik-ken,” the honorary slipped off her tongue with practiced care.
Okren inclined his head. “Wyrm-ken,” he accused, lip curling over the phrase. If she noted the insult, her dawn-rosy eyes did not tell him. “What are you doing here? You should leave before my mood sours.”
“I cannot return,” she stated, easing back to the ground. “And nor can you. Not without performing the ritual first.”
Okren shook his head. “What do you know of such things?”
“I know what all my kind know, that we must send one of our own here to die for the oaths of old souls long passed over.”
“But you are no warrior. How do you expect to fight?”
She shrugged. “I do not. I expect to die.”
Okren paced before the fire. This was not as he’d been told. He’d been sent to test his warrior’s mettle; to sanctify his people’s pact as the gods ordained. And so he’d set his feet to this journey, to preserve the balance between betrayer and betrayed.
He sat, legs suddenly heavy. “I will not kill a woman, especially one with child.”
“Why not?” she asked. “Your people have murdered countless of my male kin, turning their wives into widows. Do you think they did not suffer because they weren’t here to spill their blood upon this blasphemous ground?”
“Do not seek to cloud my judgment, belly-crawler. My people know of your wicked ways.”
The female spat into the fire. “What do you know of us beyond what lies your leaders have fed you?”
Okren turned his eyes to the sky. Above him, the grace of Herune’s sister had grown tainted with the rust of birthing blood. It was time.
He rose and made his way around the fire. The female eyed him from her nest amid the blankets, coal-black hair tinged purple in the coming night. To the Wyrm-ken’s credit, she did not flinch when he pointed his spear towards her.
“There is another way,” she whispered, eyes staring past the weapon’s tip. Okren paused, willing her to continue. “There are many ways to defeat a foe. Death is one, union is the other.”
“Union?” Okren tested the word.
“Marriage,” the female supplied.
Okren took a step back. “What foul rite do you propose?”
She scoffed. “Only a Dovik-ken would consider companionship foul.”
Okren eyed her a moment. “This is not our way.”
She shrugged, jarring her quilt. A pale stretch of unblemished skin peeked out from the succor of her sanguine dress.
“Ways change. What good is death when it serves no purpose? Too long have our peoples been apart. Would it not serve our Creators to live together as one family?”
“But the Great Betrayal…” Okren ventured. Even to his ears, the protest rang hollow.
She leaned towards him, the spear’s tip dangerously close to her neck. “An event so long past to be ancient history.” They shared a silent moment, the only sound that of the fire as it fought against the wind, casting sparks into the sky.
Okren lowered his weapon. What glory would the death of two innocents give his name? More appealing a question, what glory would bonding with a Wyrm-ken wife give his line? With their magicks, and his people’s hardiness, old rifts could be mended. The two halves of this land made whole.
“You are not…” Okren searched for the word, “…bound to another?”
The woman shook her head. “His light was diminished seasons ago.”
“And your heart?” he pressed, suddenly worried.
She smiled. “Ready to bloom amid the peace of our nations.”
Okren brandished his spear once more. With a swift motion, he passed his palm across the razor-sharp head. He squeezed his hand; let the blood drip into the dry, hungry earth.
“Then let this be the last blood shed between our kind.” He held out his hand.
The woman approached and grasped the spear, drawing her hand across the blood-kissed tip. She clasped his outstretched hand. Fingers intertwined, they stood beneath the light of the goddess moon as she bore her transformation into motherhood.
“What shall I call you?” Okren asked in a whisper.
“Nealla,” she said. “In the language of my people, it means: beloved of the enemy.”
Stephanie Bissette-Roark holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University with a major in History and a minor in English. She judiciously ignores this education when writing and reading speculative fiction. Two close encounters with death in childhood lead to a life-long fascination with the macabre; because of this, she is a writer of horror, fantasy, paranormal romance, and poetry. She also works as the associate submissions editor for Evil Girlfriend Media LLC. Stephanie lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband, Matthew, and their two wrasslin’ cats.