All Stories, General Fiction

Jimmy, the Architect by Dan Shpyra

As he was falling from the rooftop, Jimmy`s whole life flashed before his eyes. That is why it was even more upsetting. A gap year in Australia, a few good years at college, and a job until he finds something better. After his skull would have crushed against asphalt, his brain splashed all over the road, and his broken limbs would be packed in a plastic bag, would there be a grand procession? Or, perhaps, just his parents and two or three friends would mourn him for a month. Falling, Jimmy knew: the latter was the case. They would have to use vague language during his eulogy sprinkled with cliches, for there was not much to tell.

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Short Fiction

Ago-a-Go-Go by Leila Allison


As the ruling Penname of the multiverse realm called Saragun Springs, I‘m a stranger to the sweet smell of success, but an expert on the fulsome stench of failure. At that low level of expectation, my Imaginary Friend, Renfield, our stable of two-hundred-thirty Fictional Character (FC’s) actors and I just wrapped our first full length “feature”–a seventy-thousand word production best described as “Waiting on the Man in the Hundred-Acre Wood.” Sadly, even the most optimistic individuals in the realm know that the prospect of mainstream success for Welcome to Saragun Springs is as likely as Disney releasing an animated version of Caligula.

Fortunately, it’s an infinite multiverse, loaded with undiscovered acts of futility.

Unsurprisingly, on the Earth you inhabit, there isn’t what I’d call a great deal of interest in publishing circles for books that lack a definable target audience. Moreover, there is hostility displayed by publishers to writers who blatantly mention smoking, drinking, drugging in their works without once saying anything negative about them.

Then there’s my attitude. I believe most book publishers say “Watch me dance” then stuff their heads up their asses and roll off into the purple twilight. I don’t usually share that, but you can smell it on my breath.

But, as I say, it’s an infinite multiverse.

For instance, Saragun Springs has a “sister realm” called Other Earth. Due to a silly misunderstanding that occurred long ago, I can’t visit Other Earth without risking what Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu got for Christmas in 1989. Word around the campfire claims that “Leila Allison!” is what Other Earthlings say when they stub their toes in the dark and is the closet creature Other Earth parents threaten their children with. Other Earth is even a greater cesspool of conspiracy theories than regular Earth is. Over there, the zanies claim that I caused the Nuclear Monsters that exist only in regular Earth science fiction flicks of the 50’s to be real over there–due to an ill-thought time travel experiment I engaged in a while back. But I say if it stomps Tokyo like a Godzilla, vomits flame like a Godzilla and quacks like a Godzilla, well, goddammit, it is Godzilla, and I can prove that he is not my intellectual property.

Now it might seem that getting my “brand” over in a world that hates me intensely is yet another ill-thought idea, on par with pitching a pop-up book in certain areas of the world starring a religious personage not named Jesus Christ. But what is life without risk? Still, getting published in Other Earth remains pretty much out of the question.

And to top it off, just the other day, the book situation proved that shit runs uphill in my realm. That’s not a trick of the eye like “The Electric Brae” in South Ayrshire Scotland, or the “Magic Spot” in Oregon, U.S.A., but an actual physical law; or at least it is from my viewpoint as the ruling Pen of Saragun Springs. If I had a detailed job description, then “parrying away various uphill tumbling patties, turds and loaves” should be in it. On a normal day at least one crapbomb of some type bounds into my metaphorically elevated office. Some days are regular shit-blizzards, which cause me to pull a mop and bucket out of the closet and situate them in my chair before slinking off to friendlier or, at least less crappy, climes. I drew a pair of glasses and a mouth with a cigarette on the bucket with a Sharpie long ago–for most shitstorms are easily fooled. Regardless of precaution, I’m often caught out where the feces is flung.


Renfield breezed into the office and said “Great news!” She says that a lot, and when she does I curse myself for again not devising a shitstorm shelter.

Daisy Cloverleaf the Pygmy Goatess was close behind Renfield and I was given a start when Boots the Impaler, a Siamese Cat (aka, “BTI”), gracefully leapt onto my desk, for I hadn’t seen him enter the room.

Daisy and BTI are leading FC players in Saragun Springs, while Renfield is my only Imaginary Friend; she’s also second in command. All figure prominently in Welcome to Saragun Springs, and are getting pushy about its publication.

“You now see a mop with an upside down bucket for a head, not Leila,” I said, playing a longshot.

“Impossible,” said BTI. “Those items are far more lifelike.” Boots has the rich voice of a high end Shakespearean actor, think Cumberbatch. It gives the lamest of quips an air of gravitas that would not be there if spoken by the average talking Siamese Cat.

“Darling, you are looking at three of the four co-founders of Ago-a-Go-Go Publishing,” Renfield said.

“Who’s the fourth,” I asked, “Shep?”

“Maybe she really is a mop and bucket,” said Daisy.

“Our partner would rather remain anonymous–for the moment,” Renfield said.

“Anonymous in a shy manner–or as in the mafia behind a casino fashion?”

BTI slowly walked across the desk, maintaining eye contact like a Spaghetti Western gunfighter. He sat down inches from me and began licking his swatting paw, claws extended, still holding his gaze.

“Ha! Trying to dampen my curiosity with the threat of muscle, eh?” I said. “Well, take that tough guy.” I pulled the vial of “Kitty Goggles” pheromones I always keep in my jacket pocket for feline emergencies and sprayed a healthy dose of it on BTI’s muzzle.

“C’mon! C’mon! You’re no daisy! You’re no daisy at all!”

“Altered” Cats are especially susceptible to the effects of Kitty Goggles brand pheromones. Your unfixed Tom will hit on a stuffed Woodchuck while under the influence, but the responsibly neutered assume an attitude of what William S Burroughs referred to as “Vegetable Serenity.” Plainly, the mist put BTI on the nod. He flopped onto his back and was purring and drooling and by far the happiest person in the room.

“Of course he’s not me,” said Daisy.

“Ah, Day-zee,” I said, “that’s from Tombstone. Doc Holiday says it when he blows Johnny Ringo’s mind.”

“If you say so,” Daisy said. “Maybe reliance on quotes from thirty year old movies is a part of what’s holding you back.”

“But fortunately we now have Ago-a-Go-Go Publishing in the realm,” Renfield said.

“Ah, back to that again,” I said, scratching BTI’s chin and looking for my smokes. “Let’s see, this latest fecal fiasco involves you, Lil’ Miss Passive Aggressive Pants down there, the Feline dope fiend and a secret partner.”

“Define, ‘passive aggressive’?” Daisy said.

“It means ‘who’s ready for asparagus tips?’” I said. I keep sealed containers of Bratty Goat asparagus tips in yet another jacket pocket. Pygmy Goats are as notorious as Deer when it comes to eating the tips off plants and flowers.

Daisy trotted around to my side of the desk and politely took the package. Then she got a bit snotty, for there is a part of her personality that will always be like a two-year-old child.

“Um, better let me open that for you,” I said. Although Daisy is a talking Goat capable of using a Chromebook, she is still a hoofed animal, thus thumbless, which makes certain tasks impossible.

“No! I can do it!” she snapped.

“Just trying to help.”

“No! No! No! I can do it!” And she remedied the situation by eating the package along with the contents.

“Fine,” I grumbled, at last locating my cigarettes, “I’m not the one who has to shit plastic pellets.”

I lit a cigarette and studied Renfield. If a person could be described as “hiding a smile behind her back,” then you have Renfield. Although exceedingly honest, she nimbly avoids questions and has the wearying habit of letting out quarks of information at a time–mainly, she reveals pertinent facts a bit close to the final bell.

“Guess it will be faster if I play along,” I said.

“I’ll warm up the cart.”


The little golf cart we use to navigate Saragun Springs has a top speed of three miles an hour. Since everything in the realm is magically about a mile from everything else, even my education is able to arrive at an ETA of twenty minutes.

We put BTI to bed and Renfield, Daisy and I got into the cart. Renfield drove and Daisy sat on my lap and worked a cud made out of the plastic the asparagus tips were in.

Our little sun, Pong, was especially active; like everyone and thing else in Saragun Springs, Pong has Free Will–not as in the choose God or else version of Free Will, but in the literal sense. Although Pong observes a strict twelve hour schedule, rising at six in the morning and setting at the same in the evening, everything else is up for grabs. He moves at various speeds, changes directions and makes it impossible to have an accurate Pongdial in the realm. He was darting about like a celestial Hummingbird, creating crazy shadows. An earlier altercation between Pong and his brother, our moon, Ping, resulted in a sky over the realm that has a repeating paisley pattern. Just being here saves money on acid.

We headed to Saragun Springs’ only “city”–Ago-a-Go-Go. No one lives in Ago-a-Go-Go. It is our version of a backlot–part studio city, part stage, where we “shoot” our stories. It has various sections dedicated to past decades, and a “Town Square” that is used for the Now, Deeper Then and the Future. The “streets” are named for decades starting with the 1960’s. These exist because those are the decades that transpired/transpire during our “Employer’s” life. That is the best I can do to explain the “Ago” part. The “a-Go-Go,” however, was the result of drunkenness. It sounded like a good idea about halfway into a bottle of Crown Royal and it was too late to take back upon awakening in the gray afterdream.

There’s a prop pyramid standing in the Town Square. We use it for all kinds of things–it has four triangular sides made from pieces of plywood, stands about fifteen feet tall and is indifferently covered by “red brick” wallpaper. In past shoots the pyramid has been everything from a temple for The Great Witch HeXopatha to a Caretaker’s Cottage in a cemetery. We parked the cart in front of the pyramid and I saw a paper sign taped above the small opening in the pyramid. It said AGO-A-GO-GO PUBLIKATIONS in Sharpie.

All along I had been casting about my mind for the identity of the “secret partner.” HeXopatha and Pie-Eyed Peety the PDQ Pilsner Pigeon always head the usual suspects list–but not this time. Renfield and HeXopatha do not play well, and both have expressed a desire to live long enough to breakdance on the other’s grave. And Peety is gleefully illiterate and not likely to head up a publishing firm–even though that isn’t necessarily a problem on your Earth.

The mystery was solved when I saw two sleek ebon Rats carry a gold gilt gavel into the pyramid. Although the Rats work for HeXopatha, they are willing to do day labor in the realm if you bribe them. Renfield produced a pair of Tiparillo cigars and paid the Rodents when they exited without the gavel.

“Shall we?” she said, flashing that behind the back smile of hers at me.

“All right,” I sighed.

Daisy had fallen asleep. I somehow removed the gross plastic cud from her mouth, wrapped it in a handkerchief, put it in my pocket, and followed Renfield inside, leaving Daisy snoring in the cart.

There’s not a lot of headroom inside the pyramid, even for those of us who are not “vertically challenged” but flat out short. Renfield and I had to stoop low and enter as though it were a teepee.

I saw an arrangement of lit votives, a Chromebook and the gavel atop a card table. There was also another handmade sign taped to the table. “KONTENT EDITOR.” Daisy often does battle with C v. K, and comes up a bit shy, so I figured she was the organization’s sign maker.

The Spirit of my Great Great Great Great Grandfather, Judge Jasper P. Montague, haunts the gold gilt gavel the Rats had brought in. The gavel normally sits on my desk; the Rats had obviously boosted it from my office while we were on the road and had easily kept pace with the sluggish cart.

All Spirits are specialists. The Judge is no exception. His “superpower” is the ability to rearrange words (or symbols) in a manuscript (paper or virtual) into something entirely different. This makes the Judge a “Quillemender”–an undead Editor of sorts.

The easiest way to communicate with the Judge is to open Google Docs and knock in a bunch of gibberish then ask the gavel a question. The Judge can only travel ten paces from his gavel, which he was presented upon retirement: Versatur Circa Quid is inscribed in the gavel. Roughly it is Latin for “What Comes Round Goes Round.”

I noticed that the Chromebook was an old one of mine that I use only for communicating with the Judge. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen it for a while.

“How many cigars?” I asked, nodding at it. Renfield held up six fingers.

I opened Docs and typed a bunch of letters and spaces and numbers. Then I asked the gavel: “What’s it all about, Great to the fourth Grandfather?”

Quills move keys by forming both minute cold and hot spots that form micro twisters that can depress keys, remarkably fast.

This is what he wrote:

“Versatur Circa Quid, distant Granddaughter!

The Ago-a-Go-Go Publishing mission statement resembles that of Lady Liberty. “Send us your poorly worded, muddled messes.” For a fee, our esteemed editors will suggest improvements, which will be made by me, a literal Ghostwriter. We are going to advertise heavily at Other Earth and expect to do great business. And with the proceeds we hope to get Welcome to Saragun Springs on shelves soon–though there’s still unlikely to be a strong Other Earth Market.

Versatur Circa Quid!”

Daisy had awakened and trotted in. She applied her keen cud sniffing skills and attempted to nose it out of my pocket.

“Better let me help you with that.”

“No! No! No! I can do it myself!”

“Knock yourself out,” I sighed. “I was just thinking that there’s never enough Goat spit in my pockets.”

“Would you care to hear our submission guidelines?” Renfield asked, beaming her best behind the back smile.

I lit a cigarette off a votive. “‘Submission guidelines?’ What kind of crazy talk is that?” Then I started to laugh maniacally as the absurdity of that concept bounced through my mind.

“Typical writer,” Appeared on the screen of the Judge’s Chromebook.

“Right?” Renfield said upon reading his message.

Through her cud now composed of plastic and my handkerchief, Daisy got out, “She ain’t no Daisy. No Daisy at all.”

Leila Allison

All Stories, General Fiction

They Say He Was a Biter By Hari Khalsa

The office was dark except for the bluish glow of two monitors which illuminated Hari Deva Singh’s wrinkled face and long scraggly white beard, like a twenty-first century wizard coding his newest spell. He sat back and scrolled to the top of this night’s Facebook post, furrowing his brow as he read through what he had written.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Dress For Success by Stephanie Greene

Caroline bought her dachshund a Harvard coat. It was maroon polar fleece with an oversize insignia. Forty-five bucks to impress her new boyfriend’s family.

But Ruckus was not Harvard material. Tailgating at The Game, he yanked free, barked at babies, and absconded with a turkey drumstick. When she caught him, Caroline couldn’t leave him in the car, afraid he’d open the hamper or attack the upholstery, so she walked him around the roaring stadium, waxing philosophical. Kip and his parents went inside.

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All Stories, sunday whatever

Sunday Whoever

This week’s Whoever has been with us since May 2021 when he had the beautiful All My Darlings Waiting published. Now it’s time to find out more about this writer of poignant, lyrical work. We sent Antony a list of questions and his responses are as thoughtful as his fiction writing. If you haven’t read any of Antony Osgood’s work you really are missing a treat.

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Short Fiction

Week 431: Going Nuts the Old Fashioned Way

Traditional Crazy

The Google age has ruined wracking your mind to the point of a breakdown while trying to locate an essentially useless piece of information that you know is in there. I have always been stubborn about asking people questions regarding a forgotten meaningless item; I derive a sense of accomplishment upon at last digging a pointless fact out of the rubble in my mind. I consider such the mental equivalent of the slightly pathetic and disgusting activity of using your tongue to dislodge a morsel stuck between teeth, even though there are toothpicks in the kitchen.

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All Stories, Fantasy

After Dark by Nico Gurdjian

Ida hates the sunset. She also has a profound dislike for the ocean, Greece, Italian villas, and all 30,000 islands of the Pacific Ocean. But every morning she wakes up to one of them, rotating views out her window: a nightmare cycle of 5 star resort views. Sometimes she thinks she is already dead, stuck in a penitentiary of hell’s ennui where every day is more passive then the last.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Backsides by Amita Basu

In the headquarters of Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation, we sit over lunch. The powder-blue walls smell damp; the fans hanging on ten-foot-long rods from the high ceiling whirr lackadaisically, barely moving the swamp-thick air; our lunch is white rice, fish curry, and sweets; and the only way to stay awake this midsummer afternoon is to jabber.

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All Stories, General Fiction

What’s in a Drink? by Sushma R Doshi

They call me an English movie addict. True that. I watch every movie, web series and show streaming out of Hollywood. Not watch. Binge watch. Everyday. Till my eyes ache and my head hurts. I watch those images on my television, riveted by those pretty houses and manicured green lawns in what they call the suburbs, the crowds in…what they refer to as downtown, walking briskly to work, women in heels, men in blazers and overcoats…. the glamor of beaches, blue oceans and snow capped mountains. Even the sunlight seems different…. a golden hue showering gently on the landscape. Basking in the sun was a term invented for them. Here it is a blazing sun scorching the earth and burning us. But out of these pictures, it is that of a woman driving to a bar for a drink that I’m addicted to.

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

The Ballad of Simon Bolter by David Ford

The only thing fake about me is my name. Everything else, from the leather of my riding coat, to the bullets in my revolver, to most importantly, the intentions in my heart, are very real. To the world, I will soon be known as Simon Bolter, but to one currently unsuspecting soul, I will even sooner be known as “the man who robbed me.”

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