All Stories, Fantasy

The Grim Morass by David Samuels

They say you’re a paladin, but all I see is a fool.

Look at you: armored like a crawdad with the brains to match. One wrong move on that poleboat and you’ll sink to the base of the swamp.

Gimme your hand. Let’s get you back on solid ground—if you can call this pier solid. The stilts wobble in the sludge, so watch your step.

Not a talker, clearly. Don’t bother unrolling that scroll. I know all about your oath of silence. Word travels fast among us Marshmen. As the village shaman, I was among the first to learn about your little quest. You seek redemption, yes?

Then go home. Adopt a war orphan and get on with your life. Truth be told, you’d have better luck floating in that platemail than slaying the Bogroth.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Transformation by Silke Katja Roch

It is early, the first cool, unflinching rays just touching the rocky outcrops above the house, damp drags of fog still clinging to the bottom of the little valley. The air is fresh and dewy, it smells of wet grass and earth and pines. Quite beautiful really, but also eerie and very still.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Not Criminally Responsible by Harrison Kim

You move into the world, a mind arrival, after a disturbing darkness.  First you perceive outside the body visual… another odd spot on the ceiling.  Peer at the shape, like an inner organ.  Not the spot itself, though it has a strange form, but what hides behind it, from the writing in your dream.   In this dream, you came walking through a heavy mist.  You perceived yourself moving in a swirling, grey white wash of cloud come to earth.  Then you entered the corporeal, inside a body walking from a car towards the front of a gated institution.  You understood that you possessed the persona of a staff member, approaching daily work at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital….the hospital for the criminally insane.  You walked in this persona, up a road which bridges over a dike built to repel high water, a barrier that separates the hospital from the surrounding farmland. You observed the man-made berm with the oak tree at its summit.  You stepped by the sixteen-foot-high fence and the wall cameras.  You pulled out an electronic fob and opened the blue iron gate, and entered the inner grounds. The pastel buildings lay about at diamond-shaped angles, over a small rise you perceived the Central Hall.   You looked past the staff person’s early morning bleariness and found your own motivation for walking in his shoes: the need to know the truth about yourself.  You possessed the staff’s body and followed his path, and his path led to the office of Poplar Central Ward.

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All Stories, General Fiction, Horror

Paraffin Lamp by Alex Sinclair – Warning – strong language and content that some readers will find upsetting

“Verminous dole scrounging deadbeats poetically whingeing that’s all it is, lamenting wistfully about the plight of their work-shy genes. The Celtic curse so it is, forever waxing philosophical about being a shite for brains’ pisshead.”

He stops. He has run away with himself and he can’t remember what he was talking about.

Packy is barely cognizant of where he is. He exists in half dream, half myth.

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Cheap Tricks by Alex Sinclair – Warning Adult Content

“Thanks love,” the red-faced punter wheezed, tossing over a tenner, as Charity Proudfoot wiped away the spunk he had dispensed on her lip with the back of a frayed coat sleeve.

She didn’t reciprocate with a banal pleasantry of her own, as per usual, she just took the dishonest twenty and climbed out the motor, which is how she knew a monster of a rattle was on the way if she didn’t hurry up and get her shit together. Normally you couldn’t shut her up.

Charity the chatterbox had been her school moniker, or as her mam preferred, a right mouthy little pain in the arse.

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Karaoke At The Pincher’s Arms by Hugh Cron – Warning Adult Content

Jimmy’s knees were indented where his elbows dug into them.

He gently moved to and fro on the swing. He could hear his father singing some old song that he’d heard too many times. He looked across the road and saw Charlie The Paedo staring at him. Jimmy knew if he told his dad, he’d end up in jail again.

He heard the pub door open, “Here you go son. Is your mum not back from the bogs?”

The boy shook his head. He accepted the crisps and can of Coke.

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All Stories, Horror

The Metamorphosis by Jess McColl

After my husband died I gained a friend, Kafka is his name. One would suppose that having a cockroach is somewhat akin to having lice or genital crabs, a tabooed parasite that will ultimately tarnish a lady’s reputation and habits if discovered, but Kafka is a special kind of companion. His favourite place is atop the kitchen radio where he habitually gyrates to Jazz FM in the early hours of the morning, watching me drink cheap Chardonnay and speaking to me reassuringly in the sweet-butter voice of Jeremy Irons. Before I was enlightened to his more practical uses, I admittedly went through a spell of being rather ruthless; I wanted to kill him, but in the most decent, kindest way for everyone involved. So, naturally, I concluded the obvious. Flushing. Yes, flushing him down the toilet in a vortex, much like a flume at Water World except with feces and used tampons at the end, a cockroach’s paradise. So I tried. I dutifully dropped him in the toilet and flushed, watching rather sadly as he spun. But the little chap just coughed, spluttered softly, and crawled back up. I discovered after that they can live for up to a week without their head, a month without food, and can hold their breath for forty minutes at a time; a species that would undoubtedly survive an apocalypse. They are resilient, gregarious creatures. So of course, in time, Kafka soon had a friend, a wife perhaps, and spawned a tribe of lovers and cousins and acquaintances and one-night-stands. I began to realise Kafka’s army were quite efficient at cleaning up my often neglected messes. Far more so than my old Henry Hoover friend, with his can-do eyes and pleasing suction trunk, that now just sits looking forlorn, gathering dust. Cockroaches eat crumbs, dust, hair, sewage, decaying matter, and even each other; they are the perfect companions to a less than perfect housewife. Someone like me needs a helping hand once in a while. Try as I might I can never keep on top of the housework for long, being too easily lured by afternoon wine and my artistic pursuits. George, my late husband, used to (rather too sternly, if I do say so) remind me to ‘CLEAN YOUR F*#&ING ACT UP’, but there’s no one here anymore to keep me in check.

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller, Short Fiction

Cutthroat by Alex Sinclair

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Murphy Conway was half Albert’s age and twice his size, but all Murphy had to do was look into the pieces of flint that were Albert’s eyes to know he could never take him, even if he did him dirty and started it from the side.

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