Old Man Centipede

Old Man Centipede was a quiet sort, given to reverie within the multi-chambered dampness of The Hollow Mount, a path up from which afforded him clear observation of the hatchlings, hunting spiders in The Wasteland beyond the great burrow of the old log which had served as his home for six years. He’d heard rumblings of late that the Formican Horde had conquered all the eastern lands of the Outer Wild and now sought dominion over the Inner Reach. He was concerned, but confident the horde would never make ingress to the mount when so many proud centipedes yet lingered.

One day, as he strode atop the rotting log, as was his custom, Old Man Centipede chanced across a centipede of but a single season, known as Spider-Carver, picking feverishly at his mandibles with his forelegs, as if to pry them from his face.

“What are you doing?”

“Blasted forcipules! Mirages! Fakes! I know it. I know it! We did not have them… in the sea… in the long before when electric-eyed and many-gilled, we sucked the bloodied muck of the great, wet dark…”

The Old Man was sure the youth had gone quite mad and attempted to dissuade him from the venture. Yet, time and time again, Old Man Centipede was rebuffed. He might as well, he decided, teach the art of burrowing to a moth, or spider-hunting to a fly, and so left the youngling to its freakish exercise and headed off to tell his kin what he had witnessed.

The next day, as he made his languid rounds upon the top of The Hollow Mount, he noticed Spider-Carver once more, surrounded by a gaggle of young centipedes and the Old Matriarch. Much to Old Man Centipede’s horror, Spider-Carver had hewn his forcipules clear of his face, leaving only coagulated stumps, which he had painfully stuffed with two short, pronged twigs. He scuttled to and fro, wriggling his prosthetic claws as if in a trance.

“To be one with the essential form – the ur-ancestor – one must return to the sea!”

“What madness is this?”

“He does not believe he is a centipede,” replied the matriarch, “But that we have erred in our development, have forgotten from whence we’ve come, and, succumbed to an unnatural turning.”

“One’s mandibles are a sorry price to pay for the comfort of such a delusion.”

“There was nothing any of us could have done, for he had removed them before we arrived. I will ensure that he is seen to. Besides, he seems happy.”

“I can think of several things more important than the heady delirium of transient happiness.”

As the time-worn duo conversed, a throng of chilopods steadily built up around the mad arthropod, who seemed to simultaneously fascinate and repel them.

In the days that followed the incident, Spider-Carver’s crowd grew considerably in size and, by the end of the week had even attracted the attention of some symphylans, who gazed on from their chthonic burrows, perplexed, by the twig-faced and twirling creature. During this time, Old Man Centipede sensed ants in the close distance, betrayed by their pheromones, just beyond the Inner Reach. In time he knew they would come for the nest and so swiftly returned to his fellows to spread the news. When he arrived at the burrow he was horrified to see that the centipedes had all removed their mandibles and replaced them with sticks. Some had died in the process and lay, coiled about themselves upon the sodden floor. Insides slick-spilling from rent faces. Spider-Carver presided over the gathering, giving a strange speech about the sea, and moving side to side, across the mulchy walls.

When Old Man Centipede protested and sought to warn them, the matriarch intervened. She too had removed her jaws.

“You must not get so heated, old one.”

“But they have ruined themselves, just as you have, and at the moment in which the ants advance upon us!”

“Your concern is a relic.”

At that moment a large red ant entered the cool dwelling, bearing in its mouth, a twig.

“See there! The formicans have arrived! We must prepare!”

“No,” replied the ant, “I am no formican, but sea-like as thee.”

“This is not so. I am no sea-thing. I am a centipede.”

“Who are you to say, old one?”

The matriarch waved her feelers and turned her aged eyes to the ant, dimly observing the tiny branch in its maw.

“He is no ant, old one. He is like us.”

“He is a spy and you are insane. We must not let him escape to tell the hive the lay of the log.”

With that, Old Man Centipede made for the ant and would have easily overtaken it, were it not for the intervention of the matriarch, who stabbed her twigs into his side.

“The centipedes attack us!” She screamed, “Help!”

Swiftly Carver’s acolytes came, jawless and wrathful, and crashed upon the great old chilopod until his chitin cracked and his legs were torn and his feelers rent.

As Old Man Centipede lay at his last, the ant dropped its twig and sped off into the darkness to rouse the hive.

Verse & Prose Archive Updated For The Month of November

Our archive has been fully updated for the month of November (featuring new verse and prose).

The archive will be similarly updated towards the end of December or directly thereafter (in early January).

Additionally, we will be accepting verse, prose and music submissions throughout the month of December.

If interested in submitting your work, see to our submissions page for further details.

Fiction Circular 7/11/19

THE LOGOS FICTION CIRCULAR is a weekly series which collects independent fiction from around the web so as to treat the works to a wider audience. Recommendations for new author/publisher inclusions are welcome.


§00. Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher’s name (if any) will redirect to author/publisher social media; links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to a relevant site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses exclusively on individuals who author and publish their own literary work; the ‘organizations’ section focuses exclusively on independent presses (lit-mags, e-zines and other literary outlets comprised of more than one person) who publish fictive work of (at least) more than one author. Lastly, the ‘literary ephemera’ section focuses on non-fiction work, including (but not limited to) certain poems, such as news articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’ and ‘a’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: A publication is considered ‘independent’ if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess, or financial backing, of one or more large corporation, academy, government or other large institution. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included in the circular, not due to the quality, or lack thereof, of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent); Thin Air Magazine, likewise is supported (in part) by university funding and hence, will not be included.


§02. Editor’s note on timing of publication: All works included are those read by the editor during the week of publication; their inclusion does not mean that they were written / published the same week as the circular containing them.


AUTHOR (FICTION)

From Jane Dougherty, Ambush.

 “… if I sit here much longer I’ll be so old I’ll have forgotten how to string a bow.” (J. Dougherty, Ambush)


From Jeff Coleman, The One That Got Away.

Giles has the man right where he wants him. He’s not a man, of course—at least on the inside—but something much worse… (Jeff Coleman, The One That Got Away)


From Little Fears, Be Someone.

“Is that another Sprite?” asked Cuttle.

“I think so,” sighed Parrotfish. “It’s depressing. They pass on so fast. They barely have time to figure out who they are.”

“I don’t care,” replied Cuttle. “When I was young, my mum said I could be anyone I wanted.”

“Isn’t that called identity theft?” asked Parrotfish. (LF, Be Someone)


From Shantanu Baruah, Whimsical—A Flash Fiction.

She was a mystery, no one knew where she came from. (S. Baruah, Whimsical)


From The Dark Netizen, the microfiction, Beast.

Its appearance disturbed the quiet of the forest.

The legendary beast was as beautiful as it was ferocious. It made quick work of most of the party. I was enthralled by its presence as it chewed up my last remaining partner. I did not want to harm it.

It didn’t resonate with those thoughts… (Netizen, Beast)


ORGANIZATION (FICTION)

From 101 Words, Exist To Nowhere by Lauren Everhart-Deckard.

We ripped the doors off my rusty mustang, Joni and I. They came off easy, like moth wings. (L. Everhart-Deckard, Exist To Nowhere)


From Aphotic Realm, Sherrick And The Train by Dan Maltbie.

A single BOT stood before the executive area with its blaster mechanically trained on the bounty hunter as a swarm of cleaning drones sprayed and tidied the offices beyond. When Sherrick neared, an electronic croaking emerged from the dingy security robot.

“HALT! Bounty hunter!” (D. Malbie, Sherrick & The Train)


From Crystal Lake Publishing, Shallow Waters Vol.1: A Flash Fiction Anthology (Kindle Edition) edited by Joe Mynhardt.

Shallow Waters—where nothing stays buried.

With twenty-two dark tales diving beneath the surface of loss, love, and life. (Amazon promo synopsis for Shallow Waters Vol.1)


From Horror Sleaze Trash, The Night I Drank With Bukowski’s Ghost by Benjamin Blake.

I took a sip of whiskey, and started playing air guitar along to the bluesy track coming over the speakers. (Benjamin Blake, The Night I Drank With Bukowski’s Ghost)


From Jellyfish Review, Repeat Visitor by Rachel Wagner.

he runs down the hill away from the green monster and steps down its steps to rescue his toys from the car. (R. Wagner, Repeat Visitor)


From Literally Stories, Beneath Your Skin by Rose Banks.

You weren’t yourself, that night. (R. Banks, Beneath Your Skin)


From Milk Candy Review, Bodily Fluids by Marissa Hoffmann.

Nicole Kidman says she doesn’t kill spiders or even ants. I wonder if that’s because she has people to do that for her? (M. Hoffmann, Bodily Fluids)


From New Pop Lit, Jerusalem by Zachary H. Lowenstein.

The air was crisp and cool. The scent of pine was wafting and the Earth continued to exist despite anyone’s desires. (Z. H. Lowenstein, Jerusalem)


From Reflex Press, Hagstone by Chloe Turner (excerpted from her book, Witches Sail in Eggshells).

 She’d thrown off last night’s childish panic; had woken calm, absolved, a greedy hunger in her belly. The answer would come from the stones. (C. Turner, Hagstone)


From Short Prose, Bones (excerpted from Glass Lovers).

“This city lost its compass, I am telling you, Miguel. Bones. This city is filled with bones.” (Excerpted from Glass Lovers)


From Spelk, The Promise Of Science by Tim Love.

Mathematicians love finding connections between once unrelated topics.

Descartes connected geometry and algebra. He had less luck with body and mind — as different as time and space, he wrote. Einstein created space-time but couldn’t connect gravity with quantum mechanics.

Meanwhile entropy and aging took their toll, random mutations accumulating with each cell division, not all bad. The strongest survive. (T. Love, The Promise Of Science)


From The Cabinet Of Heed, Suppose by B. Lynn Goodwin.

Suppose Hannah, age 9, closed her eyes and announced, “I have windowless eyelids”? Would she be creative or silly? (B. L. Goodwin, Suppose)


From The Drabble, Spittin’ by Maura Yzmore.

After Mom turned the house into a shrine, with Father’s photos everywhere, his college graduation portrait spat on me from the windowsill. (M. Yzmore, Spittin’)


From The Fiction Pool, Suvvern Cabman by Tommy Sissons.

The occasional hedonistic partygoer, donned in the macabre, or barely donned at all, was passed out on the yellow lines, dreaming of fluidity – ex-partners and money. Slews of drunken plague doctors, Pennywises, Day of the Dead señors, mime artists, brash women with demonic and celestial get ups bustled into pools of human jungle at every doorway. (T. Sissons, Suvvern Cabman)


From Story Shack, The Lone Pine by Martin Hooijmans (with art by Lars de Ruyter).

In his grief he did not notice that the square had filled up with people, all looking up at him in expectation. When an amplified voice started speaking he noticed though. He also noticed that no one was laughing at him. Then, one by one, lights started flicking on in the buildings surrounding the square, and that’s when he saw. His fellow trees, all decorated as well, surrounded by people laughing happily, brightened the numerous rooms of the buildings. When they saw ‘Lone Pine’ in the middle of the square, he could swear many of them began to glow even more. His heart lifted. (M. Hooijmans, The Lone Pine)


LITERARY EPHEMERA (NONFICTION)

From Alina Hansen, Ceramic (poem #417).


From A Maldivian’s Passion For Romance, a review of Before Jamacia Lane by Samantha Young.


From Cajun Mutt Press, A Perceived Shift by Jonathan Hine.


From Cristian Mihai, Do You Want More Readers? Write Like Yourself.


From David A. Estringel, the poem AI! AI! AI! (A Tartarus For Youth) at Blood Moon Rising Magazine(Issue #77).


From Examining The Odd, Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett).


From Human Pages (Tim Miller), My Mother’s Sister by C. Day-Lewis.


From Jaya Avendel, the poem Inside The Heart.


From Joanna Koch (Horrorsong), Clutch.


From JPC Allen, a writing prompt for those seeking to try their hand at historical fiction.


From Monica Carroll, I Am A Thorn.


From New Pop Lit, a short piece on the literary works of Ayn Rand.

 


From Okay Donkey, the poem Wound Study by H. E. Fisher.


From Søren Gehlert, the poem I Care Beneath The Alcohol.


From The Mystique Books, a review of The Farm by Joanne Ramos.


From The American Sun, a rumination on American culture as reflected in the nation’s fiction in Quiet Desperation is the American Way.


And lastly, from Thoughts Of Steel, The Crucible.


 

Pen & Pedagogy

“Very Dadaesque.” Elliot Moss cried, gesturing with his half-empty wineglass at the thin, nondescript mechanical pen laying upon the floor at the northeasternmost corner of the rectangular, low-ceilinged art gallery.

“Indeed,” Sabrina Vesora agreed, adjusting her scarf, studying the artifact as a crowd of journalists and local social climbers moved by. It was situated such that its nib faced the northern wall, a black sole-scuff-mark moving out in a slender arc from the nib to the right of the device, trailing off to nothingness.

“Highly abstract, yet, even still, the message is deftly inscribed.”

Moss nodded hesitantly, vaguely, uncomprehending, “Yeah,” He set his glass upon a nearby table and knelt, removing his phone and snapping a few shots of the pen, “Its great how imaginative the students have become with their art—shaking off all that stodgy hyperformalism.”

“I know! And look what they’ve come up with when they’re unconstrained—all that they’ve been able to say without speaking a word.”

“I’m not sure I get it,” a old man to Vesora’s immediate right remarked flatly, stroking his beard with his champagne-less left hand.

She cast the man a withering look and gestured to the pen.

“Its pointed towards the wall—to declare that most of our communications are superfluous, doomed to fail, fated to run into obstruction, into a wall. Yet, the scuff mark, moving away from the tip, out towards the center of the room, which compels us to turn our attention away from our own ‘writing’—from ‘the wall’—back to the lives of others, then, true communication is possible, but only if our instruments, and our empathy, move counter to our instincts.”

The old man furrowed his brows and tilted his head to stare at the pen from a different angle.

“Yeah,” piped up Moss, removing himself from the floor, phone photo-filled, “Its a metaphor. Social commentary—but subtle. Doesn’t beat you over the head with the message.”

The old man turned, addressing a finely dressed man with a custom-tailored black coat, tipped at the collar with white fur, “Oh. Hello, Mr. Partridge.”

“Salutations, Mr. Cramm. I was just speaking with Mr. Wakely, he tells me you’re planning something at the docks; but more on that latter—how’ve you been enjoying the gala?”

“Marvelously. As per usual. But I could use your expertise on this piece… not really sure what the artist was going for,” he replied, gesturing with perplexity to the pen by the wall.

Lynder Partridge’s keen eyes moved to the pen and lit up with recognition.

He then strode between the trio, knelt and gingerly plucked the pen up off the floor and examined it in his leather gloved hands.

“You’re ruining the installment,” Vesora exclaimed befuddled, “What are you doing?”

Lynder smiled opaquely, “Returning Mr. Wakely’s pen. He lost it around an hour ago.”

The Seal Maiden & The Spirit Cage

“I can not.” The woman declared, shaking her head, slick red locks swirling like ethereal worms.

“Can not… or will not?” The shaman pressed, narrowing his dark, grey eyes shimmering like boiling water full up with the light of the midday sun.

“I will not.”

“It is my right, as it is thy duty, Sephia.”

“Even still.”

“Thou art decided?”

“I am.”

“If thou wilt bare no child of mine, thine own shall the human form eschew.”

“No!”

“Thou shalt beget only seals.”

She shrunk away from the shaman, though she knew he was too powerful for distance to matter for he needed no proximity to weave a death-gealdor. She had seen it. The shaman had demanded the hand of the daughter of Low-Frost, the latter refusing, whereupon the shaman had informed him that the spirits would be most displeased and would surely punish him for his insolent selfishness. Low-Frost had collapsed three days later directly following his third meal of the day. Foam about his mouth. His daughter, Dancing Willow, was convinced it was the work of angry spirits and consequently pledged herself to the shaman the following day.

Sephia braced herself against the wall as the mystic took a step forward, his attendants and Dancing Willow watching with nervous anticipation from the middle of the room.

“All thy line shalt be contorted by the high-hain. All thy line shalt be seals.”

With that he brushed passed Sephia and passed into the outer bright, his entourage swiftly following.

*

The pale skinned man appeared as if from some other plane. His manifestation was so foreign and his appearance so sudden that many of the villagers believed he was not of the world, but of the spirit plane that lay beyond the veil of the High Mist and the edges of the Great Waters. The outlander was so courteous and fluent in the native tongue that the villagers could not but welcome him.

Upon his second day at the village he was sought out by a middle aged man with braided beard and a dour expression.

“Outlander, I hath heard thou hailest from the south; it is said that southerners are versed in the medicinal arts. Is this so?”

The pale man smiled faintly and adjusted himself upon the rune stone he had taken for a chair and cast his gaze to the south, where the hilly land flattened out and was swallowed up by great and tangled forests that gleamed white with caked on snow.

“Aye. That tis so.”

“Then… perhaps thou mayest assist in this dire moment.”

“Dire moment?”

“Tis mine daughter, outlander, she hath been afflicted.”

“With?”

“A spiritual sickness. A curse.”

“Wherefore this sickness?”

“She hath refused to bare the child of Singing-Thorn, our shaman, as is his right. For this denial the spirits have castigated the poor child and her womb swells with their fervor.”

“That sounds very grave indeed. I shall go to her forthwith, if thou wouldst only lead me aright.”

The man nodded and then paused and realized he had not made proper greetings.

“Thy name, kind stranger?”

The pale man smiled broadly, “Dren. Drake Dren.”

“I am High-Stone.”

“Well met, sir. Let us make of earth a drum and beat a hasty tune.”

With that the two men left off and in short order made way to a small hut covered with a leather tarp that issued forth small puffs of white smoke; to the outlander the construct looked akin to a tiny volcano made of sticks. The men passed within whereupon High-Stone gestured to a young woman who lay upon a cot, flush and breathing irregularly and swaddled in blankets. Though she appeared to Drake as somewhat ill, there was no outward sign of injury.

“This is my daughter, Sephia.”

“Quite a departure from the usual nomenclature.”

“Her mother was from southern lands.”

“I see.”

“Please, see to her. I do not expect miracles, but the spirits are capricious.”

Drake nodded and knelt upon a rough-sewn rug next to the cot. The woman opened her eyes and withdrew from the man.

“Who is this?”

“Fear not, little one, he’s an outlander, from the south. He’s here to help.”

“There can be no help… my children shalt be seals.”

Drake arched a brow and turned to make a inquiry to his host only to witness High-Stone exiting the hut, muttering, “I have errands I must attend to.” Drake refocused his attention upon the shivering body of the terrified young woman before him and reached out and gently braced her forearm.

“Calm thyself, woman and explain thyself. Wherefore this talk of seals?”

“The shaman… has cursed me.”

“Why?”

“I refused to bare his child.”

“Ah.”

The woman looked away as Dren furrowed his brows momentarily, resuming a open and amiable countenance when she returned her gaze.

“Thou art soul-sick. But despair not – I can work a charm to remove the gealdor and banish the spirits.”

“That is impossible! I thank thee for thy pains, outlander, but there is nothing thee can do. The shaman’s gealdory is too powerful to be overcome by one uninitiated into the mysteries of the hain.”

“Who told thee I was uninitiated? I shall show thee the falsity of thy words and swiftly. Let us weave the charm. I need of thee a little of thy knowing. I must ask thee a personal question — I disdain such prying, but that it is imperative — whence last didst thee lay with a man?”

The young woman blushed and pulled the blankets more tightly around her shivering frame.

“I have never slept with a man.”

“I see. Tell me this also, what and when didst last thee eat?”

“Barley.”

“Was it raw?”

“Yes.”

He felt her head and then with drew, sitting upon his haunches and gazing at the ground with his keen, gold-green eyes.

“Then drink water and plentifully. Rest and exert thyself not.”

“I see. I thank thee kindly for thy pains. Now I must go; but I shall return shortly. Do as I have bide and leave the rest to me.”

The pale, angular man then left Sephia to her travails. She rose and drank some water and then laid back down and slept until he returned bearing a strange concoction. He asked her to drink it and she did so without hesitation; if her father trusted him, so too would she. With that Dren informed her to rest and that he would return again once his charm was done.

*

Days passed and with the setting of every sun, Sephia felt a little better. The swelling in her stomach had gone away completely and her fever had subsided. On the second day word began to spread throughout the village; murmurs of a challenger to the shaman’s dominion, one who sought to break his gealdor. On the third day Sephia was feeling good enough to get up and feed her goats, even though her father had seen to them but several hours before, and as she did so she heard the voices of two other young men from the village speaking a couple yards away.

“Know ye this outlander, Rough-Stone?”

Rough-Stone shook his shaggy, braided locks, “I know him not, but saw him whence he’d come. He’d strange eyes, what looked gold beneath the sphere’s turning.”

Sephia nodded to herself; his eyes were strange. Every villager knew that the eyes were the windows to the soul which was but further proof of his charms potency.

On the fourth day, Drake returned, a broad smile adorning his sharp and corvine face and a odd contraption clutched in his left hand as he greeted the young woman beside her goats.

“Stranger! Thy charm hath freed me from the spell! See, see,” she grabbed his free hand and pressed it to her belly.

“Thy charm hath removed the seal!”

He held up the little contraption, “Indeed. I captured the spirits in this box where even now they reside.” A little crowd began to gather, tittering with excitement and curiosity.

“If thou canst remove seals, then thou art stronger than the shaman.”

The crowd swelled and they moved forth to better inspect the stranger, someone muttering, “He broke the shaman’s gealdor; such a thing is not possible!”

In short order the shaman himself appeared whereupon the crowd made way as he strode confidently and furiously up to Sephia and her newfound friend.

“I see thy baleful machinations! Begone, outlander; thou hath no business here.”

“I am afraid thou art mistaken. My business with thee closely resides. See here this box?”

“Aye.”

“Knowth thee what it contains?”

“Nay.”

“Thine spirits, summoned for dear Sephia.”

A beleaguered look passed over what little of the mystic’s face were visible behind his gruesome mask of bone.

“That is not possible.”

“Oh, believe thee not thy own professions?”

“That is not what I meant! The spirits cannot be commanded.”

“And yet thou hath commanded them.”

“Yes, but-”

“So they can be commanded.”

“Yes, but only by one who has knowledge of the other side. What would a outlander such as thee know of it?”

“More than thee.”

The shaman gave a booming laugh.

“Prove it then; open the box.”

A crooked smiled played up the side of the pale man’s face.

“If I open the box the spirits will be freed. Doth thee wish to birth a seal?”

The crowd chittered. Someone spoke up with nervous agitation, “He’s right; what if the spirits possess one of us?!” A old man declared suddenly, “He must not open the box!” Swiftly the crowd followed suit, urging Dren to keep the contraption closed and chiding the shaman for his recklessness in summoning the spirits to begin with. Their concern became so intense that Drake threw up his free hand in entreaty and spoke with sudden vivacity.

“Fear not, dear people, I shall not open the box unless thy leader commands it.”

They looked to the shaman with expectation; the shaman sighed.

“Leave it.”

The throng breathed a sigh of relief as the outlander pocketed the box triumphantly. The shaman gave his opponent a poisonous glare and then retreated to his lodge with his attendants. The following day, High-Stone returned from his errand with the neighboring tribe and thanked the outlander for freeing his daughter from the spirits of the otherworld they called ‘Corybahn.’ He offered her hand, but Dren politely declined.

In the days that followed, the villagers increasingly turned to the outlander for advice and protection, some dubbing him Yellow-Eyes, others still, The Spirit-Cage, others yet still, The Crow of Corybahn.

Within the month, he had the run of the town.

Fiction Circular 2/9/19

Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher names will redirect to social media or personal website of the author/publisher. Links affixed to story/article names will redirect to the named story/article.


INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

From John Parham, The Old Man & The Three Legged Goat. The story of a young man, down on his luck, who encounters a strange old man and his three legged goat. Whilst the story is interesting and the message poignant, the dialogue and particularly the descriptions, suffer from a peculiar kind of stiffness engendered by repetition. For example, the amount of times that we are told that Curly “sipped his coffee” is quite superfluous; the author could simply have said, “Curly sat sipping his coffee” and that would have sufficed. That being said, repetition can be used to create rhythm, as in the works of Cormac McCarthy, however, in McCarthy the repition is limited (generally to “and”s and “left off”s) and occurs fluidly in the space of a single sentence and consequently, one shouldn’t take up a stance against it, in totality.

“Please sit and I will pour you a cup of coffee, then tell me about the three-legged goat.”

— The Old Man & The Three Legged Goat

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From 101 Words, The Crossing by Philip Scholz, a flash fiction about a man fleeing to Mexico. I’d say more but I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

“Your passport, please,” the guard said, holding out his hand.

He handed over the fake one, hoping his shaking hand wasn’t noticed. This was the test. He had to stay calm.

— The Crossing

From The Arcanist, Plunk At The Foot Of The Mountain by Peter Hurtgen. A tale of a vicious barbarian possessed of a deep-seated hatred for magic. Its a interesting piece of dark fantasy, humorous as it is thoughtful; a cautionary tale against being too quick to take action against that which one does not fully understand.

He was a boy of about eight. Before the Trying Times. The magic user was a young girl from the nearby village. A little older. The tinsmith’s daughter. A black-haired beauty. Tall and graceful. Wild and bronze. She cast a love spell on Plunk. She made him love her. They kissed in the yak barn hayloft. This made Plunk very happy. Then the girl used her love spell on another village boy. This pissed Plunk the fuck off. Plunk found the two lovers in the hayloft and separated them. From their heads.

— Plunk At The Foot Of The Mountain

From Drunken Pen Writing, Coffee Shop Blues by Caleb James K.; Mr. K’s prose is impressive for being able to turn as mundane an exercise as waiting in line for a cup of coffee into a introspective and engaging exploration of social disenchantment, charity and purpose. Easily the best of the week.

The world moved in slow motion as Jeff waited in the seemingly endless line at the coffee shop. It was like he was in a dream—like he was an unseen spectator watching the world move around him. He saw the faces of men and women, young and old, but couldn’t make out any details.

— Coffee Shop Blues

From Fictive Dream, Family Gathering by Paul Beckman. Title self-explanatory.

The laughers come first. They always arrive early and announce their early arrival to the hostess who isn’t ready yet for company.

— Family Gathering

From Monkeybicycle, The Next Life You’ll Make by Ellen Rhudy. A sad, poignant ghost tale.

I imagined they had a graveyard behind the hospital crowded with people who had never quite been alive. — The Next Life You’ll Make

From The Molotov Cocktail, The River Wedding by Tim Roberts. A dreamlike tale of horror and desire.

When The Big Night finally comes around, I lay awake waiting for the demons to take my father.

— The River Wedding

From Reflex Press, Strawberry Tarts and Serial Killers by Mary Thompson. A brisk sketch of the life of two lovers in a sleepy town (not actually about serial killers).

In August I left to be an au-pair in Amiens. Said I would write.

‘You won’t,’ he said.

— Strawberry Tarts and Serial Killers

From Spelk Fiction, Liquid Gold In Big Sky by Michael Carter. A tale of a hard-up family seeking gold beyond the American plains. Beautifully written.

“We’ll stop in Helena to see if they’ve struck gold again. Then we’ll make our way to Carson City, Nevada, to see if they have gold there. We’ll buy food with the gold, and you’ll all be full.”

I said, “Maybe there’s gold here?”

Mother said, “No, sweetie, there’s no gold out here in the Plains.”

— Liquid Gold in Big Sky

From Terror House, The Maggot Life by Nick Willis. The story of one man struggling within his own moral vacuum. The piece is raw, punchy and likely more than a little autobiographical. Highly recommended.

I can almost see the voracious, amoral little worm squirming around at the core of me, at the core of all of us: it’s what keeps us alive.

— The Maggot Life

From X-R-A-Y, Robot Mother by Brittany Weeks. A surreal tale with a experimental style, somewhat disorienting style.

I can’t shake the image of Everly with mechanical valves in her heart-

— Robot Mother

LITERARY EPHEMERA

From The Allium, Pandas “Totally Relieved” None Of Their Body Parts Made Of Anything Valuable.

A Panda spokesperson told The Allium earlier today that there was general relief in Panda communities that their body parts are valued at actual zero. Even in Sterling.

— Pandas “Totally Relieved” None Of…

Author, James Kirkland announces the release of his first novel Friend of the Devil.

Very pleased to announce that my first novel, “FRIEND OF THE DEVIL”, A Bill Walton Mystery, will be released March 13 by Meathouse Publishing. Excited for you all to see this. I’ve worked very hard and I hope you will enjoy! — J. Kirkland

Lastly, inimitable Jokes Review editor, Peter Clarke (Politicians Are Superheroes) participates in a roundtable discussion over at The Review Review on the subject of editorial practice. Specific topics include how far into a bad manuscript one should read before passing it over and whether or not a poor title disqualifies a manuscript. Insight for writers and editors alike.

At the very minimum, I’ll read the first paragraph and then skim to the end. I have scrapped stories based on the title and the first sentence, but that’s rare. Generally speaking, I don’t dedicate much time to stories that don’t catch me pretty quickly. The vast majority of my time reading submissions (probably 90%) is spent fretting over the stories that definitely demanded a full read but may or may not demand publication. If I’m already thinking about rejection after the first paragraph, then I’m probably just going to reject it.

— Peter Clarke, Managing Editor, Jokes Review


Thanks for reading.

If you wish to support our work you can do so here.

Fiction Circular 1/31/19

“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.” – Henry Ward Beecher

INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

The Dark Netizen published a installment in his on-going flash fiction horror series.

Part 1- Twittering Tale: Campfire

Part 2- Flash Fiction: Boots

Part 3- Flash Fiction: Stay Out

Part 4- Flash Fiction: Into The Woods

Part 5- Flash Fiction: Into The Woods 2

Part 6- Flash Fiction: The Woods

Roger and Gary heard their friend’s cries for help coming from the woods.

— The Woods

Next, Ventures Heart by Westley Nash, from his personal website, Thoughts of Steel. The form of the short story is unusual in that it is written more akin to a play than a typical prose work, however there is a reason for this, as the entire story is relayed via the transmission logs of a one Captain Taylor of the colonial ship, Venture’s Heart.

This is Captain Taylor of the colonial ship “Venture’s Heart” recording my final log prior to our departure towards the Perseus system. I am pleased to say that we have a clean sheet! Not that I want to tempt fate of course, but all in all the first stage of this mission has been a resounding triumph. — Ventures Heart

Stacey Chesters published her debut novel, To Play With Sadness, on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.

Synopsis:

A story of music and memory… 
a forgotten daughter wants to help her father to remember who she is after over 20 years of silence.

The fear of not being recognized.

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From Jokes Review, The Racoonist by Lee Blevins, wherein Mr. Blevins proves himself quite an agile, energetic and off-kilter humorist.

Rex considered himself quite animal-friendly but his instincts and training were violence personified and PETA wouldn’t like it if I told you what he did to that critter after it bit him. — The Racoonist

From 101 Words, Emma’s Ghost, a ghastly piece of flash fiction from Gudrun Roy.

“What is it, Emma?” I asked, finding her at the front door. “Stop screaming; it’s okay.”

“Ghost!” Emma yelled, hysterical. She pointed to the warped panel of glass in the door-frame; a pale, hazy stranger hovered just behind it. — Emma’s Ghost

From The Stray Branch, Family Tree by Dan Klefstad, a grim and captivating tale of vampiric lust.

Childbirth hurts because a woman’s organs force a living thing from her body. It’s a pity mortals don’t feel this pain more often. — Family Tree

From X-R-A-YDomestic Terrorist by Meeah Williams. A distinctively styled short story, as humorous as it is fragmented and perplexing.

“Do you happen to know where this train is headed?” He said, “No. But wherever it’s going I hope they serve hamburgers there.” — Domestic Terrorist

From Terror House Magazine, MadDog78 by A. Elizabeth Herting, a sad and moving tale of troubled man in failing health. A peeling away of simulacrum.

One of the best short stories I’ve read in a very long time.

Whenever she asked him for a picture, he’d send one at least five years old or make excuses about why he couldn’t take a new one. He knew he was being dishonest, but he didn’t want to scare away the only woman he’d ever loved. MadDog78 was his link to a possible future—or any kind of happiness—and he wasn’t about to screw it up with reality. — MadDog78

LITERARY EPHERMA

Completed the illustrated novel Goblin Slayer (Vol. I) by Kumo Kagyu (which inspired the comic and animated series of the same name). The book recounts the tale of a man obsessed with exterminating goblins in a cliche-ridden tabletop-inspired fantasy world (the gods are capricious beings who control the characters in the story by rolling dice, not unlike players in a D&D campaign). Rather than the mythic heroes one typically expects to find in high fantasy works, the titular Goblin Slayer is more like a janitor, who does the dirty and seemingly trivial work which, out of pride and indolence, his compatriots refuse. Originality by way of cliche. Better than expected.

“Imagine that one day your home is suddenly attacked by monsters. They swagger into your village like it belongs to them. They kill your friends, they kill your family, they loot your home. Imagine that they assault your sister. They torture her, they rape her, they kill her. They desecrate the bodies of your family, do whatever they want, cackling all the while. And you see it all from where you’re hidden, trying not to breathe. How could you ever let that go? So you get a weapon, you train yourself, you learn, you grow. Everything you do is to help you take revenge. You search them out, hunt them down, you fight, you attack, and you kill them and kill them and kill them and kill them. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes they don’t. But each time you ask—how will I kill them next time? What’s the best way to kill them? Day after day, month after month, that is all you think about. When you get a chance, of course you test every idea you have. And when you’ve been doing all that long enough… You start to enjoy it.” — Goblin Slayer

The American Literary Blog published a wonderful piece on the love poems of American writer, Albert Pike.

I am the soul of the Universe,
In Nature’s pulse I beat;
To Doom and Death I am a curse,
I trample them under my feet.

Creation’s every voice is mine,
I breathe in its every tone;
I have in every heart a shrine,
A consecrated throne.

— Albert Pike

Lastly, from Rachelle Gardener, Tightening Your Writing, a brisk and insightful guide to shearing away superfluous words in a text. She follows a lot of time-tested advice such as omitting excessive use of passive voice (indicated by words such as “was,” “were,” and, “that”). Seasoned writers

Thanks for reading.

If you have any recommendations for writers or outlets you think should be included, feel free to let us know.

If you wish to support our work publishing and promoting independent fiction authors and publications, you can do so here.

Fiction Circular 9/21/18

Editor’s note: A little shorter than usual. Been very busy!


THIS WEEK’S FICTION

The Dark Netizen published, Barbies. And also, Embrace, Cave Trip, Date Night and Television as well as several poems. Something that would be interesting to see is a anthology collection of his short stories – perhaps as a PDF (or some similar file-type) – sorted by theme. Given how many of them he writes every week, there is ample content for it.

My heart stopped for a second when I spotted the skeleton remains – finally a discovery, albeit one which showed clear signs of recent burning.

However, the flesh had been picked clean off the bones, which indicated that the Glock resting in my pocket may see use very soon…

From Gone Lawn, How Would You Call Me If You Forgot My Name by Mileva Anastasiadou.

Back when we were clouds.

At least we’re not deserted islands or soulless rocks.

From Terror House Magazine, Sideburns by poet and short story author, Lou Martin. Short, cruel, compassionate and moving. Easily the best of the week.

We called him “Sideburns.” Somehow, in some long-forgotten childhood reasoning, that seemed a good moniker for the guy who prowled alleys and back porches rummaging through trash cans and piles of cast-away items.

From The Library of Nell, Leporine, a short and sultry tale of fantasy and lust. Written as part of the Friday Flash challenge.

She moans a little when he whispers another “good girl.”

From Burning House Press, Grief Is A Private Island by Julia Morton, which reads like a excerpt of a internal monologue from a larger story that one has just wandered haphazardly into. Also from Burning House, The Farm Will Always Have Us, by Richard Winters. The story was based upon a excerpt from his 2017 novel, Sawhorse.

From New Flash Fiction Review, The Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles.

Your father was an elm tree compared to you.

LITERARY EPHEMERA

Lastly, from Irevou, 12 Books That Will Surely Make You Cry by Cristian Mihai which offers up some solid recommendations of moving novels (though it stands doubtful how many of them will actually make you shed a tear).

The Mire

The ruddy mire impressed itself upon the mind of the man as a great and reeking carcass. He stood over the bracken and the quitch, smoking languidly, the fetid smell of the swamp ranging over his senses like a titanic and pestilential wave. The sun was robed in thick and swirling clouds above which girded the infernal moor from whence it’s dazzling light was shrouded and all about below the buzzing of insects, their wings whipping through the air like needles on the brain. The man walked aways up what little land was afforded to him, the rest of the reach lost to sunken and muddy clay, covered over with pools of roiling sludge wherein the larvae of mosquitoes squirmed in hideous pirouettes. Massive snakes coiled about the reedy marsh here and there, moving with a soundless slithering and the wind was scarce and whence it came the stench of carrion followed with it. The man took a long drag of the cigarette and turned his keen green eyes to the south of the fen where the mountains obscured the passage to the hillocks of the outerlands and then east, to the misty forests, ranging up over the mire like the bristles of some great and feral boar, and then to the west, to the high-champaign, dotted over with rune-stones and mist and a curious scattering of skulls, man and animal alike, and then at the last to the north, to the long and winding and narrow pass which let out some miles up unto an elevated thoroughfare, scare-worn by the soles of those brave or mad enough to make passage to the town what lay beyond.

Somewhere off in the distance a howl broke the chthonic din, cascading off the sloping moorish hills and raising up the hairs of the traveler’s spine. His fear of the place was matched only by his loathing. It was all so very ugly. It were as it some humongous being beyond all reckoning had fallen victim to calamity arcane and the multitudinous swarms of all the earth had there found succor in the intestines and the blood of it’s gutted and expiring frame. Peering through the fern arrayed about his tattered chassis the traveler spied a dim light not far off; curiosity primed, he trammeled across the bog towards it, taking care in the placement of his mud-stained boots. The wind swept up with great agitation, throwing his cloak all to spasm. Half a mile he struggled against the peat and the savage increase of the gale and found a hollowed cairn in the middle of the mire in which lay a crackling fire and beside it, a strange and shriveled man, all wreathed in cloth; his visage, where not obscured by dressing, was riddled with pock-marks of the ague. The cachexic man waxed rale in address.

“What apparition is this that deigns to greet me upon this blessed demense?”

“No apparition, sir. I swan, but a traveler. By Miras am I known. A mechanist of Tor to the barton of Morrow come; but err’d in jaunt some ways aback and here find right castigation by this sloughy heath. Thy face, withered and wrapped withal, is most heartening, for I’ve crossbeamed this accursed fen for nearly a fortnight and passed neither man nor beast, save for insect, snake and the occasional, hapless ram.”

The traveler gestured behind him at the marshen expanse with great agitation as the cachexic man took in his measure with eyes that danced with the reflection of the open flame.

“Thy fortunes are most unhappy; Marta frowns upon you surely! To recompense, I greet thee warmly, Miras the Wayward. I am Glaedwine of Kwizling. But enough – seat thyself and rub thy weary joints about the fire. I’ve little to spare but some rain-catch, if it should please thee.”

Miras looked to a small, overturned tortoise shell which sat beside the sickly man and held up his hand in dismissal and then did as he was bade, seating himself upon a squarish stone adjacent the firekeeper who sat upon a similarly irregular rock, hands upon his knees and a smile upon his wild-bearded face. After a pace, Miras looked over the man keenly, then inquiring, “Wherefore the bandages?”

The bandaged man paused and fell into a fit. He coughed and covered his mouth with a sleeve and coughed and blood trickled red unto the fabric and coughed and spit blood and bile into the fire.

“Egad man, what malady chafes thee?”

“No illness,” the man replied upon recovering from his spasm, “but a gift. A gift from Our Dear Lady.”

“What sir? You speak in riddles.”

“Our Lady Marta. Bright-Mother. The Reaper of Woe. The Balancer of the Scales. Keep ye not the faith, wayfarer?”

Miras regarded the strange and tatterdemalion man with a visage deeply affected by both puzzlement and grave concern.

“You’re not well. To my ears there is water about the lungs. Pneumonia, perchance. It were best thee enjoin this place and make passage with me to Morrow. Before our leave-taking I could gift thee with a vial that should put the humors aright.”

“Eck! I’ll none of that sorcery. It were Marta’s will that I am as I am and so I shall be. All else is blasphemy.”

“How is it you have come to knowledge of the ineffable?”

The cachexic man turned a page in his little book and spoke with reverence.

“’Thee shall know ME by prayer in the wastes beyond the machinations of MAN. Get ye hence to solitude and study, to silence and mindfulness in the realms beyond the horse and hammer, in the demesne beyond the quill and hall, in the warrens and the lion dens, in the marsh and the mire, in the desert and the sightless wood; there shall you find ME.’ Corpus Callosum, Book I, Verse V. Her words are scrawled by mortal hands, by Callosum the Wise and Athelwyn the Stoic; so great was her love that she deigned to reveal herself to miserable creatures such as us. Her voice a soothing balm upon our listless suffering. Even her disease is a blessing, for the suffering of the flesh is nothing to the bliss of her eternal embrace; I meditated long upon the end, knowing soon that erelong I should die of this affliction, seeking to rectify my pitiful state with the love of Our Dearest Lady. But then it dawned upon my foggy brain, that all is a part of her plan; she seeks the peaceful emancipation of all, yet, long as one lives, long as one is bound to the mortal coil there can be no peace, there can be no true reprieve from suffering; not of just the flesh, but of the soul; this, in her infinite wisdom, Our Lady well knows. To correct the error of our lives she must first end them, only then can we be truly free.”

The wayfarer stroked his smooth and stubbly chin and spoke with his eyes fixed upon the wretched specimen before him.

“I mean no offense but that strikes me a philosophy most cowardly. To flee the buffets of the world into some other, why what upright man should hold himself to such lowly standards of valor? Thy philosophy is one of incontinence! A valorious man should stand proudly, proclaiming his defiance to the yawning chasm that seeks his end from the very beginning. He should defy the limitations of all the world surrounding, the better to bend it to his will. Such a desire would be, for the valorious man, born, not out of selfishness alone, but out of his grave concern for his people, his clan, his lover, the fruit of their loins and all their line stretching out and beyond the horizon of conception.”

The ralic man’s eyes widened and he rose quick as his affliction would allow, the whole of his form tense with agitation.

“You profane this sacred cairn. Get thee gone.”

Shortly after he had finished speaking the sickly man began coughing once more and doubled over, falling to a knee and bracing himself upon the squarish stone upon which he had previously sat. Miras started, his face filled with grim concern.

“Calm yourself, stress will do nothing but further exacerbate the illness.”

“Silence thy wretched tongue, heretic! Begone! Begone!”

“Thy fever worsens; erelong to fall. Thy disease is familiar to me and easy would it be to concoct a potion to cure it, if thee would but see it done.”

“I’ll none of thy magicks, sorcerer!”

With great abruptness the man, snarling, lunged fiercely at Miras who sidestepped the crazed hermit and backed out of the cairn, prescient of the infection’s contamination. Miras, after having escaped into the mire, turned full about, furrowing his brow, and issued forth a dire condemnation, his voice cold as the chill air surrounding.

“Fool. May thy accursed cairn collapse upon thee!”

Without another word the wayfarer spun upon his heel and left the mad zealot and the noisome sludge of the mire.

He paused upon a low hillock that let out to the grasslands and then looked back and down upon the cursed place from which he had left and vowed that one day he would return and drain the damnable bog, raze the forests and shutter the stars from the very sky with the smoke-stacks of a dozen factories or more.

“This place, so malformed that it distorts and poisons the body as much as the mind! Think you to take my mind like as to the abstemious, o’ heinous mire? Tis not yours for the taking! Only mine for the giving-away! But your tangled branches, your reeds and sludge, your insect-laden wastes and bone filigreed bracken; I shall snatch all away! No further minds shall you terrorize whence you’re trammeled over by a hundred-thousand cobblestones! Hear me, you rotted skein? I, Miras Vlotho, shall unmake you in my image!”