From Concentric Magazine: Infinity by David Landrum. Though the story could use another proofreading, the narrative—concerning two young lovers who endeavour to navigate their families’ divergent faiths—is thoroughly arresting.
The meal would be an examination. Like in school, I was being graded. (Landrum, Infinity)
From Fictive Dream: To The Maxx by Thaddeus Rutkowski. On longing and moral squander. Unlike a lot of other flash stories, its abrupt and unsatisfying ending is a benefit to its general effect, rather than a check against it.
… she was more than a friend, so it was more than good to hear from her. (Rutkowski, To The Maxx)
From Literally Stories: Wishbone by Jennie Boyes. A wonderful fable. Odd and engrossing and splendidly written. My favorite of the week.
Wind, sea-salt, and even War had not defeated it, and as Famine traced the silouhette against the sky, he could have believed the castle would withstand time itself, if such a thing were possible. (Boyes, Wishbone)
From Mystery Tribune: The Same Gym by Emily Livingstone. The tale of a series of eerie disappearances at a small gym. The story builds considerable suspense in the beginning, but might have benefited from a slightly longer denouement. One thing I found quite distracting, which had nothing to do with the story itself, was the inclusion of intrusive quote blocks between paragraphs. I’ve seen other literary journals use similiar formatting, but I’ve never understood the purpose of repeating the text, enlarged and out of sequence, which, for whatever its worth, I would contend, is something better left to study guides and new articles.
I wanted to be a detective or someone in a choose-your-own-adventure. (Livingstone, The Same Gym)
From New Pop Lit: The Perfect Candidate by Karl Wenclas. A fast-paced political satire.
Tall and lean, with the sober face of what passed as an intellectual. What used to be called a hipster, before hipsters became not an unusual species of animal, but the norm. (Wenclas, The Perfect Candidate)
From Spelk: Creel by Steven John. The story of a terminally ill lobster-catcher. The story got me to thinking that “fishing” and “fisherman” are common terms, yet, “lobstering” and “lobsterman” are not. I wonder why.
Lobstering is a pastime now. Anything more than that and there’s online paperwork. Haven’t got a computer. Wouldn’t know where to start. (John, Creel)
It’s a page-turning thriller that shows, once again, that more people should be paying attention to Kenemore’s work.” (J. Parypinski, author of Dark Carnival)
From The Alembic: Gravitas by Paddytheduke. A comedy about dogs and weekdays.
… dogs don’t like Monday mornings any more than humans do (Paddytheduke, Gravitas)
From The Dark Netizen: Treasures by The Dark Netizen. A flashfiction.
“You said grandma kept her treasures here before going to heaven.”
Grandpa smiled looking at the mess on his bed.
“I never lied. They’re here.” (Netizen, Treasures)
From Sgehlert: Monopoly Empires by Søren Gehlert.
the truth hides in disarray
and dour shells
on phrenetic beach (Gehlert, Monopoly Empires)
From Short Prose: Passion by Gabriela M.
I see you
the face of the lost stranger
dissimulating grief in autumn shadows (G. M., Passion)
From The Drabble: The Code of Life by Tanzelle.
A, C, G, T
what will the next one in the sequence be? (Tanzelle, The Code of Life)
“I was starving, I couldn’t help it.” Camilla wipes blood from her chin and points. “He’s in the car.”
“How could you be starving?” I put my stump in one jacket sleeve while my left arm hurriedly finds the other hole. “You had at least six pints before you left the house.”
“Okay, then, he was delicious. What’s wrong with enjoying a meal?”
A Corvette convertible sits at the edge of the park, red finish partially lit by a perfect half-moon. I lower my voice. “Front or back seat?”
“I put him in the trunk.”
“Please say the interior isn’t white.”
“Okay. It’s some other color.”
“Don’t play with me.”
“You’re the one who’s playing.” Her bare feet make no sound on the grass. In contrast, my loafers seem to find every leaf that gave up the ghost during the recent drought. I shine a light on the driver’s seat. “It’s like Jackson Pollack was here. Fiona was never this messy.”
“You don’t work for her anymore.” She folds her arms. “And I like Jackson Pollack.”
“Did you forget our agreement? I raise money to buy blood and you don’t kill people. We don’t need police sniffing around.” I open the trunk and see a man in a polo shirt and plaid shorts. He looks 35, maybe 40.
Camilla leans against the fiberglass body and runs her hands over it. “I want this car.”
“We have to ditch it.” I reach into the man’s back pocket and take out his wallet.
“Oooh.” She sidles up. “Make it look like we robbed him. Clever.”
Camilla’s been watching a new police show. Maybe it’s an old one, those procedurals are all the same. One minute in, someone finds a body. After the first commercial detectives arrive, and five minutes later something threatens to derail the investigation which leads to the climax. A quick, pithy observation follows, and it ends at 22 minutes. The wallet opens and my thumb lands on metal. Oh God, no. Please, no. I put the flashlight between my teeth. “Fuck me.”
“That’s not in our agreement,” Camilla snaps back. Then she groans as her hands encircle her belly. “I’m too full anyway.”
“You killed a cop.”
I stare at her, flashlight dangling from my teeth. Finally, I remove it. “Cops never stop looking when one of their own… Oh, Jesus Christ.” I slam the trunk and turn away, gathering my thoughts. Camilla is only six months old, but Fiona warned me she’d never learn caution. I can’t believe I signed up for four years of this.
“Is that what I think it is? Cool.”
It’s best if I hide the body several miles from the car, but I haven’t used a shovel since losing my arm. And Camilla? She’s allergic to manual labor. But, just now, I remember a secluded lake about a mile from here. Perhaps we could find weights to keep him down…
“What the fuck?” I whip around to see smoke curling up from a pistol. Camilla can’t stop laughing at the hole in her left hand. “I shot myself.” Her excited eyes meet mine. “Coppers back home don’t carry these.”
“Give it to me.”
“No, I’m gonna keep it.”
“You have no need for a gun.”
“We’re in America now.” She waves it in front of me. “Everyone needs a gun.”
“Camilla, I need you to give that to me.”
Her face moves right up to mine. “You’re not the boss.” I feel the barrel against my ribs. “I am, remember?”
“If you kill me, you’re on your own.” I stare back. “Think you can survive by yourself?”
Our standoff lasts several seconds. Finally, she grins. “You’re right.” She turns and walks away. “You’re always right.” She tosses the gun in the bushes. “Good luck with this mess.”
It’s after seven when I get home. Camilla’s been asleep since 5:30. Everyone else on our street is scurrying to work, or wherever normal people go in the morning. In the kitchen, I pour myself a scotch, then remember the final item on my list before waking at eleven to check our investments. I walk down the corridor and turn the handle to Camilla’s room to make sure it’s secure. I always order the bolt installed on the inside to protect my employer when they’re most vulnerable. To her credit, Camilla always locks it. So, there’s hope. When I return to the kitchen, I see a letter from Rome on thick, faded stationery.
How’s life back in the States? Is Camilla behaving herself? Despite her wild ways, I have every confidence you’ll guide and protect my progeny during these difficult early years. I just hope she’s paying you enough. Speaking of money, please find the enclosed check which should help with surprise expenses. I do hope we work together again someday. My current guardian isn’t even close to your level.
All the best,
The check is for $10,000, not much in our world. Still, it would be enough if I were to buy a one-way ticket to the Equator where the sun shines twelve hours every day. No doubt, a spurned Camilla would die pursuing her revenge. Fiona, ever more cautious, would send human assassins, but most working today have less experience than me. I could stay hidden for years thanks to secret deposit boxes filled with cash, false passports, and gold. I’m still calculating the exact number of years when I hear her voice:
I turn and see her door slightly open. My eyes immediately go to the window shades to make sure they’re down. “Yeah?”
“Can you come here for a second?”
I walk to the entrance and see a teary eye staring out. “What’s wrong?”
“For being… difficult.”
“I’ll forgive you. Just give me a day or two.”
She sniffles. “It’s just that I feel so unprepared.” Her eyes roll. “That’s probably really obvious to you. But I’m finding it hard to adjust to… this.”
“I understand. Fiona said it took her a couple decades. Try to get some sleep.”
This is new; Fiona always slept through the day. “Want some B positive?”
“No. What are you drinking?”
“Whisky. You wouldn’t like it.”
“Can you sleep with me – just for a little while?”
“I know it’s not part of our agreement.”
“I’ve never slept with…”
“I just need someone to hold me.” An icy hand takes mine. “Please?”
I follow her in and lock the door. We face each other for a few seconds — she in silk pajamas, me in slacks and a button-down shirt – before she lifts the covers and slides in. I remove my shoes and lay down next to her.
The last time I did this, I had two arms and one grew numb. For the first time, I learn one arm can be a benefit. I press my chest against her back and immediately feel her relax.
“Please don’t leave.”
“You mean, stay all day with you?”
“No, you can go once I’m asleep. Just don’t take off permanently. I don’t know what I’d do on my own.” Both her hands press mine against her chest. “God, I hate being so dependent.”
“Everyone depends on someone.”
“Who do you depend on?”
“I left myself open for that. Touché.”
She turns to face me, eyes searching mine. “You know I’m here for you. I just need to know what you need.”
The next evening, I’m reading the news, swiping at my tablet, when something catches my eye: a story about a body, drained of blood, in an alley. Enraged, I push open her door and hold up the tablet. “You did it again.”
She’s in her closet, topless, sifting through dresses. “Hello, that door still means something. What do you want?”
I step in. “Someone sucked a body dry last night. It’s all over the news – we’re exposed.”
“I didn’t do that.”
“Then who did?”
She’s smiling when she faces me. “Congratulations!” She kisses my cheek. “We’re parents.”
“It’s a miracle.” Still smiling, both of her hands take mine. “Remember that cop from two nights ago?”
“The one you killed, and I dumped in the lake?”
“I’m calling him Austin – hope you like the name. He’s alive and living nearby.”
My breathing becomes shallow as I extract my hand and grab her upper right arm. “Are you saying you sired that cop?”
“We sired him. We had sex and I gave Austin some of my blood…”
“His name was Officer Jared Brown and we had sex after you killed him.”
“I don’t remember the order — I don’t know how this works — but aren’t you happy? We have a son.” She tries to move, looks at my hand gripping her arm, and fixes her gaze on mine. “Let go of me.”
“Walk me through it. You were alone with him in the car, and you drained him. When did you give him your blood?”
“I can’t REMEMBER.” She yanks herself free. “Really, I thought you’d be happy – at least for me. I didn’t think I could sire someone.”
“Camilla, listen: You brought a being into this world that we can’t protect…”
“We brought him into this world.”
“…and once the police catch him, they’ll start looking for others…”
“But you can teach him to survive – like you’re teaching me.”
“STOP ACTING LIKE I’M HIS FATHER.”
Blood pools in her eyes as her body shakes. She points toward the door. “Get. Out.”
I point at her before I leave. “We will talk about this tonight.”
“GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE.”
Finally, an order I agree with. Fiona’s check is still on the kitchen table. I pocket that and grab my tablet. Before leaving, I open my go-bag and feel all the way to the bottom. I pull out a pistol, a trophy from a battle that now seems ages ago. The magazine contains regular bullets. Reaching back inside, I find the other mag containing wood-tipped rounds. One through the heart is all that’s needed.
A moment later, I’m driving to the neighborhood where the latest body was found. I’m testing that TV trope that says a criminal always returns to the scene of his crime. It takes several minutes to find the alley, which still has pieces of yellow tape on the ground. I get out, put the gun behind my belt, and begin walking, occasionally looking through a thermal imager. It takes ten minutes to find him. He’s still wearing the polo and plaid shorts, although this time he’s 28 degrees and walking several paces behind a woman registering 98.6. He glances back once, briefly making eye contact. He knows I’m there for him. Still, inexperienced and consumed by hunger, the two-day-old continues his pursuit.
I quicken my pace, already thinking beyond the ultimate crime of rendering mortal what was supposed to be immortal. No doubt, Camilla will come after me for killing “our” child – for shattering the illusion that this creature would bind us forever. She’ll disregard her own safety, and the universe will act accordingly; there’s a reason most vampires die before their first year. Still, a longing has settled in, one that threatens to haunt me for the rest of my life. She certainly got to me with that fire in her eyes, and the smell of her hair. How each breast felt when I held it. How she tasted.
This is all my fault. I broke the first rule of guardianship, and the consequences couldn’t be clearer for all involved – including me. But perhaps I’ve been wrong all along. I’ve made a career out of helping others cheat death. Now, for the first time, I see mortality as a gift. It forgives, wipes the slate clean, and allows you to forget difficult memories. For this, Officer Jared or Austin or whatever you call yourself — You are welcome. Just stay dead.
You can find Mr. Klefstad’s novel, Shepherd & The Professor, online, here.
Selection of fiction works we’ve published this year.
- The Caretaker (Dan Klefstad / short story—chapter excerpt / horror, thriller)
- Hauptsturmführer Fillenius (Dan Klefstad / short story / horror, thriller)
- Riven Cage (K. E. / flash / horror)
- Pen & Pedagogy (K. E. / flash / realism, satire)
- Roadkill (D. A. Estringel / short story / realism)
- Strawberry Moon (K. E. / flash / realism)
- The Fissure (K. E. / short story / horror, surrealism)
- Lanterns In The Night (K. E. / short story / horror, surrealism)
- The Monster & The Paige (K. E. / flash / fantasy)
- Hinterland (T. R. Healy / novella [pdf] / realism)
- Flesh-Eating Beavers Could Hunt Down More Humans Due To Climate Change (K. E. / flash / satire)
- Apostasy (G. Dannato / novella / fantasy [pdf])
- O. R. C. A. (K. E. / flash / scifi)
- Hinterland (T. R. Healy / novella / realism)
- The Seal Maiden & The Spirit Cage (K. E. / short story / fantasy)
- A Dedication to Rust (K. E. / short story / realism)
- The Euphoric Problem (Peter Clarke / experimental flash)
- Oniria (Iliana Vargas + Toshiya Kamei / experimental flash)
- Firebug (K.E. / short story / horror, surrealism)
- Do They Play Chess In Heaven? (K.E. / short story / realism)
We extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of our gracious patreon supporters and avid readers.
Circular Notes: Fiction Circular is focused on unearthing, presenting, congratulating and critiquing the best in new, independent fiction. By independent, we mean small presses, litmags and e-zines (with a particular, though not exclusive, focus on American works). Work is separated into three categories: Independent Authors (which covers self-published prose-works), Independent Publishers (which covers work from self-sufficient sites that feature the work of independent authors) and Literary Ephemera (which covers everything that isn’t prose-fiction, ie. poetry, experimental works, literary reviews, news, etc). If you know a piece, author or site of literature that you think we should include in our circular, do let us know, either through our email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the social media account of our admin (Kaiter Enless).
Nothing to report.
X-R-A-Y published LAND SPEED by Alex Evans.
“On October 24th, 2011, Oscar Valentine broke the land speed record riding his Schwinn through a suburb outside of Madison, Wisconsin. People said that this was impossible, that Oscar Valentine, being neither a professional high-speed driver nor a legal adult at the time of the achievement, could not have exceeded 760 miles per hour.” — LAND SPEED, A. Evans.
From Terror House Magazine, Cannae (2019) by Proteus Juvenalis, a gripping and emotional tale of an unhappy and unfulfilled life and a fantastical flight from it. Mr. Juvenalis displays a unique prose style which mixes crisp minimalism with biting social commentary. He follows one of the best rules for short stories: omit needless words, as a consequence, we’d highly recommend his work.
“College-degreed, underemployed, on the wrong side of thirty. The scorn of my fellow American. Yeah, fuck you too.” — Cannae, P. Juvenalis.
“It’s my ritual,” he told Kurt the night he set fire to his first Applebee’s. “It helps me really hear the record.” — Thomas Burned Down The Applebees But The New Record Sounds Amazing, Kevin Sterne.
Avani Singh of Blogggedit published a collection of her horror stories in the Kindle-available volume, Existence: They Do Exist (2019). I’m not really sure what to make of the name. Those who wish to support independent horror authors you can pick up a copy of her book through Amazon Kindle.
Thanks for reading.
If there are any authors or publications you think should be included in the next circular, feel free to let us know in the comments.
We’re always open to ideas on sites to cover for future installments, so if you know a good writer or collective, let us know via email@example.com
Ramya Tantry of the whimsical writing site, And Miles Before I Go To Sleep… published The Mist, a surreal micro-fiction about (as you might have guessed) a peculiar mist and (as you probably didn’t guess) a lucky garden gnome.
“Run, the mist is descending.. Run for your life“, cried Stu.
The poisonous mist was settling on his skin causing blisters. He was in tremendous pain and was in desperate need of water to wash the mist away. But he was unable to move. Poor visibility due to mist was creating hindrance in searching others.
He cried for help. He called for his friends. But no help arrived. As the mist started to clear he could see the bodies of his friends. He saw some of his friends on the other side of the fence crying their heart out.
“I bring good luck. I am a good luck charm. I am the protector. Why I am being killed?“, Stu – the Garden Gnome wondered.
Certainly a evocative beginning to a tale, the only question: what happens next? Did Stu survive his ordeal? What is the mist and how did it become poisonous? Where did it come from? Perhaps we shall find out in another installment.
Curiously, The persistently consistent Dark Netizen also published a flash fiction entitled The Mist (presumably both he and Ms. Tantry were inspired by the same writing prompt). His story differs from Ms. Tantry’s in that there are no gnomes, but rather, considerably more giant spiders. Really not sure which situation is preferable…
Newcomer Avani Singh of the horror fiction site Blogggedit published a horror story memorably titled Weirdo Elevator. The story of the strange elevator and the terrifying smile continues in Why? Why Don’t You Leave Me? and is further elaborated upon in part 3, NOW YOU SEE ME! One thing I quite enjoyed about blogggedit’s posts is the usage of disquieting photography throughout, that both fit and intensified the narrative. We’ll be covering the rest of the series once we finish reading it and are definitely interested to see her work develop and progress.
Worth reading from Jellyfish Review, When God Closes A Door by Kathryn Kulpa.
“I could picture the droop of his thinning hair, his hangdog eyes, as he realized the terrible sort of person I was. Like that song that says you always hurt the ones you love, but that wasn’t me. I hurt people I kind of liked-“
Nell begins the first chapter of a series titled The Angelic Conversation. A tale of convening with celestial beings.
“The social media app, which had in recent times, become her refuge. Another world she could escape to and be someone else – or perhaps just another version of herself, which was usually carefully concealed in her day job as an archivist.”
A tale of the freedom inherent to anonymity; no nagging questions from friends and co-workers; but are such relationships built as a stage or are they a potential alternative avenue of human connectivity, as real and genuine as talking to John upon the street? And who is this John anyway? I suppose we shall find out in her next installment.
We got around to reading more from OddMadLand’s back-catalog and delved into Ardency and Hysteria, the peculiar tale of a poet, Ren, who, believing himself a bird jumps to his “death” and, under perpetual transformation and internal turmoil, contemplates becoming his own planet and what life upon himself would entail.
“It was reported that the photographer and poet ended his life at the age of twenty-nine, but what they did not know is that he never hit the ground after jumping to his death. Instead the sky fell, and as it went down he went up.”
Like all of the stories at OddMadLand, Ardency and Hysteria is stylish, experimental and dense with symbolism. Highly recommended.
Terror House Mag’s Working The Night Shift by Daniel Bretton has a good premise – a depressed, wayward hall monitor seeing something or someone late at night, or at least he thinks did; this realization then causing total life-reassessment. Life, he realizes, is stranger than fiction, or something (it isn’t really laid out very well how this event changed his perspective, though the set up is well-done). However, this interesting premise is undercut by clunky prose which almost always tells rather than shows. Additionally, the story raises a few philosophical questions (the author snipes at dogmatic materialism (qua Dawkins et al.) and states – rightly – that what is true is not constrained by dogma, personal or collective; “if something is real it can take the pressure [of investigation]”) but doesn’t follow through with this idea, which makes the story feel, unfortunately, rather half-finished.
“In the modern day, the scientific and educational establishments have turned to a dogmatic materialism. No deviation from this premise is tolerated, with researchers and scientists putting their careers at risk by pursuing wider areas of research. Yet, to paraphrase a figure Burke otherwise has little use for; “if something is real it can take the pressure.” The strange, extraordinary, and yes, spiritual aspects of the universe do not simply cease to exist because post-enlightenment men choose to ignore them.”
Also from Terror House Mag, My Shinning Boy by Patty Fischer.
John Siney, whose work we’ve covered previously (The Ghost Of A Flea), has released an extract of his 2016 novel, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Woman. All I can say thus far is that it is splendidly written, amusing and hold’s too high an opinion of Pollock (who was dreadful).
NOVELLAS & NOVELS
Nothing to report; still working through The White Lioness (Kurt Wallander #3) by Henning Mankell.
NOTABLE NON-FICTION WORKS
“-only the speaker, the human, has any place on the stage-“
Thanks for reading!
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You’ll see him at night, when the moon shines its beam
Tall, gaunt, inviting, his face so serene
Oh, he’ll whisper so sweetly, kindly words shall inspire
The fickle, black beating of hearts grim desire
No eyes to his face, all the better to see
The wretched behavings of those such as thee
Burnoose’s fell strides, his hands shall embrace
The wicked, then dragged to a most fearful place
So listen up all; whores, brigands and rakes
Tread not in night when the eyeless man wakes
So tuck up to bed and shutter the moon
And pray that He leaves you to rest in your gloom