Novel Excerpts

Featured image for “The World So Wide”

The World So Wide
by Zilla Jones

CHAPTER 34
Winnipeg, September 8, 1983
Dolores stood for a moment outside the door of Neil Rosenblatt’s office, checking that the bow of her blouse was properly tied.
“You can just go on in, Mrs Alexander”, sang the assistant from her desk, where, under cover of the school calendar, she was surreptitiously re-reading a letter from her boyfriend who was travelling abroad. Dolores straightened her shoulders.
“You wanted to see me, Neil?” she asked.
The man behind the desk pushed his glasses down his nose and set aside the pile of student information forms that he was perusing. Read more.

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The Potrero Complex
by Amy Bernstein

MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.
The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner Flint Sten turned onto the street.
The girl’s name was Effie, and she was sixteen. Read more.

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Able Archer: Distant Early Warning (Part III)
by Lawrence Lichtenfeld

A red rotary beacon was mounted over the door to the communications room. In all his days at the Marne Kaserne, he had never seen it illuminated. It was never supposed to be. If that lamp was illuminated, it meant that the Telex machines had urgent messages. Even when they were running a com drill that was supposed to mimic an actual situation, they never used the lamp. When the reflector inside the red, plastic dome began rotating, no one paid much attention. Then the light came on. Read more.

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Dust Choked and Sore
by Erin Conway

It’s a buzz and a bump. Etta laid her head back on a torn seat cushion.
And a flip and a thump.
No air conditioning in the truck cab meant duct tape stuck to her neck in the heat. Tang. She was almost… The phrase began but she couldn’t end it. Twang. Where was she? Read more.

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Able Archer: Moscow, Moscow Oblast, USSR
by Lawrence Lichtenfeld

Yuri Andropov was resting comfortably in his hospital bed. An hour earlier, he had been hooked up to the dialysis system in the suite. He had had some vodka afterwards, and a couple of cigarettes while lying in bed. The television was tuned to the state channel ‘Fourth Programme’—known for its intellectual broadcasts. Tonight, Andropov was enjoying the broadcast of a Bolshoi production of “Cipollino.” His heavy-eyed viewing of the ballet was interrupted by the military hotline ringing on the telephone table next to his bed. Read more.

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The Velodrome
by Brianne Turczynski

Miriam Birchfield’s abdomen plagued her to tears. Her tears burned and irritated her cheeks, and they made her see the reflection of herself as a blotchy stranger in the mirror. She took the bottle of bitters from her vanity; it was the last bottle Dr. Morel gave her before he died. She didn’t know if she would ever get another, because in approximately thirteen minutes, she would welcome a new doctor into Whittingham Estate, the place she had worked as manager of the staff and had lived her whole life. Read more.

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Certain Savages: Hyperinflation
by Greg Johnson

On low marshy islands in the middle of the River Seine, an encampment of Celtic fishermen, the Parisii, once founded a village. The fishermen worshipped the horned god Cernunnos whom they believed united the earth, sea and sky. To this stag-horned hunter they sacrificed goats and pigs to ensure the fertility of their women. They doused statues of him in holy water to ensure their nets returned filled with fish. They laid flowers at his feet and fought enemy invaders who attempted to desecrate the Lord of the Dance. Read more.

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Extreme Vetting
by Roxana Arama

Livia Holban arrived at the Seattle Immigration Court that morning determined to fight like hell for Félix Dominguez’s children. Sixteen-year-old Cruz and thirteen-year-old Clara Dominguez sat beside her at the counsel’s table looking terrified at the prospect of being sent to Honduras, a country they didn’t even remember. At the government’s table, Immigration and Customs Enforcement trial attorney Josh Henderson appeared relaxed, as if he’d already secured the kids’ deportation. Read more.

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The Snitch: Kelly
by M.D. Semel

Kelly couldn’t remember the last time she drove a car. She didn’t take the driving test until she was in law school and she had nearly failed it. Now, she was on the far eastside of Harlem at a cut-rate car rental place that looked more like a chop shop than a legitimate business. A friend had recommended it. She sat in the driver’s seat of a small, battered car and listened to the attendant explain its basic functions. Read more.

Featured image for “Able Archer: Distant Early Warning”

Able Archer: Distant Early Warning
by Lawrence Lichtenfeld

Major Powell had agreed to take photos of schematic diagrams of the SDI satellite systems. Dubrikov gave him a Minox B camera to shoot the plans. Powell had special plans created by the technical team at Langley that would photograph clearly on the tiny spy camera’s film. The images had to be clear enough for the Soviet technicians to be able to read, but not so clear that it looked like Powell had had time to set up a photo-shoot. Read more.

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Only the Moon Remains
by Lawrence F. Farrar

When he returned to Tokyo in mid-February, Peter entered a capital wrapped in foreboding. Over whiskey sodas at the Palace Hotel bar, Bigelow declared he expected a military uprising within days. Peter dismissed the idea. True, he had noticed soldiers in the streets, but units marching to and from reviews or to board trains had become common sights in recent years. And, so far as Peter could see, the citizens of AsiaÕs most modern metropolis were going about their lives in a perfectly ordinary manner. Read more.

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The Snitch: Mary
by M.D. Semel

It was dark when the alarm went off. Mary Patterson lifted herself from bed, splashed cold water on her face, brushed her teeth, then dressed in the clothes she had laid out on the chair the night before. She wore a dark blue dress, something that she had worn to church on many occasions, and flat shoes. She listened to the news on the radio as she got ready, and opted for stockings, despite the predicted heat, but she ultimately rejected the idea of a hat. Read more.

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Easy Does It
by Howard Sachs

Easy Ed’s brain was under siege, assaulted by an unidentified buzzing. His nervousness layered mystery onto its origin. He was too high and too edgy to think clearly. Everything was a vibrating blur. What he contemplated doing would either ruin his life or save it. Easy’s corpulent body seemed to shrink as the droning gathered into a whining bolt of shrillness that pierced his ears. The buzzing morphed into the tip of a drill that bored into his brain. Read more.

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Neither Here Nor There
by Marianna Boncek

Angie pulled her cell phone out of her pocket to check the time. She was late. Actually, she was over an hour late. She had two missed calls both from Harold. He had warned her not to be late.
“You absolutely cannot be late,” was exactly how Harold had phrased it. “There will be press and photographers there. They do not want to wait around for you. Don’t screw this up.” Read more.

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River of Steel
by Ed Davis

The country east of Roseville is a gentle plain of grassland and houses, tilting steadily upwards toward the Sierra Nevada. It’s a gradual climb that an automobile wouldn’t notice, but the eastbound freight labored at it, all six power units throwing thick black smoke into the afternoon sky.
In their boxcar Lynden and The Duke stood like sailors on a rolling deck — hands clasped at their backs, feet wide apart, faces thrust forward into the wind. Read more.

Featured image for “The Northland”

The Northland
by Christopher Ryan

The northern lights have a sound, you know. Like static but grander. The electricity of eels, not machines. The first time I’d heard their song, I had just arrived at the upper reaches of Finland’s Bothnian Bay, and while standing there at the edge of the sea with the lights shimmying and quavering above me, for a moment, finally, I wasn’t staring at my feet, the pavement, or the cracks in the earth. I was actually watching, truly listening. Read more.

Featured image for “Bamboo Grows Straight to the Sky”

Bamboo Grows Straight to the Sky
by Janet Wells

Beyond the thatched eaves of the school building, the Moie River shimmered in the hazy midday sun, its green oxbows carving through steep lush mountains. From afar the refugee camp’s rows of bamboo huts, nestled among palm and banana trees, looked like a tropical paradise. Up close, the terraces were barren hard-pack dirt, the weathered shelters so close together neighbors could climb onto one another’s porches. Read more.

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Twisted Fate
by Linda Boroff

Like compliant worker bees, Brian and I reported for our blood tests even before they became mandatory. His employer had sent out a message offering two-for-one discounts at local restaurants for showing a test receipt. The message reminded us that getting tested was our patriotic duty and a big step toward bringing the epidemic to an end—the standard drivel. Read more.

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Randine: Letters to a Midwife
by Robin H. Lysne

Randine clutched her belly, seized by a spasm of pain unlike anything she had ever felt. She was terrified. She wasn’t sure what to do, what to expect. Would she die? Would her baby survive? She wanted her mother—Mama! She would know what to do. She remembered this dream as though she were still in it, felt the stab of their absence, tried to hold on to an image of her parents loving her. But when she looked again, only Hella and Holda were smiling. Read more.

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Here Comes a Regular
by Dave Buckhout

HE SHIFTS IN HIS seat atop barstool, a lean-to-sinewy build weighed down by an epic hangover. He locks a gaze on his nemesis and stews. A nonchalant simmer boils up into something resembling a care, in the presence of one who has done him wrong.
“Damn you,” he mutters, upgrading his stare to a glare in glowering at a fifth of bourbon one splash above empty. Read more.

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All Sorrows Can Be Borne
by Loren Stephens

He told me that our son, Hisashi, would be better off living with his sister and her husband in America; I was too weak to argue with him. My mother said I had lost my mind to give up my child. Her judgment of me was cruel, but I knew she was right.
“You are like a monk for three days,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“You give up too easily. You carried your baby for nine months; you took care of him for three years; and after all that you give him away. What was the point of that struggle? Do you not love him, Noriko?” Read more.

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The Law of Return
by Leeore Schnairsohn

My father was playing guitar with Guns N’ Roses when he died in a nightclub fire. The club was an old airline hangar packed with polyurethane to hold in the A/C, which was running against an epic Florida summer. Someone, it was conjectured, lit a cigarette in defiance of the law. Meanwhile my dad was playing Izzy Stradlin’s old parts: rhythm lines, easy to miss. His fate was sealed in seconds. As was yours. Read more.

Featured image for “A Bridge Outside Limerick”

A Bridge Outside Limerick
by Paul Benkendorfer

A lingering chill filled the fresh morning air as the crown of the sun broke over the mountains and hills. Spring had come, but the final fragments of 1915’s winter had not yet dissipated. A plume of breath bleached with every breath he took. He sat, crouched behind a large boulder atop a small hill overlooking the road that meandered through the pass below. Read more.

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Lambs Cross
by Edward Harvey

In late September, Danny Munchak Jr. disappeared from the town of Lamb’s Cross, an old town in the western part of Massachusetts where redbrick mills stand like ancient landmarks, testaments to a glorified past of material production. Even at the time of the disappearance, which occurred on the edge of the millennium, the mills hadn’t produced much besides tetanus and unwanted pregnancies for over twenty years. Read more.