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Filling the Void

by Kevin Taylor

“We’ll be getting a new store manager soon.”
“We will?”
“Yep, it’s coming on”–Rusty swiveled his chair and peered at the calendar on the wall–“ten months. They ain’t ever here for more than a year.”
“Why’s that?”
“Beats me, Luke. Someone told me it’s so they don’t get too attached to us. The same reason farmers don’t give their hogs names. Just makes it more difficult when it comes time to…” Rusty drew a finger across his throat.

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Ventilator Blues

by Daniel Bartkowiak

Beyond the tracks and rising erumpent from the swallows of the Mississippi are two Maple trees which he watches alone and with a face not older than the trees but one of a similar mold. He pulls out a red lighter and a pack of Lucky Strikes from his leather jacket. He spins the wheel twice before the flame emerges, an orange haze in the gray evening.

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Dr. Yang’s Emotional Rebalancing Clinic

by Kristina Heflin

Kathleen glanced around the sterile chrome and white setting while clutching the tablet in her hands. She had been here once before for the preliminary, complimentary consultation, and it had been just as silent. A big screen TV mounted in the corner played a midday soap on mute with the captions scrolling across the bottom. The receptionist typed her notes in swift, almost clackless rhythm.

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Strangers

by Christopher Wyman

Ms. Elizabeth Brockridge was as sharp as a tack. As an attorney, she never missed a trick in the courtroom or anywhere else in her life. Of course, she had to be, because she did not have much else going for her in the beginning. Her parents had nothing but a small farm they could barely pay the taxes on, and when it came to her education she was largely on her own. She showed all the naysayers, though.

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Symmetry

by Matthew Wade Thomas

A pickup truck slammed into our car killing my wife instantly. The drunk driver who ran the red light also died at the scene.
The accident was so random and the loss so devastating, I could barely comprehend it. Reacting without reason and not knowing what else to do, I sued. Even though the drunk driver had a family, they were not the object of the lawsuit, so I could take out my vindictiveness on the insurance company. I was not interested in a settlement—we went to court.

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Clomid Dreams

by Susanne Lee

She shifts to her side. On her thighs are tiny marks, the size of pinpricks, her battle scars. Faded but still visible are the blue Xs on her ass that her husband Steve draws with a blue marker he uses as a guide for the hypodermic he uses to give her the injection with. According to schedule, he fills her with the cocktail and afterward, full of medication that is supposed to make her ovulate, it begins. That night like all the others these days, with the invading chemicals swimming in her, she suffers psychedelic Clomid dreams.

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The Missing Girl

by Vanessa Christie

“Dad,” someone was saying. “Dad. DAD!”
And now poking, he noted.
“Yeah. OK,” he said, lifting his head from his arms.
“This place is disgusting,” his daughter told him.
“Well, daughter mine,” James muttered. “Of all the gin joints you could have found me in … at least this is a gin joint.”

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Toshihiro’s Last Part

by Ilia Ryzhenko

Toshihiro arrived at the Osakako station fifteen minutes earlier than planned. As he left the subway, he realised the sun had already set while he was underground, making him feel as if he travelled to a place more distant.

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Rabbit’s Den

by Drew Mortier

I don’t remember if this was before or after the fumigator accidentally lit our house on fire in 2002, which turned out to be sort of a mixed bag in the long run, but I have this picture in my head where Bunny is running toward me down a hallway and then she’s in my arms,

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Hebrew for the Sabbath Day

by Sharon Forman

Malawach, the bubbly Yemenite pancake bread oozing with meat and vegetables, bloated the teachers’ American bellies, as the tour bus spirited them away from the trendy restaurant to the terraced sidewalks of Jerusalem’s Tayelet.

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Even Robots Screw Up

by Caroline Taylor

The plan was simple, the execution a bit tricky, but I was ready. Man, was I ready. Or maybe I was tired of trying to figure out what might go wrong. I just wanted to get going. We’d certainly spent enough time puzzling over the damn details.

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Amnesia

by Cherene Leong

Chang Er hunches over her desk working. The administration of the moon is no easy task and the goddess has only one employee to assist her. She has been petitioning for additional help, but each time the Queen Mother of the West –the highest goddess of nine supreme heavens,

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Animals, All of Them

by Rowan Johnson

Alois, the caretaker of Vultures’ Nest, wears bush clothes and drives his old safari truck 200 kilometers into the northern suburbs of Johannesburg to get presents to send back to his family in Zimbabwe. In the parking lot of the Mall of Africa he drives his rusty truck between bulletproof black BMWs. Children keep their distance from him and a trendy mother thinks he is a parking attendant and tosses him a few coins. Sparse brick workspaces surround the parking lot, where self-important businessmen stride along selfishly, yelling and arguing into the air.

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Crimson Moon

by Bre Hall

High above the farmlands of northeastern Oklahoma, above the red dirt roads and the swaying cottonwoods, atop the flat-peaked mesas that make up the Glass Mountains, lives a clan of moon worshipping off-gridders who harvest the selenite crystals and perform human sacrifices while dancing naked beneath the deep pull of a blood moon, their bodies bathed in the rich, sunburnt soil of the land, wailing like a pack of rabid wolves on a midnight hunt. Of course, those were the stories, the whispers passed from lip to ear on the school playground. Tales to sizzle the blood and raise the neck hair. Images to transform the heart into a bass drum, the fear into the mallet that beats against it.

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Tomorrow’s Last Thursday

by Omar Esparza

I think I used to lucid dream. More precisely, I’ve lost count.

The dreams were flint-sparks at first: I awoke in my sleep a few nights in a row but was quickly blotted out. The first full-length lucid dream was in a movie-theater. I was alone. A movie-projector was being projected on-screen. The movie projector on-screen was projecting the very screen on which it was being projected.

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A Journey Down the Aisle

by Reyna Marder Gentin

They stand in the archway at the back of the chapel, watching the prisms of light as they pass through the stained glass and dance on the old wooden floors. It had taken some effort, but Jeannie had picked the least flashy church she could find. She wasn’t aiming for somber, but she needed dignified. She places her hand on her father’s arm, feeling the cool starchiness of his dress whites as he stands ramrod straight, his seventy-five years not yet bowing his body.

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On the Rocks

by Linda McMullen

Melanie recognized Paula’s extension, and exhaled sharply. She smoothed her voice the way a widow adjusts her dress during an unseasonably hot funeral. “Hi, Paula.” Sincere but solemn.

“Melanie, hi. Mark can’t do the trip. Jim wants you to come.”

Melanie, after ten years as a diplomat, had the grace not to offer her opinion of what Jim did or didn’t want, but her forehead made a graceful arc onto her keyboard.

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Coming Down

by Carlos Sosa

I look out the dirty, cracked window toward the road, hoping to see her there; her slim figure, bundled and shivering, hurrying home. But the road is empty save for the brown leaves carried by the wind across the way. Honey’s been gone for three days. That’s unlike her. A pickup doesn’t take three days. I lay back on the hard floor; the air is cold and seeps through the cracks in the windows. The walls are marred with graffiti. Honey and I added our own names to the collection of red and black obscenities and drawings when we found this place, ‘Oscar ♥ Honey,’ big and sloppy, smeared over the wall’s cracks and chips. I look out the window again, squinting to see if I can make her out in the distance, but no one is there.

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