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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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A Man Named Binary

by Michael Hall

Outside the funeral home wet, heavy snowflakes fell on an approaching incandescent Christmas while Binary stood before an open coffin with the echo of his father’s desperate screams reverberating in his head. “Ones and Zeros! Ones and Zeros!” Binary rubbed his face with his thick, moist hands dreading the onslaught of well-wishers and empathizers. He already missed the comfort of his house; the safe, familiar walls, the cushy easy chair sitting before a glowing television, and the absence of unfamiliar people expressing uncomfortable emotions.

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Honeybun and the Greatest Friend

by Paris Hickman

Once upon a time there was a great forest that stretched for miles and miles along a tranquil river. The river was wide and long, and the azure water glimmered like crystals. If the river was followed deep enough into the wood, there could be found a small cottage tucked beneath the bosom of a mountain. The cottage was covered in countless flowers, and berries, and all sorts of vined things that grew out and up from a large garden. Inside the cottage there lived a little girl and her mother. This little girl was the sweetest, most docile child one could encounter. She had large eyes the color of umber and dark curly hair that shone reddish-brown in the springtime sun.

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Returning

by Christine Marra

When the cold, white morning of her fiftieth birthday arrived, Beatrice couldn’t lift her head. The chimes of her good morning, programmed into the phone she kept beside her, just in case, circled through their simple melody three times and then stopped. From outside her bedroom door came the cries of the cat, hungry again, its staccato screeches demanding attention. Sunlight fell like shards of glass on the floor, too bright this April morning, reflecting the snow that should not have fallen, here, in Atlanta, where last week was springtime.

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The Wicked Flee Where None Pursueth

by Camara Fairweather

Apart from the usuals who wandered in and out to sift through old records the shop was unusually quiet. Marcel, the sales clerk, was leaning back on the brick wall behind the register, rolling a joint between his fingers. He took the fixings, rolled, licked, and twisted, then placed the cigarette in his mouth. The rose-colored tip glowed gold as his thumb stroked the wheel of the lighter, before browning, and turning black.

He stared out the display window as he smoked. The evening sky was a pure, uninterrupted pink…

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Wings of Change

by Erin Casey

Corina settled back into the grimy seat and tucked white buds into her ears. Chicago flashed past her in snatches of skyscrapers, cars, bridges, and billboards promoting Krazy Kaplans’ fireworks. More would come as they drew closer to the fourth of July.

She drummed her fingers on her knee to the beat of her mixed playlist. It was supposed to help her feel more empowered and energetic. Normally it did, but not today. Today was a bad day, and the familiar torn poster clinging to the metro train wall across from her didn’t help.

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Involuntary Memory

by Joseph Costa

The floor creaked in the hall outside my bedroom at 3:20 in the morning, and shortly after that, the doorknob quietly turned. I had a Louisville slugger in my hands and a hundred-pound dog snoring next to my bed. On the other side of the door was Mike Harper, a childhood friend who had suffered a mental breakdown, thought mobsters were after him, was carrying a large knife and pining away for Adeline, a woman he hadn’t seen in a dozen years.

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Just a Regular Girl

by Susan Breall

Over the past three years Queenie Reginald Smith had been arrested more times than she cared to admit. Recently she even managed to get herself arrested on Sixth and Howard Streets at four o’clock in the morning by trying to solicit an undercover cop she saw leaning against the entrance to The Tip Top Donut Shop. After she was taken to Juvenile Hall, Queenie assumed that Judge Williamson would release her from custody the way all judges did, given her youth and the prevailing view that her kind of crime did not warrant custody time. Judge Williamson, however, was not like all other judges.

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Jumping on Sunbeams

by Aaron Como

He could not see anything, nor was there any sound. He knew he was moving forward and could feel the soft squish of the ground underneath his feet. Because of the void he did not know if his path was narrow or if he walked in an expanse. He held his arms out in front of him and then waved them in the air at his sides but felt nothing. He felt like he was walking in the right direction yet was not sure if the next step he took would plunge him over the precipice and into the abyss. He was not sure that he would have minded that but didn’t think that was what was going to happen.

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The Letter Writer

by E. Merrill Brouder

After he awoke, he did not remember his name for many days. By then, the mess of line that had tangled around his ankle had peeled away. He’d also found the transom of his boat, The Aloha, broken over a sandbar and stretched and twisted and torn like chewing gum. Now he remembered her, a lovely little schooner with a cream-colored deck over a small one-man cabin. The atoll, too, was small. It was so small one could see its east coast from its westernmost point.

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Happy Birthday

by Fatima Ijaz

Rummaging through the evening’s profile and its many lit sunsets – on the pavement, in the shadows, in the alleys, on the shore – Iqra had a keen sensation of what it felt like to be in love. She felt the dual nature of reality – one, in which she existed with him, and the other in which she was part of the ordinary world – come in close contact when she realized that she had not answered either his phone, or the work-meet. Lost in the contemplation of nature she had let time slip by and the announcement it made on her life was evocative, fulfilling. She realized that both Tahir and Usman would be upset with her. She had missed birthday calls, engrossed in the setting sun.

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I Enjoy Teaching Nineteenth Century Novels

by Alina Stefanescu

I enjoy teaching 19th century novels for three years at a small private college before a student steps forward to query the bias in my curriculum.

He is a serious, hardworking student with perfect attendance. He portends an earnestness for which I am not prepared. It is the unreported thunderstorms, the torrential rains presaged by quiet, windless skies, which cause the most damage.

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My Dearest

by Charlotte Burnett

My Dearest

Sometimes I think they did it deliberately, these nations, started this war just to separate you and me. Sometimes I think they all did, these strange cowards who’ll follow me into battle.

That’s unfair, after all I don’t know them – for all my bitter mind knows they could have their own Dearest waiting for them at home, pouring over the letters they write, waiting for that next train to bring them home.

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