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Latest Stories

July 23, 2022
Flash Fiction L Christopher Hennessy

The Following Story Is Pure Fiction

It’s safe to say I was always a handsome man from a good Christian family and I was well respected in the community and people shook my hand and said graciously, “ Hi there, O’Brien! “ My wife was a beautiful tall blonde of Icelandic ancestry and she thought…
July 23, 2022
General Stories Peter Greenhall

First Boxing Match

‘This is it,’ I thought, all my training, all dedication to the sport was put on the line. The sense of anxiety was huge, it felt difficult just to move forward given the amount of apprehension I was experiencing. The boxing ring is a very lonely place and is…
July 23, 2022
Horror Stories Tanha Emita

The Salt Made

The brine beds are soaked with spume- overhead suspended in the sky of silvery ash. The wind announced forthcoming of an unknown storm- atmosphere here, is hyaline. Salt farmers working in continuity. Far in the landscape children were playing by the…
July 23, 2022
Romance Stories L Christopher Hennessy

You've Come A Long Way Baby

Last time I saw her was today. Last time I saw her the way I remembered her was the day I went away. She was beautiful then as she is now and there’s no denying it. She was waiting in the courtroom with her mother and I was sitting in the dock and the…
July 19, 2022
Romance Stories Safi Torva

The Magenta Subtraction

The large gallery containing the museum’s restoration facilities had only a few workers as the summer holiday had taken its toll and left only two people working carefully on their respective projects. The room, mainly lit by natural light through very large…
July 09, 2022
General Stories Lana M. Rochel

The Metaphysics of One Life

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. Friedrich Nietzsche Life plays White and Pain plays Black, as if in chess – two opponents determined to proceed and win the game for ‘patient’s life. “A chessboard” is set up once someone’s deemed to have a…
July 09, 2022
Horror Stories Samantha Brooke

Scarecrows

Melissa opened her eyes and stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling. She listened to the sound of Daniel's slow, deep breathing beside her as she groggily recalled where she was. In their brand new bedroom of their brand new house. The house which they had moved…
July 09, 2022
Romance Stories Donald Guadagni

True Love

He dreamed the dream and in his dream, he saw her as she danced across ocean waves, drifting sedately over summer fields, and chasing dandelion fluff and hummingbirds’ songs amongst the starlight morning glories. His heart ached to find her, in rapture of…
June 23, 2022
Flash Fiction Trishna

Perseverance

A particular event is not shaping itself the way it can, what should one do? A particular incidence is not evolving the way it can, what should one do? A particular episode is embroiling uncertainty and rage time and again, what should one do? Should one give…
June 23, 2022
General Stories Tanha Emita

I Am A Grey Horse

I was born in a rambling barn. A place so filthy, where even horses like me would spit in disgust. As I was coming out of my mother's womb, I felt the earth-shaking. I slipped with a soft thud and loud grunt. Mother described to me the peculiarities afterward…
June 23, 2022
Horror Stories Robert Pettus

Taxidermy Soul

The traffic wasn’t moving a bit, so we decided to park on the street and hoof it the remaining two blocks. We walked the cracked, dampening sidewalk with a purpose. This was a party street – directly bordering the University of Cincinnati campus. The…
June 23, 2022
General Stories Ana Vidosavljevic

Bee Hummingbird

I was born prematurely. I got a bit restless in that tiny egg and rushed to see the world outside. I admit it was not wise. Anyway, I was outside, and I was not sure how long I would be in that beautiful, colorful, musical, charming world. Therefore, I needed…

Joey saw the grinder and knew there would be trouble. The tilt of the thing in the weeds of the abandoned Cheshire Flea Market, the rust on it, hinted at the monstrous.

His friends—Art, Charlie, Rupe—dropped the empty pop bottles and rebar they’d collected. They clustered around the grinder’s gaping mouth. They buzzed, fidgeted, leaked steam through fixed smiles as they peered from under their snow caps into the black throat of the machine.

All but for Del, who hung back, small in his parka and frowning.

Joey shot a reproachful look at Del. His brother had to brave up before the others noticed.

“Cool as shit,” Charlie said. He worked the grinder’s wheezing crank.

“You could feed a whole pig in there,” Rupe said.

“A baby pig, maybe,” Art said, bending to examine the stains dripping dark from its reservoir.

“Babe the pig,” Charlie laughed. Then they all laughed. Even Joey forced one. All except for Del.

Rupe was first to notice Del huddled outside them.

“You don’t like that idea, Del?” Rupe blubbered, mocking.

“He looks like a baby pig,” Art said.

“Maybe we should feed him in there.” Charlie elbowed Joey. They shared a half grin.

“Look, he’s quaking,” Rupe said. “Baby pig’s so scared!”

“He’s not scared,” Joey said. He knew that was a lie even without having to see Del.

Del was often scared. Scared of the water park, because there might be Jaws in the pools. Scared of Yeti in the snow. Scared of cars and spiders and bedtime without nightlight.

“Come on, Del.” Joey motioned him closer.

“Man, he’s almost pissing himself,” Art tittered, pointing at Del’s shaking legs.

“Am not,” Del whined.

“He’s brave as any of you.” Joey pat his brother on the back. Even the brief contact betrayed Del trembling.

“The fuck he is,” Charlie said.

“He is,” Joey said. He followed with what he thought his Pa would say. “He’ll prove it.”

“The fuck he will.” Charlie snorted.

“Del.” Joey firmed his voice to Pa’s tone. “Put your hand in there.”

“I don’t want to.” Del’s whine scratched higher.

“Aw,” Rupe said, “listen to Babe squeal.”

“Del.” Joey set his grip around Del’s arm. “Do it. Now.”

Del lifted that hand. He slid it in the wide brown maw of the grinder. He looked away from Joey.

Joey stung. Del would do anything for Pa and do it with a smile.

Del rode bikes to show off for Pa even though he toppled from then. He’d been hit in the face by a football a dozen times, but still played catch with their old man. He took his whippings tearlessly even though Joey couldn’t staunch his own tears.

The boys only laughed louder.

“Deeper, Del,” Joey said. Del froze.

“Deeper,” Joey said, and seethed to hear his voice so high-pitched. He didn’t sound like Pa at all. “Now.”

“No,” Del whined, “it’ll hurt.”

“Now!”

Del’s fingers twitched against the rusted teeth of the screw conveyor.

“Such a scared little pig,” Rupe said.

“Deeper,” Joey said. “Don’t be scared.”

Del tugged back a little. Joey leaned in to pin him, shoulder on the crank.

“I said don’t be scared.”

Del shot his fingers down, flinched, tried to pull back. Joey pressed to the grinder to stop him.

The crank turned.

Del shrieked.

The boys startled back. Even Joey jumped. His body hit the crank again, shifting it further, making the screw conveyor growl.

Del’s shriek widened into a scream.

The other boys scattered.

Joey gaped at his brother. Del’s face was a wax mask, a mouth a blue hole cored in its center. Out of that hole came a hooting that rose and fell and rose.

“Del,” Joey moaned, “oh, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Del tugged his arm, gibbering, spit somersaulting from lips unable to close. Each tug tensed the screws. Each time Del relaxed, they sucked deeper.

Joey put a delicate hand on the crank. Del shook his head hysterically.

“I’ll try to get it out,” Joey said. He pushed the crank. It locked against turning back. It sank forward. Del was lifted on tip-toe now.  His unbroken cries took on a roar from a throat scraped raw.

“No!” Del yelled. “You’re doing it! You’re doing it to me!”

Joey couldn’t face that. He ran. Behind him, the grinder slowly bit its way up Del’s hand.

 

Joey hunkered in a tangle of trees for an hour before he could think.

The snow was coming down now. He had run until he could no longer hear Del, so there was no telling if the screaming had stopped. Inside him, Joey heard everyone he’d ever known yelling at him: Mrs. Cormier, Doctor Rawson, his Pa, his Ma, Del, Jesus, even Carson Palmer.

The yells didn’t go away. They just absorbed; a dull roar that was now part of him.

Joey imagined the tree a cage, the snow a poison, and hoped that night would bring death.

He hunkered and hung his head, shouting at himself inside to sleep.

It failed. Joey figured he would always fail:

Fail his Pa. Fail to take his beatings like a man. Now, fail Del.

Joey shook his head. Del, he wouldn’t fail. He had, but somehow he had to make amends.

He made his way through the tangle, and when the rumble of cars came, he followed it.

 

Joey stood by Lower Route 7, shivering in the bite of Ohio winter.

He felt the cold eating deep. Joey imagined his blood’s red cells vanishing, white ice crystals deposited in their place by fingers of cold. Soon he’d be all ice.

Better that, he thought, than give up on Del.

The Route meant cars. Cars meant adults. Adults meant help.

The first car to slow for Joey’s waving was a station wagon. It had burlap curtains in the back windows and a green paint that shone even in the dusk.

A spectacled man in surgical scrubs and a fur-lined coat rolled down the window and leaned to call to Joey.

“Out here by yourself?”

“Yeah.” Joey steeled himself to tell the rest. His knuckles cracked in their fists as he forced it out. “I did something while playing and my brother got hurt. He needs help.”

“Hurt?”

“Hurt.”

“Hurt bad?” The man’s expression snapped to a frown, as if serious was a setting it had.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Get in.”

The locks opened. Joey piled in. The man drove the moment the door closed.

“Where’s your brother?” The man asked for awhile.

“A field up ahead. Outside Cheshire.”

“Okay.” The man sniffed. His nose wrinkled and relaxed, bobbing his thick glasses on his face. Joey watched until he realized the turn-off for the Flea Market field was ahead. He pointed.

“Right there, Sir.”

The man didn’t slow. He cleared his throat. He slid sweaty hands over the wheel. He didn’t even glance where Joey pointed.

“It was right back there.” Joey found his voice just as high and broken as before.

The man nodded. He smiled. He went back to serious.

“I really shouldn’t be doing this,” the man said, squinted, looked at his rearview, then shrugged. His smile came back, cold as a slice of meat.

“Doing what?” Joey said.

The man locked the doors. He put his hand on Joey’s thigh.

“Don’t be scared,” he said.

 

Matthew C. Funk is an editor of Needle Magazine, editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a staff writer for Planet Fury and Criminal Complex. Winner of the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web, Funk has online work indexed on his Web domain and printed work in Pulp Modern, Grift,NeedleSpeedloader, Off the RecordPulp Ink and D*CKED.

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