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Latest Stories

July 13, 2018
Mystery Stories Rekha Viswanathan

The Enchanted Woods

The boys are on a trip. A trip into the woods. Accompanied by their family they trudge along a narrow path, a route that had obviously been traced by human footsteps, a trail that had been trodden many a time. They walk cautiously, startled by the snap of a…
July 13, 2018
Flash Fiction Carl Perrin

What Could go Wrong

If you plan every detail carefully, nothing can go wrong. I believed that when I was a teenager. Like the time Billy Long and I decided to make our own beer. Once in a while we used to steal a couple of Billy’s father’s beers, but we were always afraid we…
July 13, 2018
Mystery Stories Mockingbird

A Million Dollars

They say you come to know a person’s true personality when you are no longer beneficial in their life. But what about the people who never were, what if they were the ones who truly define you. The crowd. The people you see and ignore every day or the ones…
July 13, 2018
Science Fiction Stories Saul Greenblatt

A Search for Food and Water

The day they waited for came. The three explorers sat at a table around which were the project director, project managers and assistants. The project director stood. “You three are ready to venture into space to explore a planet that our scientists say is…
July 13, 2018
Crime Stories Thomas Schmidt

Callous Disregard

Myles O'Leary had always been competitive. He saw life as basically a challenge, a challenge that pitted him against the world. And Myles wanted to win. So when news came out that a business competitor, the Strand Corporation, was up for sale, Myles jumped at…
June 24, 2018
Romance Stories Chris Bedell

Better Offer

Admitting I decided to give online dating a try wasn’t something I’d blab about to my parents even if I was almost 29. And no, worrying about what my parents thought didn’t make me strange. My dad was the first person to complain about everything. Like when…
June 24, 2018
Flash Fiction Jim Harrington

Family Reunion

I’m going to a family reunion soon—kind of. You see, I’m dying. The doctor said six months. Right around my sixty-fifth birthday. Bad liver, just like my Pa. Same cause too. We’re both drunks, but I didn’t go around beating up on women and children. In the…
June 24, 2018
Fantasy Stories Stephen J. Matlock

Only A Mother's Love

When the Vreesek conquered Earth, they brought their gods. They don’t plunder our resources. They keep to themselves. After smashing every defense and cratering capitals, they planted their temple-embassies in a hundred cities. We “rule” ourselves under their…
June 24, 2018
Mystery Stories H.J.Garton

And No Birds Sing

You know those car journeys where you don’t realise until you pull on the handbrake that you’ve just driven for miles with your mind elsewhere the whole time? It was after the interview with Diane that I made one of those. In my apartment, I downed two shots…
June 24, 2018
Romance Stories John L. Yelavich

Hands of Steel, Not Today

This morning I had to go to the local hospital for some routine tests. I feel fine, but I guess my urologist wants to make sure that I am on the right path to wherever it is I’m going. My first scheduled test was an ultrasound. There were six of us in the…
June 17, 2018
Poetry Marty Kay

Hand of God

Then there you were. Calling through the din of war, you beckoned, and I obeyed. I make amends. The muzzle of my gun muted, I mask my military might and squat to greet your greatness. Give me your hand. For I am more than war. A mother; my name is Mary. Call…
June 17, 2018
Crime Stories Scott Sinclair

Saturday Night at Fort Apache

Saturday February 8, 1973 I never thought I’d be a cop on the take. Hell, I never planned on being a cop period. My goal was to follow in the footsteps of my older brother Scotty and join the fire department. Succumbing to family pressure to not follow Scotty…

 

 

Justine had every right to be disturbed, but she almost took my ear off, shouting, “I want a taco, not a pizza.  Can’t I just have a damn taco?”

“Okay, there’s a taco joint,” I said.  “Let me park the car.”  It was going to be a job mollifying my wife in the depths of her despair, which had nothing to do with eating.  She was sick in her soul, in a way only priests and psychiatrists could diagnose.  We had lost any children before they were born.

 

The taqueria was new to me, but these places in Los Angeles come and go like yesterday’s celebrities.  It was spiffy and very California looking.  Totally un-ethnic.  “Order me a quesadilla.  Chicken, with a side of refritos,” Justine said.  “I’m going to use the bathroom.”

 

“You’ll have to wait,” I said.  “Some geezer in a yellow sweater just went in.”

 

“Damn,” she muttered.  “Just one sign that says hombres y muchachas.  Guess that lets them off the hook for transgenders.”

 

“Wait 90 seconds, hon.  Men only take a minute and a half.  Time stands still for women in bathrooms.”  I knew immediately from her grimace that I’d said the wrong thing.  My humor was a stone that tended to sink our boat.  No jokes allowed in her present frame of mind.  A week earlier, I’d gotten Justine into the hospital for an ectopic pregnancy that had to be aborted.  With it came major surgery.  We both realized now that after three miscarriages we’d never have a child.  No one to carry on our names, DNA and dreams.

 

I put in our order and asked the counter man if they had another bathroom.  He held up one finger.  “Just one.”  The embroidery on his shirt said his name was Raul.

 

“Guy went in five or ten minutes ago and hasn’t come out.  Can you see if he’s died or something?  My wife really has to pee.”

 

“Man?”

 

“Old man in a raggedy yellow cardigan.”

 

Raul, a young guy in his twenties stepped back and looked at me in surprise.  His lips formed the words Oh no, but no sound came out.  “Tell the lady,” he said slowly, “tell her it’s okay to go inside.  Just knock.  It’s okay.  Probably.”

 

“Justine,” I called.  “Go on in.  Just knock first.”

 

She gave me an odd look and banged once on the door.

 

“See,” I told the counter guy, “she just got out of the hospital.  Terrible operation.  Muy doloroso.”

 

“I speak English,” he said pointedly.  “Your quesadillas are here.”  He placed two paper plates on the glass counter.  “The man,” he said hesitantly, “is like a regular.  We can’t do nothing about it.”

 

Justine came from a large family, with two sisters and a brother.  And a mother who asked us constantly when we were going to have children.  Mom would give me the stink eye as though I wasn’t trying hard enough.  For two weeks, Justine had suffered stomach pain and bleeding until I forced her to see her doctor.

 

By the third bite of my quesadilla I looked up wondering where Justine was.  The counter man was alternately staring at me and at the bathroom door.  “What!” I demanded.

 

He nodded toward the can and I jumped up, believing Justine had had a relapse from the surgery.  “Justine!” I shouted and burst in.  The bathroom’s stale air assaulted me with the corrupt scent of death.  A faint fog blurred the outline of the sink, commode and mirror.  Justine was standing statue-like, transfixed by something in the mirror.  The man had gone, but his reflection hadn’t.  Staring back was a…a something that wasn’t human.  It wore a yellow sweater.

 

The mirror figure lifted a hand — it looked like a hand — and reached through the glass to grasp Justine’s shoulder.  I jumped forward and batted the arm off her, feeling an electric shock numb my body.  Swiveling around, I pushed Justine back to the door.  The figure’s arm flailed through the mirror with tentacle-like fingers, wanting to claw me into its world.  I picked up the nearest weapon, a metal waste basket, and smashed the glass that exploded into shards and a blue flame.

 

I came out drenched in sweat and sucking fresh air.  “Are you totally crazy?” I shouted at Raul.  “There was a monster in there.”

 

He motioned me closer while Justine fell into our booth.  “Mister, it was the man in the yellow sweater.  He comes here sometimes to use the bathroom.  He goes in but he never comes out.  Other people go in after him but he is gone.  Or they see him in the mirror, not a reflection.  He is un espiritu to the other world.  Spirit of the devil…or maybe God’s messenger.”

 

“A spirit?  This is Los Angeles.”

 

“Better a spirit here than in your dreams.  He sometimes comes back to you in your dreams.”  Raul shrugged.  “Then things happen.”

 

“Raul, you bastard, I broke your damn mirror.  He won’t come back.”

 

“I hope so.”

 

“And we’re never coming back to your taco joint either.”

 

He nodded.  “You never know what happens with spirits, señor.

 

We took the freeway over the San Gabriel mountains and back to Pasadena where my sobbing wife fell into bed.  I watched her.  Was she dreaming of the man in the mirror?

 

But Raul may have been more right than he knew.  Three months later, Justine was pregnant — an impossibility and against all odds, her doctor said.  Inside a year we had a beautiful baby boy.

 

“Remember the baby shower?” I told her.  “Your mother gave you a yellow onesie.  Looks just like a sweater.”

 

“Perhaps that was a prophecy and not an omen,” she murmured into our son’s cheek.

 

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Bio:  Walt Giersbach bounces between writing genres, from mystery to humor, speculative fiction to romance with a little historical non-fiction thrown in for good measure.  His work has appeared in print and online in over two dozen publications, including a score of stories in Short-Story.Me.  He's also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and to a couple of Asian countries.

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