Sunday, March 28, 2010

Red Shoes

Red Shoes
Danielle Ferries

Mia Millington watched from her position on the highest branch of the tree as a new friend arrived. The girl didn’t yet wear the uniform but she’d look pretty in it. Like most new people she had a funny smile on her face like she was super excited about something but couldn’t quite remember what it was. Her lips were smeared with bright red lipstick, and her curly hair sprung around her face like a giant ball of orange twine.

Mia climbed down the tree slowly so as not to scratch her legs like she had the other day. Dr. Scott was cutting across the grass towards her, and she wanted to talk to him before she went to meet her new friend. Dr. Scott was in love with her and it was only a matter of time before he asked her to marry him. Then she could live at his house.

She reached the bottom and twirled for him, hoping he’d notice her dress.

“Mia, I need you to come with me,” he said, drumming his fingers against his clipboard. “We’ve found something in your room that we need to talk to you about.”

“Okay.” Mia batted her eyelashes exactly how she knew men liked. She was careful to walk two steps behind Dr. Scott because he didn’t like it when she ran ahead, and she didn’t want him to give her the shocks again. It burned and hurt like holy hell. She had to be good for Dr. Scott or he wouldn’t want to marry her.

When they reached her room, Mia hovered shyly in the doorway. Dr. Scott didn’t come to her room very often so she wondered if he was going to give her a special present.

“Come in, Mia.”

She smiled and skipped across the room, wishing she had a skirt that swished. Her mother had once made her a pink one with frills.

“I want you to tell me what happened to Sally.”

“Sally?” Mia asked as she studied herself and Dr. Scott in the mirror. She was a bit taller than him and wondered if it was bad for a wife to be taller than her husband.

“Over here.” He motioned for her to come closer. “Don’t be shy.”

Mia turned and took four steps, her eyes resting on Sally’s cherry red shoes. Her red shoes.

“What happened to Sally?” Dr. Scott asked again.

“She wouldn’t play with me.” Mia glared at the brown haired woman.

“What game were you trying to play?”

“I wanted to play Dorothy and Toto, but I wanted to be Dorothy and she wouldn’t give me her red shoes.”

“What happened then?”

“She was mean to me. She said I was too ugly for pretty shoes.” Mia nudged Sally with her foot and waited for a response. When she didn’t get one she knelt down and pulled her hair. It made no difference and Mia straightened up and clapped her hands. “She can be my new dolly,” she beamed. Sally was pretty enough to be her dolly, even though she wouldn’t give back the shoes. And evil Nurse Mavis had taken her old dolly away so she’d had nothing to play with for weeks.

“Mia, Sally is dead.”

“She’s just pretending so she doesn’t have to give me her shoes.” Mia practised tapping her heels together, just like Dorothy had in the movie.

“Why is her corpse under your bed? What did you do to her?”


“Yes, Mia. Sally’s corpse. Tell me what you did to her?”

Mia glanced at Sally’s body. So still. “What a pretty corpse.” She curled her fingers around Dr. Scott’s. “Can I have my shoes now?”


Danielle Ferries lives in Brisbane, Queensland (Australia) and adores dark and dreary weather, wicked characters with fractured worlds, gothic horror, collecting creepy dolls and Hitchcock. Other publications include stories with Darkened Horizons, Atrum Tempestas (Black Hound), Sinister Tales, Flashes in the Dark, and the Festive Fear with Tasmaniac Publications.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Slough

by Kent Alyn

The slough was as murky as Dave’s belief in humanity.

In winter, when the brown water was deep, Safeway bags and toilet paper dangled from the briars; in summer, when dried hard like concrete, the place was a junkyard of beer cans, rusty appliances, and cat skeletons. The water was home to larvae, frogs, salamanders, and snakes; the muddy bank was home to skunks, possums, raccoons, and rats. Only nasty critters lived in the ugly slough.

Dave Franks hated the slough, though the waters called; if not the slough calling—the boy: Matty, the kid with the oversized hat and tight sweatpants that always waited for his mom after T-ball practice. After the last game ended, after the last hot dog sold, after the last car left, he sat against the cinderblock restrooms, hoping the next, or the next, or the next approaching car was his ride.

Three years later, Matty was forgotten, erased. The “Breaking News” moved on. The police did, too. Judging the way parents left their kids—waiting alone the way Matty waited—it was obvious the town forgot. Matty’s mom, Donna, did. She moved to Colorado with her newest boyfriend, Methhead Hank.

Dave, a detective at the time, found Matty’s Ken Griffey Jr. glove in the slough—nothing else. When the police gave up, Dave quit the force in protest.

With no steady paycheck, no self-control, and no self-esteem, Dave’s wife filed for divorce.

Finding Matty was all that was left.


Early spring, the slough was still deep enough to paddle. Dave hunted the slough on and off, usually alone. Equipped with a half-rack of Pabst he conned Pete Sanders into coming along, not so much to paddle, but to offer a second pair of eyes. The last time, Dave saw something unexplainable.

The baseball glove was at his feet, beside the camcorder and the beer.

“Damn no-see-ums,” Dave said, slapping his arm.

“Stinks out here,” Pete said, and then tossed an empty can into the water. “What’s another can, anyway?”

Dave shook his head. That summed up Pete—didn’t care much.

Pete stuck out his tongue and panted. “How much further?”

“Not much.”

The stars and moon were out. Frogs croaked. A bat dove and touched the water. The raft cut through the ripple.

“Okay,” Dave whispered, grabbing a low-hanging limp to stop the raft. “Over there, Pete.”

The spotlight shone on the cock-eyed, clothes dryer across the slough.

“Last week I was right here when I heard a voice, saying words I couldn’t understand.”


“I ain’t shittin’ you. My neck hairs stood up. And then, I looked over at that dryer and saw a face, inside that dryer. Bulging, wide eyes, sharp cheek bones, and black teeth. It looked at me and then slithered out like an otter into the slough. The body—naked, yellowish— and the spine like row of rough knots. It went under and never came up.”

Pete downed his beer. “What the hell?”

“Do you want to paddle over to there?”

“That thing live inside?”

He shrugged.


“You rather wait on the bank or come?”

Pete looked at the dryer, then at Dave. “Shit, I ain’t stayin’ here alone.”

“Okay, let’s keep it quiet,” Dave said, and then handed Pete the camcorder. “Know how to use one of these?”

Closer, they paddled and then drifted, paddled and drifted. Dave kept the spotlight on the machine. Pete recorded.

They coasted. Grass stuck out of the open dryer. Something pale jostled. A hand crawled out.

Then, the creature looked into the light. A dead rat fell from its mouth.

Pete screamed as the creature climbed out and scurried behind the machine.

Dave shushed him, turning to see Pete ready to swing an oar.

A heavy rock sailed through the darkness, splitting a bloody gash in Pete’s forehead. The big man teetered, and then splashed into the slough.

Dave hurried to the rear, the spotlight aiming up at the stars. “Pete!”

The raft rocked over the waves. He couldn’t see. Turning to get the light, he saw the creature crouching at the front of the raft—the light angling upward at sinister eyes.”

Dave surrendered his hands. He squinted and his eyes blurred. “I’ll be damn, it is you. Just wanted to bring you something.”

The creature’s head tilted.

“There, buddy, by your feet. Ken Griffey Jr.”

Matty picked up the glove, looked at Dave, and then leapt from the boat, escaping into the darkness.

A tear slid down his cheek. Lost.


Kent Alyn is a Seattle-based fiction writer, husband, and father of three. Just like his website,, he’s a continual work in progress.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Eulogy for Jimmy

by Uri Grey

I don't really know why I was chosen to give this eulogy. I mean, I'm not that great with words. People say I'm blunt and always say the wrong thing. And I guess a eulogy is probably the worst place to say the wrong thing. But what can I do? You ask and I deliver—I'm that kind of a guy.

So, Jimmy's dead. Obviously he's dead, or we wouldn't be burying him right now. I think he died from a drug overdose or something like that. I know many kids die from that shit these days, but I don't think any of them will be missed as much as Jimmy.

I know Jimmy touched us all in one way or another. I see now, how all the ladies cross their legs... yeah Jimmy sure loved his touching. Never asked for permission or even said “hello.” Nope, he just went "Look! There's a bird" and wush! there's a hand down your... well never mind.

Jimmy loved many things, not only touching; he loved money, he loved horses, he loved fancy hats and shoes, he loved all sorts of words which I best no repeat right now. “Whatever he found, we lost” as the saying goes. I remember one time I caught Jimmy sneaking to my daughter's bedroom, so I slammed a pan right down his head and down he went on our carpet. I raised my pan again, you know how I am with kids... a bit hot-headed I guess, but my daughter woke up and said, the precious little thing, she said "Dad, it's Jimmy, let him go." And I did. If she had the courage to say that and forgive him, then shame on me if I didn’t!

I thought that thing would ruin Jimmy, but it only made him better. From that point, Jimmy really was an invaluable member of our small community. If there was some vice the little fiend didn't practice then it's only because I smashed it right out of his brains with that pan of mine. Otherwise, he was the very catalogue of evil.

Of course, a blessing like Jimmy can't last for long. “If you stray too far from God you're bound to fall someday.” These are Father Habakkuk’s words, not mine. So, I guess just to be contrary, Jimmy mixed alcohol, drugs, sex and whatnot one night and now he's with Satan now and we're left here crying for our loss. And I’m telling you, that’s one big loss!

I mean, as long as Jimmy was here, his sins screamed so loud it made all of us look like saints. Salvation was ours! Sure, I roll the dice now and again. And you, Jeremiah, it's no secret you like sleeping late on Sundays. And, Miriam, I know you like to gossip here and there, eh?

Well, no more. Now that Jimmy's gone, we can't afford to be anything less than perfect. “You can miss a candle by the sun but not a candle by another candle.” These are Father's Habakkuk’s words, not mine. I’m not that great with words.


Uri is a game writer, translator, humanist, twitterist and storyteller from Israel. He spends his days slumbering at castle and his nights stalking innocent virgins at

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Edible Flowers Perched above a Dying Landscape

Cate Gardner

A square of paper marked with the blood seal lay across Moira’s keyboard. With trembling fingers, she picked it up. Whispers stalked, following her along the corridor and waiting for the moment when she opened the note and read the words they already knew.

You’re evicted. Only, the powers on high had worded it in a more eloquent, tied with a legal-bow manner. She ran her fingers across her wrists. She hoped they cut deep and fast.

Moira screwed the paper up and dropped it in the recycle bin. She blinked back tears and offered her colleagues a salute before marching out of the building. She understood their ghoulish behaviour stemmed a little from relief. Today it was not them.

One last deep breath and the change in air knocked her sideways, reminding that the world no longer turned for them. A distant grumble caused her to shudder.

A man holding a canister of oxygen and a mask picked her up off the pavement. She grabbed at his arm, pulled the plastic mask to her face and drew in long breaths.

“Easy,” he said. “The air is thinner out here, but it will sustain you.”

“Thank you,” she said, despite his collaboration with the enemy.

He passed her a ticket marked 8A. “The ride from here to there is painless. In fact, you won’t remember a thing.” He meant to be kind. “It knocks for us all.”

“I wish my blood poison,” she said.

He backed away. No doubt, he’d heard the same line many times.

Regaining her composure, she watched similar scenes to her own unfold across the business district. Around them, ghost faces peered out from the myriad windows in the surrounding glass towers. She knew by their distant gaze that they looked out towards the barren fields.

A soldier’s life is worth that of a hundred citizens. The words scrawled in graffiti across streets not paved with gold. That epitaph she knew concealed the bold new truth—all the soldiers were dead and the law bowed to a new dictator.

The Revoking of Emancipation, Statute 101-B: Citizens have the right to eat, sleep and work in the towers until such time as the state requires the donation of their blood and organs.
What the wars had not killed, the new legislations would destroy.

“Line up, line up,” a collector with a megaphone called from a bus numbered 8A. “See the hand of progression at work. You stand on the threshold of an exciting new future. Document your final thoughts and your words will be etched into history.”

Or be deleted from it, Moira thought.

“Climb aboard. We will ensure your memory lives on in the Hall of Heroes.”

Moira turned around, pulled her arm all the way back and hurled her briefcase at the collector. It hit him on the nose. She marched up to the bus and grabbed the megaphone from his startled fingers.

“Hear my words,” she called to the evicted. “See your boss choke on their vomit after drinking poisoned coffee. Watch a vacuum cleaner suck them up as if they were nothing more than a stale cornflake. Don’t take this. Staple their butt to the desk and type them a letter of eviction.”

The lack of applause shocked. “Have they snipped off your vocal chords? They murder us and you do not even whimper.”

With the continued silence, Moira threw the megaphone aside and climbed aboard the bus. She pressed her hand down on the horn and released a primal scream. They had left her with no other choice. She started the bus engine, closed the doors, knocking the man off the step in the process, and revved the engine.

“Next stop, the end of the world,” she shouted to the empty seats.

The avenue spun by in a dizzying stream of glass, metal and concrete. The convenience of living on a rock perched high above a ruined landscape meant it was a long way to fall. Tipping the vehicle over the edge, she crashed through the windscreen, somersaulted clear of the bus, and came to rest alongside all the other broken flowers that lay scattered in the dust.

With the final flickering of her eyelids, she saw her blood run deep into the cracked earth by means of a swollen tongue and knew it was not rocks that had split her skull but teeth.


Cate Gardner hopes the future is bright. Her stories have appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Postscripts, and Necrotic Tissue. You can visit her on the web at
or you can read more Stitches; she recommends the latter.