December 2012

The Mayan Threat By Nathan Boole   Allen stumbled from the trees toward the research base’s dirt yard, Jill’s limp form slung over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. His thighs burned with fatigue, and his knees threatened to give way before he reached the small bungalow. He forced himself to take one more step, and then another. He looked up at the bungalow. Although it appeared undisturbed from where he stood, he had no way of knowing if someone hid inside. He tripped on a creeper buried in brown leaves and almost fell. He focused on the ground and kept walking. The strange warriors, the ones who ambushed Jill at the temple, had fled after Jill shot one through the head with her father’s old revolver. Allen still worried …

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The Great Eventually By Tashiina Buswa That night she dreamt, a side effect of the deep sleep her body wasn’t used to. In the dream Griffin was glowing, fluorescent. She watched him walk in stop-start motion to the river in Tennessee. He tested its surface with a naked foot. Upon the contact, the water began surging violently, swelling angrily onto the reedy shores. The transformation was thunderous, and she shouted mutely at him to get back. He turned and looked at her, apologies written across his face in bold. He stepped in. As his russet skin met the water, his body morphed into what she instinctively felt was his natural state – all wings and fur and lion claws. She stared. He’d become an actual griffin. The creature beat its …

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Writing on the Walls By Sherry Landow Rain water spits at my words, steadily washing the fresh black ink down the concrete wall. It collects at my boots, gutter froth, word broth, before seeping down the lamp-lit street. Gott ist tot Es lebe die Freiheit Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, dan – The words stain nothing. Gain nothing. Are met with nothing, besides the daily sidewalk deposits of old men’s bile and rat piss. The slower lines of ink leave a trail down the concrete wall, as if mascara down a damp woman’s face. Not thick enough to keep me indoors but constant enough to soak into the inner layer of my coat, this rain is patient and uninterested, taunting me. The rest of the ink thins while it veers …

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Et Responde Mihi By Joey To I was enveloped by the darkness once again. The coolness was almost soothing despite those last words ‘Answer me if you can’ were echoing in me. I glanced at the chronometer but it was flickering. I then checked my oxygen supply. The gauge was still in the green and indicated I had used merely three minutes worth since I was… out. I felt like I was gone for three hours. I looked around and found that familiar row of stars which crossed another line of stars. I was relieved that it seemed I didn’t move much during that time. All mobility functions on my suit were out. The debris amongst which I was drifting I recognized as my own work; at least partly anyway. …

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Rin Tin Tin Soldiers by Aaron Maltz The famous adage, delivered in a whisper on hands and knees by Union general William Tecumseh Sherman, to the brute that snored like a drunken father in every man’s psyche: “War is hell.” Those words, necessary yet futile, were a plea from a man who had entered a kingdom with blood brazenly pumped forth from Heaven, only to return and inform us that the horrors of Hell were not only far greater in power than their rival, but they were additionally as real as the bullet that shattered bone. Hell had entered Earth through the blackest of portals, opened its jaws and swallowed limbs as easily as a turn of the page, spreading a torment so immense it brought about clarity to the …

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Persistence By Cassie Kosarek I turn a corner to lose It. Lose, cruise, fuse. I hear Its nails shuffle and double against the concrete behind me. Again, the stinking breath bursts against my hairline. Dr. Mann was a wolfman; Mom was a bird; everyone lied. Everyone lies. Even Jesus couldn’t find the truth. Truth, spoof. Six years, fourteen hours, and twenty-one minutes from the first time I met Dr. Mann and his head turned into a wolf’s and I sunk between the cushions in his couch until I disappeared into the world of Hades  – that long It took to catch me. I bite my tongue. Tongue, shun, run. I run. It is dark and the old rowhouses stand shoulder-to-shoulder and bend over me, their door-mouths yawning open and welcome …

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Tattooed and Tattered By Holly Riordan My palms grazed the glass Katy was standing behind before she disappeared—before I betrayed her and let the time-tube suck her into the past. The drifters in the otherwise abandoned shack glared. They must’ve wondered why a teenager would shove his ravishing girlfriend into a malfunctioning machine that would never let her return home. I wanted to justify my actions, to myself more than anyone, but my focus was redirected toward fleeing from Bale Berwick. I would have to pay for another round of plastic surgery, run, and repeat the charade each time he and his men found me. I was repulsed at the thought of continuing to live as a fugitive, so I considered a more appealing option: I could swipe the rest …

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Al Mafouda (“The Lost”) By Jason Fink   My head hurt, but I would live.  I took another pull on the black lung cigarette; it did not taste the same.  Maybe the Americans were right.  Fucking Americans. I knew that this response was one that had been ingrained in me, like “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.”  I didn’t really think of Americans as one fucking entity, just as I didn’t think that peace would ever truly be upon Baghdad, nor did I think Allah would ever bless it again.  From the time I was a child, Americans were always fucking and Allah always gave his blessing. Today, though, today – there was a little more peace in my city.  I didn’t know if El Maraz had survived, but I knew he …

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  So it seems the criteria for the MATA HARI was more difficult then I thought. Maybe it was the left of field concept of the ‘fake obit’ that threw people, or maybe there’s a bit of overkill with the ROSA, YOUTH, and MATA HARI all going off within a couple of weeks, but the submissions were, with the exception of one, either outside the criteria or not up to standard. It’s heartbreaking to tell people who submit regularly that their work this time round isn’t up to scratch. You offer some feedback and hope they don’t take it too harshly. Writers are a sensitive lot, myself included, and the last thing you want to do is push someone back into their shell. Even harder is telling a first time …

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The votes have been cross referenced, double checked, and verified by our science division. All that remains is to announce our winner. Congratulations to: Sherry Landow! Sherry’s piece, ‘This way’ , impressed with its focus and originality. Our judges remarked that it contained ‘damned powerful imagery that makes me want to read more…’ They also thought it showed great awareness of the characters and their relationships. If you haven’t already read it check it out now. In no particular order, here’s what the judges thought of the other submissions. Seeing Red by Aaron Maltz ‘Some solid elements and a clear story line.’ Perhaps took on too much given the word limit which led to one judge in particular to describe it as ‘jarring.’ Still, that’s not always a bad thing. …

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This is only submission for the MATA HARI Award that made the short list (out of six). As such, Nathan has been awarded the win by default. Joan of Arc by Nathan Boole LA PUCELLE, Jeanne, a resident of Domremy, France expired Monday, May 30th, 1431. No funeral services will be held, due to the special circumstances of her death. The deceased is held in fond memory by her surviving brothers, Jean and Pierre. “Our sister was always crazy.” Pierre informed this reporter on Thursday, June 2nd, 1431. “She heard voices and saw visions of someone she called ‘Mary’ since she was a little child.” “When she was seventeen, she ran away from home without telling anyone.” says her brother, Jean. “And our mother told Pierre and me that we had …

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This week we asked each of our authors to weigh in with what their song choices meant for them.   Aaron Maltz on ‘Seeing Red’ My earliest interactions with pot culture, the rite of passage described in “Seeing Red,” began in 1992 as a junior high school student living in Arvada, CO. Alongside my own youthful explorations, that period of time produced an immense amount of legendary soundtracks, two of which (“I Wanna Get High” and “Killing in the Name Of”) immediately sprung to mind as being intrinsically linked with the narrative. Additionally, the title “Seeing Red” references a Minor Threat song and the schoolteacher, Mr. Jones, was yanked from the infamous Bob Dylan tune. “Golden Brown,” the song Mr. Jones hums while entering the classroom, was released in 1981 …

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There’s a lot you probably don’t know about Nadia Lee. She’s swum with sting rays, for example. She’s a globe trotter who has lived in four different countries and speaks two and a half languages. She writes in English, of course. Romance and Fantasy are Nadia’s game. Her Ever After novellas in particular have grabbed our attention with their contemporary re-tellings of well known fables. We talk all things literary with the author.  Ed: A plane ticket is in your hand right now. Where does it take you, and why? Nadia Lee: Europe! I’ve been wanting to visit Europe since forever. I want to see the old buildings, the art, enjoy the music and have great local food. Romance, eroticism, pornography. How do you define them, and have your boundaries shifted since …

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This is a short list submission for the YOUTH Award   Control by Nathan Boole “You ever get stuff stuck in your head?” “Why don’t you put the gun down, Jim?” he begs. “You don’t have to do this.” I shoot him in the face. The gun roars and sends a shock through my numb hand. “Not so smug now are you? Asshole.” I look around the classroom. None of them very smug now. The fucking song will not stop running through my head. Help me God I can’t control myself. Help me God I can’t control myself. Shitty lyrics anyway. Someone whimpers. The terror on their faces makes me feel something. Powerful, that’s it. Better than orgasm. But some of them hate me with their eyes. I kill another one. Hate …

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This is a short list submission for the YOUTH Award   Seeing Red by Aaron Maltz I exhaled and a hum like thunder flooded my temples. I looked over at Cliff, whose shrinking eyes appeared pre-occupied with the ground. He seemed lost in thought before breaking out in song. “I want to get hiiiiiiiiggghhh, sooo hiiigghh…” I giggled as the soundtrack continued between my ears. Others watched us from a distance with a mixture of concern and envy. A school bell then shrieked like a siren. “I gotta go.” Cliff said nothing. The change in scenery did me no good. The competing sounds of scuffling shoes and adolescent chatter induced vertigo. Angry boys shouldered their way through crowds breeding panic. I found my class and immediately took a seat, praying for …

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 This is a short list submission for the YOUTH Award Purgatory High by Joey To After almost three hours, the glaring lights were irritating but he was nearly there. Jack knew the answer to the last question and quickly wrote it down before closing the booklet. Done. Once released, other students ecstatically exchanged their views and answers in a pointless attempt to enlighten each other. Jack knew it had ended and although he was relieved he also strangely felt… drained, empty. The grey uniforms around him were crying that high school was finished. Jack didn’t agree with that sentiment but, naturally, he momentarily reminisced his years of schooling. Over twelve years of modern education. Well, that was nice… didn’t learn much. Jack snickered at the thought that with every passing school …

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This is a short list submission for the YOUTH Award   This Way by Sherry Landow We skin the bed, my mother and I, stripping away the stains of the week which I pretend not to notice. This has become our Sunday ritual, our absolution process. I take the pillowcases off and throw them in the corner of the room while she pulls apart the sheets. No good no more, she lays them aside. Sitting on the floor at the end of the bed is a fresh pile of linen, ready to cover the mattress. Naked, the bed looks jaundiced and stale against the wall of their large room; like the once-white ageing sheets kept at the back of the cupboard. She hands me the top corner as I wedge …

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  For the past twenty four hours a team of talented, highly trained monkeys has been busy collating the votes. All that remains is to announce the winner. Congratulations to: Dharval Mehta Dharval’s submission impressed us during the short list phase. The judges were also enamoured, with every judge assigning Beach Vacation points from their 3,2,1 pool. Judges cited a lack of readership interaction as the only bad mark against an otherwise excellent submission. This really was a close tournament, with each of the other five entrants only a few points at most from Dharval’s score. In no particular order, here’s some feedback from the judges on each of the other five submissions. The Visitor by Helen Rose Schneider The Visitor made the short list with its strong imagery. We are …

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Edward W Robertson is the author of Breakers and Meltdown. He also writes at his blog, Failure Ahoy! Edward is one of those rare authors who has his finger on the pulse of the industry. We asked Edward a bunch of questions. Grab a cup of tea, this one is well worth it.   The Ed: Tell us a little about what your reading at the moment. Edward W Robertson: I’m reading The Righteous, by Michael Wallace. It’s the first in a series of polygamist thrillers. Wait, that’s thrillers about a polygamous sect, not a thriller novel with multiple wives. I don’t read a lot of mystery/suspense stuff, but it’s really good. Setting it among a fundamentalist Mormon group was inspired–not only do you have all this political intrigue between families, but you get a …

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“My courage (or cowardice?) gathered, I moved the gun to my temple and braced for the bullet’s impact.” That’s from Holly’s ROSA nominated submission. It’s a stirring piece that tackles sexuality and gender expectations. We asked Holly a few questions. Read on below. The Ed: Tell us about your ambitions as a writer. Was sort of fiction do you like to write? Holly Riordan: My ultimate goal in life is to be successful with my writing. I don’t write in order to make money and I certainly don’t wish for fame. When I began writing short stories in my young teens, they were all realistic and contained scenarios and emotions that are common in modern society. Since then, I’ve started to read more science fiction novels and tend to write …

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