Unlocked

By Melissa Meyer

Reluctantly, he handed over the key to the treasure chest. She outranked him. Though he could use the points, hopefully this move would help unlock the next achievement.

He was fascinated by her. They’ve been playing LifeGame for months, and he still only knew her username. He was ready to take off the goggles and meet her.

The park was the same except its neon, virtual hues. Non-players appeared as themselves, but players appeared as their avatars.

He asked. She agreed.

They removed their goggles. She was just as stunning as her avatar. He was not. Achievement unlocked. Heart, shattered.

He Walks Along

By Phil Temples

He walks along the sidewalk feeling the entire weight of the world on his shoulders. There’s a terrible war raging in Europe. COVID is rearing its ugly head. The country’s economy is spiraling into a possible recession.

Underfoot is a small spider. She is faced with an equally daunting vision of the world as a gigantic shadow suddenly looms over her from above. When all seems lost, the man quickly shifts his footing and steps over the spider by several inches, sparing her from certain demise.

It’s bad luck to step on cracks in the sidewalk, he thinks.

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“I’m still trying to make sense of it all. Writing and photography help. Besides, I’ve always enjoyed telling a good yarn in as few words as possible.” – the writer

Point of View

By MJ Malleck

My mother’s sisters knew all her lies, and before they died, they told me. Having outlived my aunts, my ninety-six-year-old mother makes up new versions. There are no fact-checkers left.

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Whatever else I do, I am thinking: When can I sit down and write again?

A spider in the lace above her knee

By Karen Walker

In the darkness beneath the table, he creeps knot by knot. Tightrope walks the evening’s web of drink and lies.

But his hairy legs tickle. Damn for being so clumsy and careless. Startle her—cause a shiver or a slap—and he goes home alone, hungry.

In the candlelight above, predator eyes see she’s too far gone to escape.

Fly the bartender knows it, too. He shrugs and buzzes, “Too bad.”

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Karen writes short fiction and prose poetry in a basement to avoid making dinner.

The Distance of Time

By Carissa Chesanek

Her breath catches. The noise from the street stops. No honking, drilling. Only the thumping of her heart is in her ears. There he is after all this time. After the words said to one another, the yelling from her side of the phone, the apology from his end. Nearly a year ago, here he is now. Her former life standing outside her apartment building staring at the intercom. Her mind is telling her to go, run. Her body refuses, heavy and stubborn. She exhales a labored breath. He turns, his eyes wide as he lifts a hand and waves.

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“I write because I have something to say.”

The Unthere

By David Henson

Walter wipes his palms on his sleeves, breathes deeply and taps Delete. In a blink, it’s all gone — profile, posts, photos, videos. Feeling faint, he splashes cold water on his face then stumbles out for fresh air.

A park-stroll plump with birds, squirrels and happy dogs perks him up. He sees a colleague, face buried in her phone. “Hey, Sally, you’re missing a beautiful Saturday,” Walter says, pausing in her path. The woman strides right through him.

Head spinning, he slumps to the ground, whimpering. But when a slobbering black lab licks his cheek, he begins to understand.

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“I write for the enjoyment and to be creative.” – the writer

The Hands of Fate

By John Frame

The train enabled a view of the land that was unavailable up to that point. Around Strath Kildonan, site of the gold rush, I looked out to see the vast boggy flow country. We were invading wilderness and I felt superior to the natural world. I could harness it for my benefit, just as the prospectors had. To pull riches fresh from the earth and become wealthy in a matter of moments would be a wonderful feeling. I wanted to be lucky, to thrust my hands into the world and extract a golden nugget that would clothe me in affluence.

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“I write to provide some semblance of order to all the chaos.” – the writer

Boredom

By M.J. Iuppa

Why is it so hard to believe that we were wrong?
We supposed, our first mistake in many, that you
were everyone’s darling. We leaned over your white-
washed fence, hoping to get a glimpse of your happiness.
Your children posed American Gothic for you, so we
could see that you were living a good life. You
did everything right—you saved, you splurged, you
drank wine every day. What were we doing?
We were the mirror. We held you up and admired
everything you said and did, without excuse or ex-
planation. We ignored all the early warning signs.

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“I write to reveal the story’s ‘under-telling.’ Read between the lines.” – the writer

Volcano Country

By Michael Mintrom

I cut a measure of sky
from boards in the shed
and, with brass brads, attached
a belt of rusted iron.

Now a row of jagged peaks
touch the space where
in real life, you’d see
plumes of smoke rising.

My world. Volcano country.
Like when kyacking on the lake,
looking across the ripples
to mountains and sky.

I think of all the places
eruptions are occurring —
families trudging
to imagined safety.

My world is nothing.
My story is nothing.
But I affirm love
and all the good I know.

That, for today, will do.

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“I like contemplating the mysteries of life.” – the poet

Honest Job Ad

By Karen Southall Watts

Help wanted. Needed: someone with advanced degree who will take the same wages they earned flipping burgers in college. Also helpful: a lifetime of experience, but please be young and attractive. Bubbly and outgoing in the interview, but be willing to join a team of defeated people who hate this place. A master of empathy and soft skills to help us deal with customers, but don’t expect us to treat you like a human with value. Unwavering company loyalty a plus. Please upload your resume and then retype all the same information into our system. We might contact you.

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“I keep writing as a tonic to modern life.” – the writer