—Wait. Where are you going?
“Somewhere — anywhere — else. I hate this place.”
—Seems like an okay place to me. Think you gave it a fair shot?
—Wherever it is you’re going … How will you know when you’re there?
“I’ll know it when I feel it.”
—How it will feel?
“Yeah, like knowing I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
—You think too much.
—Well, I’m going to miss you.
“Wait. You’re not coming?”
—Nah. I’m staying right here to enjoy the view.
By Leigh Ward-Smith
None of us could stop Grandpa as he sprinted into the river.
How he saw that kid silently slipping beneath, I don’t know. I also wasn’t sure whether to believe his ranting about tentacles when he first hefted the child onto the riprap.
Still, Grandpa insisted on continuing the reunion picnic after the ambulance left.
But my curiosity wouldn’t let go. Later I raided his medicine cabinet and found the bottle labeled Fame Labs. In boldface, it read: Caution: active gut microbiota. Bacteroides fragilis, subspecies Ernesti Borgniniana.
For awhile after Grandpa’s new-found bravery, I pretended I’d never seen the pills.
By Joy Pixley
Lady Oraellenna entered flamboyantly, flaunting her new designer’s creations. Aster, her previous designer, assessed. Sparkling birds carried elaborate hair twists. Vines curled up her arms into a leafy tiara. Iridescent petals formed the gown, dancing in mesmerizing patterns, flashing enough skin to prompt whispers. Was she or wasn’t she?
Tacky, Aster thought. But, as Oraellenna said, he was old. Traditional. Boring.
Old for wizards also means experienced. Powerful.
Foolhardy woman, prioritizing style over security when commissioning floating clothes.
Aster examined the spells, found his moment. Everything fell at once.
Now that was worth the bribe to get in.
By Goathead Buckley
She split down at the bottom of her flesh.
Strings of ichor hung for a moment in the air before snapping. An egg the size of a bowling ball shuttered beneath, steaming in the grass in which it lay. I had thrown my pack down and run to the creek for water. Lit a fire to boil it, but too late. She died as I knew she would.
The question: To let the abomination break free on its own or to forgive it its first moment of weakness?
Or to bring down the boot before things got out of hand?
By Candy Ray
I am Vanilla. Janetta made me. She is whimsical, so she based me on ice cream. She took me from my source in dust and fluff that gathers under chair legs and fed me through a storm of ice cream symbolism, cones and wafers.
“I dropped YOUR ice-cream,” Janetta joked. “Not your brain. And I bind you to this whirling candy-floss machine.”
I am looking forward to growing up, for I must evolve, as the cornet diminishes through being licked and is reborn as something new. Raspberry ripples go through me and through Janetta, for we are united.
Heather can barely see her hand in front of her face as she crashes through the foggy woods behind her house and heads for the open field.
No longer able to breathe freely, she stops and hides behind a tree and listens. She wills her breathing to slow down. She hears nothing. Maybe he has quit chasing her.
The tug on her ponytail pulls her head back, startling her, exposing her throat. She looks into his face and has only a moment to realize that it is over. The knife pierces her throat and darkness descends.
By Emma Brown
He’d had a very busy day but had finally finished making the signs which proclaimed, “Trespassers WILL be Eaten.” He’d just made himself a nice cup of tea, and was settling down for a well-deserved snooze, when a tremendous noise shook the den; it felt like the roof was about to cave in.
“Those pesky beggars are back, making my life a misery,” he muttered as he heaved himself up. “Can’t they flippin’ read?” He lumbered towards the light, brushing dust off and clearing his throat as he went.
“Who’s that trip trapping on my bridge?” demanded the troll.
A mermaid had moved into the town. He’d met her on the beach and knew she was a mermaid because she’d told him so. She had no legs because at birth she’d left her tail in the sea. Long matted locks of hair dyed lilac purple, tiny shells tied into them.
A legend said that Melusine’s husband could not see her on a certain day, when her otherworldly tail grew back. Saturdays he would disappear, and she would clamber into her adapted bathtub and stay there ten hours, glittering, as the house breathed in the scent of salt and samphire.
By Susan Jordan
You can’t run away. Nobody can go out of doors or pull curtains back from shut windows. Walls block all roads, guards turn lay-bys into instant prisons.
What can you do, shut in your tiny caravan? Wait for night, for moon-shadow, for fading day. Don’t wait too long. Soon you must think of crawling out into light, facing what you most shrink from: rats scuttling, arachnid limbs, sounds of pain from dark yards. Or do you flinch away from iron-shod kicks, a stinging lash?
Go now. Night falls, its black prongs gashing ground. Go out. Push through that last boundary.