It’s Only Teenage Wasteland

By T.L. Tomljanovic

Eleanor reads the invitation again. She hasn’t seen Tom since high school. Spinning her wedding band around her finger, she checks yes to the RSVP, underlining it twice, heart thudding in her chest.

The ceremony is brief. At the reception, Eleanor’s husband taps his smartwatch with a look. She swallows a sigh and scans the crowd. Tom sees her first; their eyes lock. Pulled together by a hundred what-ifs, they embrace goodbye. The years melt away to when they were teenagers before she chose someone else, and everything was possible. They hold tight for several seconds longer than they should.

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“As a kid if I was in the middle of a good book, I would fake being sick to stay home from school and finish it. I aspire to write stories that compel readers to finish them.” – the writer

Submerged

By Josephine Rudolf

Another rejection, another sleepless night, another dagger in my heart. I stumble and fall; I don’t feel anything.
My vision ripped from me I plunge into darkness; I don’t feel scared.
I whimper, screaming inaudible; I feel numb.
Something appears in the pit of my stomach; it crawls up my throat; I feel a sensation.
As I begin to taste it, I beg my throat to keep it; I feel a tingle.
The words burning into my tongue, I cry out for you; I feel fear.
I know you won’t come; now I feel everything.

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“I write so I can breathe.” – the writer

The Fear in These Times

By Kate Mahony

My seat on the bus faces the back. A man with red and green facial tattoos, wearing a black singlet and no mask stands up. He speaks loudly as if in conversation with someone on a non-existent phone. He bends down behind a young woman in the seat in front of him. Ear buds in, she’s unaware.

He coughs over her shoulder — deliberately, dramatically — into his sleeve, near his elbow. Then he does it again, phlegm rattling. He stands up and begins to move towards the front door. No one speaks. People look away. All is quiet on the bus.

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“I write to make sense of life and sometimes my own reaction to life.” – the writer

TenderPulse.com

By James Van Pelt

Dating apps abound for everyone. FarmersD connects farmers. Bristlr for bearded men and those who love them. Sizzl joins bacon fans.

I meet her where we agreed on the app, at Cliff Notes, a bar overlooking the bay. She reads the room with predator eyes before sitting, before facing me, and I tremble.

Whose fetish do we serve?

Can she love and not devour me? That is my question.

Am I attractive as a sentient being, or a warm meal? That is hers. Can she resist?

Vampires exist, and I’m afraid, but I touch her hand and we order wine.

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“I write because I love how language works, and how the best writing somehow manages to be greater than the sum of its parts.” – the writer

The Drive

By J. Iner Souster

In a box there sits a letter from an old friend; a few words that say: I am fine, but you are not and will never be again. You need me to be gone.

That day: the last day, we went for a nice drive and laughed like maniacs. You were always good at that. Laughing is what made us close, but then life happened, and your laughter turned into sobs and tears. It wasn’t funny anymore.

On this page, the only thing that remains is the word I, which holds an unbreakable promise.

To my love, I am sorry.

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“I write to keep the wolves at bay.” – the writer

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.”