by Huina Zheng
I remember Grandma, her cure for tears a lollipop. Her nights filled with tales of the Monkey King. I remember her patting me on the back. Her out-of-tune nursery rhyme. Wrinkled, warm hands. I remember those hands lay idle for years. Her world confined to a bed under the care of strangers. Her cloudy eyes, dead like stagnant water. I remember how I was often her only visitor. Watching as she retreated further each day. Today marks two years since she left, a date the world has forgotten. But I remember—not just her fading, but her enduring warmth, her stories, a legacy living beyond her silent years.
* * *
Huina Zheng holds a M.A. in English Studies degree and serves as an Associate Editor for Bewildering Stories. Her stories were published in Baltimore Review, Variant Literature, Midway Journal, and elsewhere. Her fiction “Ghost Children” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Guangzhou, China with her husband and daughter.
Her Emptiness Made Her Whole
by Elizabeth B.D. Johnson
Ten dollars to change your life, he’d said. She wouldn’t have believed the peddler any other day. Now a sliver of her reflection skulked back at her from what was left of the hand mirror. Chapped lips, dead eyes like baked dirt, the crease of every load she carried etched into the line between her brows. Job lost, eviction, phone dead, the wrong bus to this nowhere. She pulled out that last bit of herself she recognized and hurled it at the horizon, sky and field swallowing it whole. Nothing for miles but the next step in front of her. She took one. Best to leave the rest behind.
* * *
Elizabeth B.D. Johnson (she/her) writes in many forms from her one-bedroom in Chicago, for now. Her day job has her processing research manuscripts for a medical research journal. Yet, she craves novelty and is always chasing a new experience, be it in a cafe, food, story, city, or friend.
by Alastair Millar
His supplier is waiting as he arrives.
“Got what I want?” he asks.
“Of course. Had to get it shipped in specially.”
“Should keep you going for about a week,” she says, furtively sliding the merchandise over the counter. “I’ll see what else I can get in the meantime.”
“No problem. But don’t get caught! I nearly got a beating off your dad last week.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Just... be more careful, okay? It could be you next time.”
She sighs as he slips out of the library, clutching the book to his chest.
* * *
Archaeologist by training and translator by trade, Alastair Millar (he/him) lives north of Prague, Czech Republic, where he enjoys good books, bad puns, coffee and travelling. His short fiction can be found at https://linktr.ee/alastairmillar. Online he is @skriptorium (X/Twitter, CoSo, Hive & Post), @skriptorium.bsky.social (BlueSky) and @firstname.lastname@example.org (Mastodon).
Recipe for Disaster
by Angelle McDougall
The morning after the witches’ annual potluck dinner, a group of coven members arrived at Agnes’s door.
“The food was spiked, causing everyone to see each other’s dreams all night,” Rowan said.
“I’m so embarrassed, I can’t ever face the baker again.” Amelia blushed.
“Half the town isn’t speaking to each other,” Nathan said. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, no trouble here,” Agnes assured them, then closed the door. Alone, she checked the recipe book still open from yesterday’s baking.
“Dream sharing pie? I thought I was making cream sherry pie,” she chuckled. “Mother is right. I do need new glasses.”
* * *
Angelle McDougall is neurodivergent and a world traveler, retired college instructor, mother of adult sons, graduate of The Writers' Studio at Simon Fraser University (2022), and loom knitter. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. She also enjoys chronicling the travel adventures shared with her author husband.
Tsk, Tsk, Genie
by Joem Antonio
“Ask,” said the genie, “and I will grant it.”
“Genie,” asked Albrecht the Scholar, “if I ask you for gold, do you mine, pan, or perform alchemy?”
“Well…” answered the genie. “It just happens.”
“Tsk, tsk,” muttered Albrecht. “If I ask you for servants, do you mind-control or do you clone people?”
“It just happens.”
“How about asking for something practical, like omniscience?” seethed the genie.
“Genie,” asked Albrecht, “if I cite you in my research, what’s the format to use?”
“Who’d ever cite—”
“Me, duh,” snapped Albrecht.
With his dissertation finally complete, Albrecht set the genie free.
* * *
Joem Antonio is a Filipino Playwright and children's story author who began actively exploring microfiction in 2021. Some of his works can be seen in www.joemantonio.com, www.exesanonymous.com, www.compactshakespeare.com, and www.lovecafeproject.com. He also gives writing workshops through www.storywritingschool.com.
by Shane Bzdok
The small, round window is said to be the only remnant of the Dutch farmhouse erected on this plot in 1662. A cross made of dead pine divides four panes of glass so old gravity has made them a millimeter thicker at the bottom.
Did you know glass is viscous? I can attest to its ability to cause visual distortion over time. When I arrived at the house as a young boy, I spied rabbits, foxes, and owls through the portal. But when I look through the old glass now, the creatures outside appear dark and strange, and I do not like the way they stare back at me.
* * *
Shane Bzdok is a writer and designer, designing and writing in Austin, TX where he lives with his wife, two daughters, and their overly-enthusiastic dog, Marley.
by David M Wallace
Autumn would not surrender. The Archduke’s children longed for winter—snowmen, tobogganing, and ski vacations. Friday, after evening prayers, they vented their frustrations on Fleckman, who was Sergeant of the Guard and was forbidden to respond. They taunted him. Scuffed his gleaming boots. Leapt to punch him above the polished buckle of his belt.
Saturday, the children woke to snow. Rigidly at attention, Fleckman had stood all night in the castle yard. A tall, even layer of snow had accumulated on top of his cap. From the nursery window, it seemed a white cork balanced on a cobalt-blue bottle.
* * *
David Wallace is the author of the novel The Little Brudders of Misércorde (Tidewater Press 2022). His work has been published in Geist, Grain, and the Australian journal, Studio. He is a regular contributor to Microfiction Monday Magazine. He is a retired teacher and avid all-weather bicyclist living in Montréal.
Hitchcock Hook Up
by K. F. Lerner
Trish has never been to the movies alone before, but she’s making herself try new things.
Halfway through Psycho, a shadow looms on a curtain.
The man sitting one seat over covers his eyes.
Trish puts a hand on his arm.
She chuckles, apologizes.
“I never watch scary movies,” he confides. “Trying something new.”
At the plunge of the knife, he flinches, managing to knock over his soda, drenching his slacks.
“Want company?” she asks.
He moves closer.
Afterwards, he ventures, “Can I walk you home?”
She winks. “As long as you don’t live with your mother.”
* * *
K. F. Lerner lives in Parsippany, NJ. Her work has appeared in Morris County Family and 101 Words Weekly.
by Chris Cochran
Mom would ask if I’d seen that one movie, the one with the guy, he was in the one with the girl who had the eating disorder. And the lead actress, she’s the girl that’s in that show you watch, what is it? With the monsters. You know, with the guy who rescued that woman from the car fire. No, in real life.
I would shake my head, stifle a laugh, make her feel ridiculous for believing anyone could follow her meandering train of thought, unwilling to admit that I knew exactly what movie she was talking about.
* * *
Chris Cochran is a high school English teacher who writes first drafts on an old typewriter in a small nook beneath his basement steps. He lives in Michigan with his wife and son, where he spends most evenings drinking tea and falling asleep to comedy podcasts.
Hum in the Shower
by Umi Agawa
The hum starts the moment I shampoo my hair. A tuneless frequency sounding neither male nor female. A restless spirit stands outside the shower curtain, I am sure.
Behind my eyes images begin to flash: a woman dangles from the ceiling. She kicks while staring at the shadow behind an old curtain until she becomes still—I am the woman and the shadow.
Ignoring the sting, I force my eyes open.
This spirit is not like the others, coming to ask for their memoirs to be told through my pen. Tonight, it seems, this story will have a wicked end.
* * *
Umi Agawa is an author and a mom who enjoys writing creative stories as an escape from the everyday. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
by Robin Blasberg
It was the only place left in her new home that she hadn’t yet scrubbed from top to bottom. Ready to clean, she flipped the light switch. But the response was unforeseen as legions of rodents surged forth and nipped at her heels. She fled, shrieking, and slammed the attic door. Then she scoured every inch of her skin and collapsed into bed. Unbeknownst to her, though, the diseases the vermin carried proved even more fearsome than the vermin themselves. And ironically, over time, her decaying body only added to the detritus that she had fought so hard to clear.
* * *
Robin Blasberg's stories often make connections in unanticipated ways. Expect the unexpected because clever twists and surprise endings are trademarks of her work. For more details, see her profile here: https://newplayexchange.org/users/74098/robin-blasberg.
Don’t Open the Door
by Brian Sacca
I tried to tell the stranger I wouldn’t help. I said, “Mom told me I can’t get out of the car, mister.” But he kept yelling. Maybe he was saying, “Help.” I don’t know. I couldn’t hear him because I was blasting my Butthole Surfers cassette (Mom thinks their music is a gateway to the devil). Honestly, I feel safe enveloped in their atonal droning. I hope she doesn’t get angry about the bloody handprint the stranger smeared on the window. When she comes out, I’ll just point to his body and say, “Don’t blame the Butthole Surfers. It’s the dead guy’s fault.”
* * *
Brian Sacca is a writer/actor/director who has created and starred in film, TV, and digital media for over a decade. His short stories have been published by Birdy, Maudlin House, Slackjaw, and the Lowestoft Chronicle. Sacca’s feature screenplay, BUFFALOED, was produced into a Tanya Wexler-helmed film starring Zoey Deutch and Judy Greer. The New York Times gave it a “critics pick” and called it “zippily entertaining.”
The Death of Paul Bunyan
by David Henson
Paul sprawled face down.
His snow-white beard made a quarter-acre winter. A yawning grizzly crawled inside his collar. Two bighorns clambered atop his shoulder. A wolf pack prowled down his leg.
Word spread like whiskey ’round the fire. Axes froze mid-swing. Crows bobbed on handles of crosscuts abandoned in tree trunks. Plates of uneaten sourdough and salt pork buzzed with flies.
A plug of tobacco tightened every jaw as Dynamite Jack, Slabwood Johnson, Pump-Handle Joe, Rattlesnake Sally, Big Swede and thirty others lowered Paul ’neath tossing pines that once grazed his knees.
Oh, it took time and time before logs again were crowding the moon from the river.
* * *
David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Illinois, USA. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart prizes and has appeared in ScribesMICRO and other journals.
by Lee Hammerschmidt
“Hand me your knife, Paleo,” Keto said to his fellow cannibal. “We need to skin and field dress this dead bush pilot’s body and salt the meat, ASAP. He won’t last long in this heat.”
“Crap,” Paleo said, checking his loincloth. “I left my knife back at camp. Use your own.”
“You know I lost mine last week. That’s why I told you to bring yours.”
“Well, I don’t have it. What would you suggest?”
Keto pointed to his lance lying next to his backpack.
“Well,” Keto said. “It looks like we’ll have to flay it by spear.”
* * *
Lee Hammerschmidt is a Visual Artist/Writer/ Troubadour. He is the author of the short story collections, A Hole Of My Own, It's Noir O'clock Somewhere, For Richer or Noirer, and Flash Wounds. Check out his hit parade on YouTube!
by S. B. Watson
I killed Roger with a knife from the kitchen. I’d never done it before and, I’ll admit, I may have done it badly. I ran the blade across the back of his legs and watched his blood drain into the dirt by the back porch. When I turned, I saw my son standing at the top of the steps.
What can I say? It was a barren winter, and we had to eat.
We roasted him for Christmas. But the kids didn’t want to eat Roger.
“Come on,” I said. “It’s just a pig. Told you not to name him.”
* * *
S. B. Watson lives in Keizer, Oregon with his wife, five children, three cats, and one dog. His stories have appeared in Spinetingler Magazine, The Five-Two, Mystery Tribune, The Dark City Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Find more at www.SBWatson.com.
Walking the Dog Without a Bra
by Marla Sterling
Not that anyone can see, like whether the egg is raw or hard-boiled
unless someone cracks its protective shell
Comfort is not really the reason, though underwires do dig in
and neither is the weight of untethered flesh in motion without pain
Mostly it is the freedom, the unhooking of care, and the wondering
of what men feel when they walk free in the world
I’m not fully stripped, bounded by a cotton tee and fleece and raincoat
pockets a-bulge with leash and pooperphanalia, keys and tissues
A regalia of childrearing and caretaking, a burden shared
by my kind, today a little less heavy
By one brassiere.
* * *
Marla Sterling’s writing is another passion in her life following careers as actor, storyteller, and teacher, with degrees from NYU in Education and MFA from Manhattanville College in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in Plum Tree Tavern, ScribesMICRO, Connecticut Bards Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. She lives in Connecticut, where contact with the garden, woods, and beach invigorate and inspire her daily.
In This City
by Thompson Emate
In this city that I dwell,
Space is luxury,
In this rushing city,
Dreams don't go to sleep,
There're plethora of places to nest.
In this city whose paths I sojourn,
Nothing sits in wait,
No well is too deep to fetch its water,
Dawn harbingers hustle and bustle,
Nightfall brings loneliness.
In this city whose sea I sail,
I cast my net for a catch,
I launch into the deep,
I keep hope alive,
I anticipate heaven’s kiss.
In this city,
Where nature is distressed,
Where the elements are troubled,
We still search for new ways,
Highways that lead to the treasure.
* * *
Thompson Emate spends his leisure time on creative writing particularly poetry and prose. He has a deep love for nature and the arts. His writings can be seen in Poetry Soup, Poetry Potion, Visual Verse, Written Tales, Friday Flash Fiction, Voice.club and Reedsy.com. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
Trees Weeping on a Gray Day
by Monica McHenney
Swirling specters scatter
cinnamon crisp maple leaves.
Whirling dervishes dance in autumn
snow. Wind breathes
life, then stops.
I would stop but
the dogs pull through
slick pools of layered leaf litter,
a spill of wet red
color seeps into wine dark puddles left from
last night’s rain.
Just hours ago,
a gray day
a hint of sun at ten, and blue.
But now it’s settled into quiet light,
an end of season contemplative light.
A wise light that gives
the year a voice,
gives the day a meaning,
illuminates falling leaves;
a soft blanket over bright, cold truth.
* * *
Monica McHenney has published drabbles in ScribesMicro and The Dribble Drabble Review. In general, food inspires Monica. She makes sourdough bread from a one hundred year old culture passed down through two generations of bakers. And now she needs to feed the dogs. Find her work at https://monicaflash.com/.
by Sarah Das Gupta
A landscape moulded,
sculptured out of sand:
dunes, ridges, broken
by rocky outcrops, dry wadis.
Big skies, drifting clouds,
mock the traveller imprisoned
in this vast nothingness.
Even the horizon moves,
melts, meanders in the heat haze.
Thorns, black, back-bent,
bow in obeisance
to the wind’s majesty.
At sunset the freezing snow,
burns with a red intensity.
The white cold corpse of
the ice cap glows on its
dwindling death pyre.
Stars, bright funeral lamps,
stab through the darkness.
The Northern Lights
flash florescent blues, greens, golds
blazing above rocky ridges.
Silvery edged in a full moon’s beam,
the solar wind carries the sun’s particles.
* * *
Sarah Das Gupta is a slowly emerging poet aged 81 who started writing a year ago while in hospital after an accident. She is learning to walk again slowly, and writing is very therapeutic. Her work has been published in over 15 countries and, more importantly, put her in touch with many people.
by Amita Basu
Sonia’s resolution this year is to socialise more. So, when a colleague invites her out this weekend, she says yes. The two women chart Sunday morning’s scrubland hike and shortlist microbreweries.
All week Sonia tries on outfits and topics of conversation. But by Thursday night it all feels like too much work. Why can’t she have one weekend just resting?
Friday her colleague calls in sick. Sonia’s relieved: the weekend plan will be off! Then she remembers how keen she was on going. Her colleague texts that she’s just resting up for tomorrow. “See you there!” Sonia replies, sighing, relieved.
by Edward Ahern
When I first went corporate
Executives wore dress shirts
With French cuffs and gold links.
So for protective coloration
I scrounged the lower east side
For remainders from Madison Avenue.
The quality of the shirts
Improved with my credit rating
And in time my closet held
A half-month of French cuffs.
Eventually, with retirement,
The need for dressing up
Left with my commute.
Weddings, funerals and church services
Don’t satisfy this need for ostentation,
And I find myself gold cuffed
At televised operas and poetry readings
I am addicted to my camouflage
* * *
Published in Ed’s latest poetry collection: Sideways Glances
Searching For My Roots
(an interlocking rubaiyat poem)
by Alison McBain
When the first gray appeared,
I was nine. I had no fear
of aging inappropriately--
plucked, the hair disappeared.
Little did I foresee
A problem in my twenties
when the gray multiplied
into a fashionable streak.
It was cool, I lied
to myself, although I dyed
it when I reached another
decade. Just vanity and pride,
of course. If only I were
more confident, I thought, sure
that the problem lay with my
terrible hair genes from my father.
But the root of the problem, I find,
is stress—so says science. If I try
to relax, perhaps do yoga or lie
down, maybe brown hair again? … Sigh.
by Scott Bogart
With their flying saucer stealthily cloaked above the NFL stadium, observation ports open, the two ETs watched.
“Are you following?” asked Sofar.
“Too much starting and stopping,” said Beyon.
Following a discussion, the craft zipped across the planet to a soccer stadium in Europe.
“I like the continuous play,” said Beyon.
“Yes, but the players exhibit fragility,” said Sofar.
After another short discussion the GPS was set for Daytona, Florida. Minutes later they were cloaked above the track.
Roaring Nascar engines vibrated the craft. The odor of fuel and burnt rubber filled the cabin.
Nods of approval were exchanged.
Stories in The Shadows
by Matthew P.S. Salinas
The dying breaths of the overworked, summer sun reflected on the blacktop. It was the usual waiting in preparation everyone experienced. The evening would unfold into words spoken around a large fire. Some in attendance would do all the talking, others would just sit and listen. Everyone would be full of dread.
That was what kept everyone coming back. They craved the gnawing sensation of fear those spoken words achieved. The flickering light of the burning wood accompanied by smoke setting the stage as always. The local children gathered around to hear what they had titled “Stories in The Shadows.”
by Micah C. Brown
A quiet whisper in the dark, but sleep has dulled your senses. The dreams continue unabated until they darken, fragment, and flutter away like rice paper in the breeze. And then you are standing, if you can call it standing, as you look at the still flesh you so recently resided in.
A crimson stain expands around the corpse that once was you. Movement from the corner of your eye, and then Death is there with her ruby-red eyes.
“What happens now?” you ask.
Death takes your hand, a wry smile her only response.
Free Book Publishing Consultation
If you've written a novel or memoir but are struggling with getting it published, how would you like to have a chat with our associate editor, Alison McBain? She's a freelance editor whose recent novel was published through When Words Count's Pitch Week, which you can read about in Medium's The Writing Cooperative: "How I Jumped the Line & Got a Book Deal."
Send an email to Alison at email@example.com to talk to her about nontraditional methods to get a traditional publishing deal, such as the contest that gave her a leg up in the field. If you also send her a 250-word (or less) query, she will weigh in on it free of charge.
The Poets' Salon
If you're looking for more poetry, including a place to read your work, receive critiques, and explore poetic forms, check out The Poets' Salon. Two editors of Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, Edward Ahern and Alison McBain, run this free poetry workshop.
Meetings take place on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon EST via Zoom. More info, including how to sign up for the poetry workshop, can be found on The Poets' Salon website or via Meetup.