By JUSTINE DUNN
The loud buzzer announced my arrival as I stepped into the store. He turned to face me and before we’d even made eye contact I knew I was about to take a bullet.
It’s true that when staring death in the face everything slows down. In fact, everything slowed down to such a ridiculous speed I can’t believe I didn’t get out of the way.
I saw him pull the gun out from his jacket and I even saw the bullet leave the weapon. I had time to look at his face and think how attractive he was, dark haired and unshaven; just my type. I thought about my cat, Ted, who’d be watching out for me by now. My car, parked outside in a fifteen minute only spot. The hole in my sock that my big toe was peeking through. My boss would complain in the morning about my lateness, then hear the news and tell everyone what great friends we were.
So there I stood, rooted to the spot for what seemed like an eternal second waiting for the bullet to reach me, incapable of doing anything except think pointless thoughts. But it came, and knocked me to the floor.
The gunman’s handsome face appeared above me. There were tears in his eyes and I actually felt compassion for him. Dropping to his knees he reached out his hand to me, it hovered above my forehead not daring to make contact. Only when I’d closed my eyes I felt the soft touch of his fingers on my face. The pain was fading and I didn’t feel in the least bit afraid. He took hold of my hand and pleaded with me not to die but there was little I could do. Then I heard one more noise; the sound of another gunshot.
I opened my eyes to find myself hovering inches above the scene, looking down at myself. A pool of blood had spread across the floor from where my lifeless body lay. My dead hand was still holding my ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ keyring. Blood was silently creeping away from both our corpses, spreading further out across the already dirty floor.
The gunman was floating beside me. Sensing his gaze I looked over at him and in an instant knew everything there was to know about him. All the things in his life that had led him to this point. But most importantly I knew that he wasn’t a bad man, foolish maybe, but not bad. I also knew all of the thoughts that had flashed through his mind during his final seconds and no doubt he now knew mine, how embarrassing.
So there we were, suspended above our own corpses and I should have been angry with him, I should have been really fucking angry with him. But taking his own life told me everything I needed to know. As we continued to stare into one another, more and more information exchanged between us. Like some sort of spiritual speed date we came to realize why each of us were in the store that day. I hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Fate had been laying down stepping stones my entire life, leading me into the path of that bullet.
I was out of milk because Ted knocked it off the counter. Toni, my friend had left it out that morning, she’d crashed over last night after an impromptu get together. I met Toni when I first started my job, the job I took in favor of a position up north. Back in school I had wanted to study architecture at college, but switched to law instead. As I looked back over my life I saw the reason for everything. We like to think we make our futures, but they are already out there just waiting for us to reach them.
Today I crossed the finish line and found my soulmate. We won't have a first date, no movie or dinner and we won't meet each others families. Not quite how I would have planned it but this was my path.
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British born and currently living in Slovenia. Writes flash fiction, children's poetry and has just completed her first novel.
Posted by E.S. Wynn
By Rob Bliss
Wake up. The first mistake. Go to work and see the same people who always say the same things. Look and act and believe and are the same. And you’re expected to retain your sameness. Spit in the face of a passerby, jerk off on a park bench, take a glorious shit right beside the dog doing the same. These differences are not allowed. They are against society.
Shooting a cop always makes the shooter look bad, the cop a martyr. A politician becomes a politically-motivated murder. A judge, a lawyer – they have connections and libraries of laws. No wonder people drive far out of town into the country, but nobody hitchhikes anymore. And most farmers are armed these days, coyotes stealing their sheep.
Suicide could be fun, but not if no one notices. I’d protest something, but I’m too lazy to buy the placard, a nail, a piece of wood. Gotta pay for a stick, so few littered on the sidewalks of the metropolis. Rape? My DNA and her possible disease make that impossible.
So work. Save up. Plan. Third World countries don’t have the same laws that we do. Save up enough bribe money in case the corrupt cops there catch you. Pay the cheap price for the forbidden thrill. Beware the man who flies with condoms in his luggage, or worse, in his carry-on. He wants to hit the ground running, ignoring the photo ops to become one with the people of the new freely-forbidden land.
Still, take the standard vacation photos for the water cooler back home. The other photos don’t keep on your phone or laptop – if you’re brave enough to take it, snuggled next to the condoms. Don’t give your nation’s border guards a reason to get to know you in a cramped room full of sweating bodies. They are too well paid to want your pennies.
Let out a primal scream on the beach before returning home. Out of the paradisaical tropical, back to the hellish winter. Home. Watch television. Stare at the wall, but don’t let it talk back. Mention the right shows and movies, then promise to see them again and again, they were so good, not a bad one in the lot.
Smashing the TV, the radio, the phone is anti-social. You need these to exist, to be seen as normal. The farmer doesn’t, but that’s why he doesn’t live where you live.
You sit, I sit, we sit together, and stay put for another working year. You show off your vacation, but keep tight lips about your real holiday. We don’t scream, we don’t tell the truth – the truth never sets anyone free. Just plan your next year’s vacation in silence.
I had a great time. Weather, scenery, friendly people, cheap beer and food and trinkets. Gotta go back. Do it again and again and again.
A nice place to die.
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I am a Canadian writer with a degree in English and Writing. My stories are, or will be, published in Schlock Webzine, SNM Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, microhorror, and Blood Moon Rising.
Posted by E.S. Wynn
Me All Over
By Jim Blanchet
To whom it may concern,
I will start by saying that this letter is an open ended cry for help, written by two very concerned people, Rational Me and Desperate Me. Rational Me has a heart full of fear and anguish, and Desperate Me is begging for any assistance you might offer. The two of them share a common enemy, who goes by the name of Drunk Me.
There are several players in this saga, and as you will see from their last names, they are all related. Despite this relation, however, I assure you that they could not be more different. This all must be very confusing, but I hope that brief explanation will help. My problem is as follows:
Drunk Me can never remember how much everyone else hates him. Hungover Me wakes up, rolls over, takes a minute to think and a look around, then punches himself in the balls- metaphorically of course. Somewhere during the mental anguish that goes with these metaphorical sack punches, Hungover Me performs a secret handshake with Ashamed Me. The two of them have developed a special relationship after years of meeting frequently, and I assure you the handshake is quite elaborate.
Hungover Me and Ashamed Me share a favorite question, and it is, “Why, you asshole?” Unfortunately, Drunk Me has his own favorite question, which is, “Why not, you handsome bastard?” Handsome Bastard Me does not actually exist, but don’t try telling that to Drunk Me, he will just take a swing at you.
If Drunk Me and Hungover Me ran into each other while punching their respective time cards, I’m sure that the dirty look on Hungover Me’s face would burn into his memory, preventing him from making such a poor choice again. Unfortunately, Drunk Me is never awake when such an interaction takes place, and Hungover Me continues to wake up in a strange places on Saturday morning.
Part of the reason why Drunk Me never learns a lesson is because all he remembers is drinking, dancing, lewd conduct, mercilessly hitting on vulnerable women and all the fun, dirty things that follow. He never has to deal with making excuses, cleaning up vomit, forcibly wearing sunglasses indoors or deleting text messages with Ashamed Me. That poor asshole has no idea what a regret filled morning looks like, and he probably never will.
Rational Me considered asking Bored Weekday Me to set up some sort of system that might prevent such behavior. Theoretically, this is a good plan since Bored Weekday Me never has anything important to do, but he’s also very lazy and would only put a half-assed effort into finding the right system.
Many of us wish there was some way to really get through to Drunk Me. Unfortunately, he is just too damned tenacious and cunning. His weaknesses are obvious and many, but so hard to exploit. I would need some sort of booby trap that Drunk Me couldn't see coming.
As you can see, we are at our wit’s end. Desperate Me keeps on coming up with spontaneous ideas, but they are far too insane to get passed Rational Me. If you think you can help us, please write. We can receive suggestions via email or phone call, during most weekday hours. Don’t bother sending a text message, however, since Drunk Me is a frequent texter and if he finds them, he will delete them promptly.
Rational Me and Desperate Me
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Jim Blanchet is a freelance writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and satire from Philadelphia, and a Staff Writer for Fictionade Magazine. He lives in San Diego, CA, where he writes on a small wooden desk that he bought at a yard sale for $15.
Posted by E.S. Wynn
Why Kristen Misses Push & Turn
By Kwame Ivery
The bottle of pills wouldn’t open. No matter how hard Kristen pressed and tried to twist off the top. The bottle of pills wouldn’t open. Knowing she was doing it right but thinking maybe she was doing it wrong, she looked more closely at the instruction imprinted on the bottle’s white top. And she wasn’t prepared for what she saw. Instead of the usual “PUSH & TURN” the instruction read “SMACK YOUR 5TH GRADE TEACHER”.
Kristen called the pharmacist and asked him if it was a joke.
“No,” the pharmacist said. “The only way to open it is by smacking your fifth-grade teacher.”
“What happened to ‘Push & Turn’?” Kristen asked.
“There were some complaints about it,” the pharmacist said. “So the instruction was changed to ‘Smack Your Fifth-Grade Teacher’. People think it’s easier and they like it more.”
“Well, I don’t like it,” Kristen said.
“Really?” The pharmacist sounded very surprised. “You’re the first one to complain about it.”
Kristen hung up and tried to remember who her fifth-grade teacher was. Miss Chambers. Yeah, that was her name. She hadn’t thought about Miss Chambers since her last day of fifth grade 22 years ago. She tried to remember if Miss Chambers had been nice or not, and she remembered that Miss Chambers had been not only nice but very patient too, with a comforting smile; certainly not someone Kristen wanted to smack. But Kristen really needed this medication, so she decided to search for Miss Chambers so she could smack her.
Facebook led to an email address which led to an actual address. Miss Chambers, now 81-years-old, was living in a retirement home in Oregon. By the time Kristen finished the four-day drive she was so weak and in such dire need for the medication that it took every muscle in her body to make her smile when she greeted Miss Chambers. Miss Chambers looked pretty much the same, only grayer and more wrinkled. She hugged Kristen and touched her face and said, “Oh yes, I remember you now! You’re still just as beautiful as you were all those years ago!”
By now about half a dozen of Miss Chambers’ fellow elderly residents had gathered around as Miss Chambers put her frail hand on Kristen’s arm and introduced her to them. “Girls, this is Kristen Gazarri—I was her fifth-grade teacher and she was one of my favorite students. She was one of the sweetest, prettiest, smartest kids I’d ever had the pleasure of teaching…!”
As Miss Chambers talked, Kristen waited for an opening where she could smack her but an opening like that didn’t quite present itself. She took a deep breath and interrupted Miss Chambers: “And I can honestly say Miss Chambers here was the best teacher I ever had. They sure don’t make ‘em like this woman anymore.” And when she said “like this woman anymore” she lightly tapped Miss Chambers’ face with the tips of her fingers, hoping that it qualified as a smack.
Miss Chambers and the other elderly residents laughed. “You’re right, Susan,” one of Miss Chambers’ elderly friends said, “she’s so sweet and beautiful.”
As Miss Chambers and friends continued to gush over her Kristen said, “Could you-all excuse me for a minute? I’ll be right back.”
Kristen rushed to the restroom, took out the bottle of pills and tried to twist off the cap but the cap still wouldn’t budge. Apparently the smack she’d given Miss Chambers wasn’t smacky enough. Kristen started to panic. Her condition was making her weaker and weaker by the second. She really, really needed this medication.
Her face glazed with sweat, Kristen forced a smile and re-joined Miss Chambers and Miss Chambers’ friends in the lounge. They all sat down, with Kristen sitting right next to Miss Chambers. As Miss Chambers fondly told her enraptured friends about a daffodil that Kristen had made for her in Arts & Crafts, Kristen closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then opened her eyes, turned to Miss Chambers, drew back her hand as far as it could go, and, with all the strength she could muster—and even more than that—she hauled off and smacked Miss Chambers in the face so hard that Miss Chambers’ eyeglasses and dentures flew 14 feet across the room.
Palming her face, Miss Chambers gave Kristen a shocked, confused, toothless gape. Meanwhile Miss Chambers’ six elderly female friends tackled Kristen, threw her to the floor and proceeded to kick her, stomp her, spit on her, and throw a coffee table on her.
When the beating was over Kristen pulled herself from the floor. Through broken teeth she told the still-stunned Miss Chambers, “Nice seeing you again, and sorry.” Then she staggered out of the retirement home.
In her car Kristen yanked out the bottle of pills and twisted the top, which cooperatively popped right off. She quickly downed her usual dosage then headed back home.
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I was born in Bronx, NY and was raised in New Jersey. I have an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts.
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