A Pet Fable
By Edward Ahern

He padded over to where she was feeding. I need to ask you something, he thought.

What? Wait till I'm done with this mush.

Prince stood motionless. He wanted to tell her she was eating right next to where she shit, but knew it was puppy-like. He also wanted to call her Queenie, which is what the owners called her, but knew she hated that name.

Clawbitch, do you wonder what life is like outside?

She said nothing until she finished feeding. Of course, you buffoon. I ran away when I first came into heat, but they trapped me before I could copulate. Then they took me to sharp-knife-human, who cut out my breeding parts.

He looked at her through only one eye, not staring. Her fur had thinned and matted into clumps that sagged over an increasingly gaunt body. She was gradually dying. I escaped from the owners once as well, when I was still young.

So why are you here?

I looked for other dogs, a pack maybe, or a man-family camped outside so I could run free, but saw only an occasional dog tied to its owner with a cord. I tried to eat squirrels and rabbits, but didn't know how to catch them. After three days I was starving and slow and a human caught me with a net. I couldn't get rid of the choke chain around my neck, and the net-human knew where to bring me. Then sharp-knife-human cut off my testicles. I have never known a bitch in heat.

Clawbitch started to stretch, but stopped, the sinuous motion made her joints hurt. She stared at him expressionlessly. We were not meant for this, Prince. Your race- compact with men was to warn of danger and help in the hunt, living free on the edge of camps. Cats came to men to roam as they wanted and kill the men's vermin, plus an occasional bird. But now we are all caged like freaks and forced to live as animate toys for the humans.

But we live long and well.

Long, yes. Well, never. I see in your eyes that you know of my coming death. I will escape again, while I can still run.

But you're too slow now to catch mice and rats, let alone a bird.

Yes. But I will stalk anywhere I wish. And perhaps instead of starving I would get to have a losing battle with a coyote. Humans think their pets crawl off to die. How stupid. We crawl off to at last live.

Two feedings later, when the human with dugs came into the house, Clawbitch slipped out unnoticed. Prince didn't bark. Clawbitch should have a good death, a better death than his own, for he knew he was a broken slave, unable to run away again. He would die in a corner of his house-cage or in a last visit to the sharp-knife-human.

- - -
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He has his original wife, but advises that after forty five years they are both out of warranty. Ed has had forty six stories published thus far.


By Christopher Shultz

1. The Lion's Head

Our flock was dead. We
gathered their tithings and split.

I-40 west, the stench of Texas cowshit
choked me and Joan less than
the scene we left behind:

Solo cups streaked and beaded in red;
the cleansing explosions and fragments of
remorse; the lifeless bodies of our congregation.

In the wake of their death,
our new life was born.


The outside world burned wet against
our windshield, evening showers
turning stop lights into
distorted red orbs.

Like the Devil's eyes, Joan felt.
He kept his distance from us.

From her, the Divine One,
leader and killer of men.


"Did you hear that?" she whispered.
I had, but I didn't let on.
The silence resumed.

We had distance yet to travel
and the Ghost was growing impatient.

2. The Goat's Body

Our hosts didn't have much to eat,
but we made do with leftover chicken
and flat soda from the fridge. We ate,
we pet their cat, we slept in their beds.

We had troubled sleep, forced to listen
as the wind wailed outside,

both of us knowing
it was not the wind.


In the morning,
we awoke to a snowstorm.

"It's because of us," Joan said.
"Because of what we did."

"Because of what you did," I countered.

"You helped, Jim."

"I was along for the ride. Still am."

"We shouldn't have done it."

"You can leave some money. Right here."
I pounded my fist on the coffee table,
frightening the cat. "It'll pay for
their funerals."

"It doesn't matter," Joan insisted,
though her mind (I could tell)
wandered back to the master bedroom,
where the corpses lay.


After two days, the flurries stopped,
so we set out again.
We were close...

There were no other cars,
no other people.
The world was empty.

Just me, Joan and the Ghost,
who squirmed in the backseat,
pestering, perpetually hungry.

It was our child,
though I felt,
he looked more like me.


Hart met us near the Mexico border.
"Two thousand each," he said,
and held out his hand.

She paid the man, and he drove
the three of us—Joan, the Ghost,
and me—to the place people like us
invariably end up.

Some called it El Rey, but we knew better
than to let names get mixed up in this thing.


"I'm going to paint again," Joan said.
"When we get there."

Hart said nothing.
The Ghost and me, we just laughed.

She didn't say another word
the rest of the way.

3. The Serpent's Tail

I slept some, dreamt even less,
though one vision lingered like a word
on the tip of my tongue.

I didn't let on,
and before long, we'd arrived.

Rough terrain, rougher people.
Beautiful in an ugly sort of way...

A single room, a twin mattress.
Space enough for one person.
"It's going to be cramped," Joan said.

Hart just frowned at her.


There was distance behind us.
There was distance between us.

One day, sitting in our small room,
I realized the Ghost was gone.

Joan, drunk, still not painting,
looked at me and said,
it's still here."

She was right, and I knew it.

So I told her about the dream I'd had
on the way to our new, nameless home.

It wasn't a dream at all, but a memory;
her memory:

"Fourth of July. I'm six years old.
I slip below the rippling surface
of my grandparents' swimming pool
and nearly drown.

My grandfather pulls me to safety,
and later we go to the fireworks show.
I watch the explosions, vibrant and fiery,
against the black summer sky.

And I know then, as I know now
I never really left that pool..."


There was only silence then.
We didn't speak to each other again.

I was gone.

But I lingered on at the periphery
of Joan's consciousness,

no longer a man
with a history and a name,

just a piece of her that died
a long time ago;

the Entity, the Ghost, the Thing
that made her do the things she did.

She was fine with it,
and so was I.

- - -
Christopher Shultz grew up watching old Universal monster movies and reading Stephen King, and he hasn't left the shadows since. His stories have appeared in MicroHorror and the Anthology Another 100 Horrors, among other places.


High Colonics in Berlin
By Donal Mahoney

- -
The Nazis call her Hilda,
this ancient woman who
makes a simple living in
a bathroom in Berlin
giving high colonics
to constipated officers.

She helps each man
settle in the tub and asks
"Are you comfortable?"
and then she slides
the nozzle in and says
"Here it comes, Mein Herr!"
and turns the pressure
on full blast.

She loves to hear the officer
yell and curse as water
scalding hot crumples him
and he can't make it
to the toilet.
Hilda apologizes
for the accident
and leaves the room to
let the Nazi wallow in
his excrement and stench.

Hilda's real name is
Aviva Goldfarb Stein.
She was a surgeon once,
had a brother die at Dachau
and uses high colonics
hotter than Gehenna
one bastard at a time.

- - -
Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had work published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/.


The Eternal Bartender on the Act of Lying at Taverns
By Miles Gough

Bar Truth: Everyone drinking at a bar is lying to one degree or another.

Pat, the eternal bartender, replies: How true that is. You know what they say about lawyers, how you can tell they’re lying. The answer being, their mouths are moving. With bar goers, they don’t have to even open their yap holes to be liars. As soon as that drink is in front of them, there is lying going on. The lies range from “I can handle this next drink” to “Man, I am a handsome devil and that chick would be lucky to know me.” Sometimes I think we charge less for the booze and more for the mendacity.

Now, there are lies and there are lies. I have seen my share of insane storytellers who actually think they’re on the up and up. The biggest liar? That’s hard to say, but I remember one fella way back when I was working behind the stick at this wine bar round Gallelli or them parts. Man, those were sandal and tunic times, not the best for sartorial pleasure, but that’s what we was wearing then, so what you going to do?

There was this fella, he had a following. Back then, you talk fine and weighty, you had people listening at you like you was better than the rest. This guy was alright, polite, tipped, didn’t give me no guff most of the time. But the stories he told. He sure went on. It wasn’t that he was smarter or prettier in his tales, but that he could do things. He said he cured the handicapped. He made blind people see, the lame walk, the lepers have Oil of Olay type skin and no doubt, he made the stinky take baths. Now that’s a miracle.

When this fella was really in his cups, said he was the son of God. Now that’s a DNA test I would like to see run.

The last time he was in my joint, he was telling a tale about his latest daring do. He had word that a buddy of his was sick and dying. Instead of going to see him right away, the fella dawdled, probably tossing back a few in my establishment, I wouldn’t be surprised. He finally got around to seeing this friend of his and the dude was dead four days. The fella said he went to his buddy’s tomb and commanded him to rise and come out. Then what did that dead dude do? He rose and came out. Madness.

All of the fella’s followers were open mouthed and excited by this bullshit. I had enough of it and told him and his toadies to hit the road, I was cutting them off. No one talks resurrection in my joint.

The fella never raised his voice, he was polite like I said. He told me he wasn’t done imbibing. I told him not here he ain’t. He said that was cool and could he have a jug of water. I asked why. He said he was going to go out to a field and turn it into wine. I threw up my hands. I gave the water to him and told him to have at it. He left with all his thirsty followers behind him.

Never saw him again. I guess he found another joint to tell his stories. There is always some place to tell them, and some sucker to listen to them like they’re true.

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