After Angels

By Richard Ford Burley in Issue Twelve, December 2023

The first thing that happens is the birds stop singing.

It’s more subtle out in oldciv, in places where the sawtooth ruins scrape the sky with spires of concrete and steel. There just aren’t that many birds out here. It’s been fifty years since the city was abandoned, but nature’s still wary about moving back in. That’s the way it is with angelfall.

A Proper Witch

By Elisabeth Kauffman in Issue Twelve, December 2023

Gen took a break from digging and wiped sweat-pasted black hair from her brow, smearing graveyard dirt onto her clammy, pale skin. She could just hear those bitchy witches from the Instagram coven she’d tried to join.

“Maybe if you were a proper witch you would have been able to get that spell to work.”

Mochi through Space and Time

By Karen Aria Lin in Issue Twelve, December 2023

As I approached Sue-Ling’s Bakery, I had the curious feeling I was returning home.

The storefront was nothing special, just a brown door crammed between a grocery and bookstore in a sleepy Irvine plaza, the bakery’s name stenciled in peeling English letters and Chinese characters on the window. But when I opened the door, sweet smells pulled me in like gravity. This early in the morning, I was the only customer.

Folded in Light

By Elizabeth Broadbent in Issue Twelve, December 2023

“Most people couldn’t make out what David was babbling when he ran outta that swamp. Partly ‘cause he was buck-naked, but mostly ‘cause he’d sawed off that hand. But I heard him.” Buddy planted his elbows on the old counter. “He was going on about black rocks and witch birds. I know it. I seen it.”

Blake had only stopped to top off at Lower Congaree’s Gas N Go, but Buddy’s gossip snagged him, and he leaned close. The clerk’s Skoal reeked sickly of mint tobacco.

Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles

By Karl Dandenell in Issue Twelve, December 2023

Sitting in the shade of the weather-beaten gas station’s solar panels, Abby Williams clutched the county’s latest water cutback order and gritted her teeth. I’ve become a character actor in my own life. Or worse, a caricature. It felt like the Witness Protection team had simply checked off the requisite number of boxes rather than write an original script. From the top: older woman (but not that old!), divorced, scraping out a living in North Dakota, fifty miles from Antler, population 32. Throw in a loving boyfriend who limps around on a VA prosthetic leg whose battery often failed, and you’ve got a perfect romantic comedy.

The Drowning Bones

By A. R. Frederiksen in Issue Eleven, October 2023

I began to grow my gills one week after my first menstruation, right on time.

My father was horrified, but my mother flexed her own gills nestled behind her curtain of curls so like my own, and he went as silent as the nighttime sea.

“Par for the course,” she told him, not bothering to hide it from me like she never bothered to hide anything from me. “This is a child of mine. You knew that when you stepped into my fjord. When you bathed in my song long ago. You’ve always known.”

You Came for Goodbye

By Rajeev Prasad in Issue Eleven, October 2023

Lightning flashes in the grainy dusk and your silhouette freezes, oddly contorted, on Nora's motel door. You glance back at the serpentine formation of tiny drones creating a ladder of low-pressure pockets, drawing moisture from faraway mountain ranges. Pretty soon the tempest will release the rain, every last drop.

You rattle Nora's door more violently, like you own the wind itself. No answer. All too familiar to find yourself chasing her again, but you won't let one toxic year corrupt twenty-three good ones.

The Last Day of Autumn

By T. R. Siebert in Issue Eleven, October 2023

On the last day of autumn, I wake to the cries of the cranes above and know it’s time to see the beast. I dress in thick wool and the heavy boots from the back of my closet, careful not to wake Hugo, who’s still snoring on his side of the bed. My trusty woven basket is quickly packed with small sour apples from the garden, dark brown bread and some of the smoked ham I promised Hugo for breakfast. He’ll understand once he wakes and finds me gone. He’ll hear the cranes and know not to expect me back for supper.

He might not be as understanding about me taking the last piece of the blackberry cake, however.

For the Price of One Nightmare

By Natalie Kikić in Issue Eleven, October 2023

It came in through the keyhole.

Adrijan hadn’t plugged it up before going to bed despite the guesthouse host’s warning. Leave the key inside or stuff it with paper, the host had told him in the same voice he’d used to say no overnight guests and no smoking inside. There’s a mora who’s been stalking these shores at night. Feeding on men’s dreams, turning them into nightmares. They can turn into flies, you know, fly right in. The host demonstrated, weaving his arm through the air in sharp, jagged motions.

The Back of the Hand to Everything

By James Parenti in Issue Eleven, October 2023

Inside the house is dark because the windows are all covered with plywood. Me and my sister Deb helped Dad put the boards up in the morning to protect the glass from breaking in the storm. Hurricane Daniel. Like me, but everybody calls it Daniel, nobody calls it Danny. The air is always damp and heavy here but on hurricane days especially you can feel it, thick and electric, sticking to your hair and clothes. Even the mosquitoes are weighed down by it.

I’m not big enough to use tools so Deb and me helped Dad hold the boards in place. He used the drill gun and the hammer, swinging hard. Each hit made me flinch and the wood rattled the bones in my fingers. I turned my face away from the force of it, staring down at his huge white sneakers instead. They left ridged indentations in the damp ground.