Artwork by Robin Grotke. Grotke is an artist and photographer living on the southern coast of North Carolina. Her inspiration is drawn from nature, people and cultures, emotions and humor, new life and decay, present moments and distant memories. Grotke’s work focuses on the sensation of ‘being there’, of taking the viewer to the location of the photograph and to feel like she did when the image was taken. Here photographs can be found here.
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The beach isn’t that great without the sun. Dad said as much, but Mum insisted we stick to the plan. We all must suffer for his misdeeds. A fish-skin sky draped over the sea.
I dutifully arranged shells and thin bones around her while he, with false cheer, incited the building of a sandcastle. He called her his queen but she was merciless. I dodged beneath the contracted moments where they looked past each other.
Seawater surged into unguarded moats. She sighed. It sounded like pain. The waves placed scales of salt on my shins.
We walked to the car, weighed down with damp towels, and bags, and a hefty silence we knew wouldn’t stay clammed up forever. A thick line was drawn where the ocean and sky could find no compromise.
He dropped a towel, almost on purpose. The accusations spat out of her. He snapped back. I saw my chance to dash through the space between them, back to the edge to kick at tractor waves churning dark sand. I lifted my eyes. The cloud-scales had tugged loose and the sky was cluttered with apostrophes.
Propelled by sudden fear, I shouted out to them, lest, so intent on arguing, they drove off, forgetting they ever had a child.
They sat on the seawall by the car park, overlapping each other, edges smoothed over, and masks on tight. Through the eyeholes they pleaded with me, as if their lives depended on my collusion.
Then we went home.
Heather McQuillan lives in Christchurch and has published two novels and a short story for children with Scholastic NZ. She was awarded the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005 and her two books have been selected for the Notable Books List by Storylines NZ. She is a tutor with the School for Young Writers. Her work was long-listed in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competition. Most nights Heather goes to sleep hearing the waves on the shore and in the morning she wakes with more stories in her head. Sometimes she sleeps in a caravan by pine trees and wakes up with magpies quardling and the stories all ebbing away.
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In a dream, I get the words right and I am blushed with light. Your eyes are closed and I am awake again, watching the wall behind you. I can’t sleep because I can hear the moon catching stars in the sky and swallowing them whole. There is an atmosphere in your eyes too, of scudding clouds that pass by every time you shift in your sleep. Two time zones away, the sun warms our backs but sometimes I can’t feel it. The moon refuses to listen when I whisper sorry, and the light flickers across your skin in shudders. I watch it carefully and then keep on breathing, let my lungs fill with air and let it go again. I imagine I can see oxygen and carbon dioxide, flecks of incandescence, proof of something more than emptiness.
Emma Shi was the winner of the 2013 National Schools Poetry Award and is currently studying at Victoria University of Wellington.
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Every few hours, the craving.
At work she’d hold out at long as she could but the callers would get tetchier, responding to the sharpening edge in her voice, and she would find herself shredding the edges of the customer service manual until finally the fat boy who called himself the boss would rest a damp hand on her shoulder and say, go on then—10 minutes, and she would stumble out of her chair, into the stairwell, and up, up, up.
She bought a cottage on the crest of a hill for its promise of a view from every window and painted her ceilings the essential colours: blue for the kitchen, bathroom a mizzling grey, and in the bedroom, star-speckled black. She wore high-heeled shoes, always. It was enough. It was not enough.
She joined a gliding club, which lifted her into euphoria as often as she could afford. The tramping club was cheaper but they thought her strange: the platform tramping boots, but also how she chewed through the club’s single men in ascending height order. She was obsessed with elevations.
On the last walk of the season, the leaders turned before the summit – the clouds were closing in – but the head count was one short. They searched in vain. Only one, the tallest, noticed through wind-squeezed tears a lone rock wren, buffeted by the rising storm but fluttering joyfully up, up, up into the darkening sky.
Fiona Lincoln lives and works. She also writes.
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Where were you when the river flooded and the livestock floated upsidedowndead towards the sea? There were breezes from the north, carrying the flecked remains of ancient Vikings from far Iceland, and on these winds came the painful cries of the tortured. In a plastic Tesco bag I have letters and notes from your early days in the family business. letters that tell of Papal Bulls and deliveries of porter from Dublin by barge, the smoke from the hops scudding across the sky. Some news of family losses is new to me. Names of grandparents never known, their old faces crenellated by worry and age, the nicotine stain of fingers and the fragrant aroma of pipe tobacco. If I listen carefully to the spirits your deep baritone sings songs of pain and sorrow, rolling metal barrels along the stony passageway behind the house. Did you listen to jazz music in those gray days after the Crash? In dreams I picture you visiting the Natural History Museum in Dublin on a Saturday afternoon, the leathered rhinoceros still in possession of the two horns on his head. Whilst nobody was looking, I placed a hand on the same rhinoceros’ hide recently and tried to feel your vibration. That build-up between the wrinkles of its back is likely the same dust you noticed that day you marveled at the creature’s bulk.
James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. He is fiction editor at Literary Orphans and the author of the short fiction collection, Blood a Cold Blue. His work appears in the W.W. Norton Anthology, Flash Fiction International, and in Queen’s Ferry Press’s anthology, Best Small Fictions 2015. More here.
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D R Jones lives and works near Puhoi, overlooking the Mahurangi Harbour. This pastoral setting seems conducive to his writing novels, short stories and flash fiction. At present, the second instalment of his genre-defying Anonymous_Author©series is well underway. He also creates art and shares here from time to time.
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You awaited my dawning as the sky filled with milky light and sweet staccato notes.And offered me birdsong.
As soon as my legs worked, we walked the damp earth of fields to tune into the sky, my small hand folded into your thick, stubby one. Listen, you said year on year. The first call of the cuckoo!
And the long days of childhood and birdsong unfurled through the seasons like the pages of a picture book.
The birds and their voices, you presented as a gift: the blackbirds’ early morning chitter-chatter; the lark high above the dunes; swallow-tails tipping pond-water; pale geese arrowed southward; the robin’s melancholy winter-tune.
I thought it would always be like this: you hadn’t warned me you’d shut down – a beach hut boarded up for winter, still there, but locked away. Look Dad, what’s that bird? You opened your eyes and slowly turned your head. A chaffinch, you said without expression, and closed your eyes again.
In your last year I pedalled across a continent away from you. Still you sent your gifts – warbler and wood pigeon the length of the Rhine; skylark and stork along the Danube; the cuckoo that accompanied me through spring and on into summer, until it faded out somewhere in Romania.
When I got home, you were gone.
Helen Moat spent her childhood squished between siblings in her Dad’s Morris Minor, travelling the length and breadth of Ireland. She’s still wandering… and writing about it. She has won, or been placed, in numerous travel writing competitions, and recently wrote ‘Slow Travel: Peak District’ for Bradt Publishers. More recently, she has discovered the strange and wonderful world of flash fiction – and rather likes the fact that she can create her own micro journeys and encounters. She has been nominated for the Sundress Publications Best of the Net 2014. Helen writes at Double Espresso
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That last summer, before you went away to uni, we rode our bikes so fast trying to beat the train. But it always went faster than us, and you always went faster than me. We rolled around the judo mats in the church hall and I waited for you to kiss me, but you never did.
You would go home to your house on the hill, and I would go home to Naenae. That’s the Maori word for mosquito, in case you didn’t know. Naenae was built on a swamp. I was the girl from the swamp.
Remember Bruce, the wee boy from our class whose voice didn’t break until he was sixteen? You wouldn’t recognise him now, because he’s so fat he can hardly walk. His eyes are the only tiny part of him. His house is so damp the windows weep in winter, like the whole house is crying. His sister died of an asthma attack. He’s not like you. We’re not like you.
I bet the sky is blue as cornflowers above your house, glassy and limitless. There are never clouds in your sky, trying to suffocate you until all the hope has been squeezed out of your lungs. Put that book down, you’re meant to be minding your brothers. You’re not as smart as you think.
Summer ended, and you went to university. I stayed behind, telling everyone I’m exploring my options and this is what I found.
Your sky will always be bigger than mine.
Eileen Merriman writes flash fiction, short stories and novels. Her work has previously been published in The Sunday Star Times, Takahē, Headland, Blue Five Notebook and the Bath Short Story Anthology 2015. She was awarded second runner-up in the 2014 Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition, was commended in the 2015 Bath Short Story Competition and is the recent winner of the 2015 Flash Frontier Winter Writing Award.
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1. At the base of the hill the road becomes dust and irregular dunes. Grasses tussle and flex. Waves rage at the height of the cliffs. We shuck green-lipped mussels in rock-pools, skim stones, find the feather-bone of a seahorse. An albatross plunges for fish. The bacon and egg pie you made that morning, nestled in foil, is still warm. The apples taste salty and sweet. We stay until twilight, the driftwood fading from flame. Under the blue-checked wool blanket our legs hum to the drum of the sea.
2. It rains. There is a pub at the side of the road. Turn right, says the publican. Five cattle stops later, the car boils dry. A farmer drives us to his house on the back of a bike smeared with shit. There are sheep on the porch, children cascading from doorways. We drink ice cold Speights in the drip of an elm and share stories of Wellington, Edinburgh, Nimes. You borrow a Swanndri and go to watch tailing. The children make goggle eyes at me over afternoon scones and let me bottle-feed the pet lambs.
3. We follow the map from the farmer. A cruise ship is in; queues of sunburned tourists are snaking the paths. A motorbike steals our carpark. The waves at the beach are ripples, the pebbles polished and beige. Outside the museum two youths are fighting. The restaurant we’ve been recommended has sold out of snapper. The flat white sits sour on my tongue.
Christy Menzies has had stories short-listed for the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize, the Takahē Short Story Competition and the Joy Cowley Award. Her short stories are – generally – getting longer.
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Rob Jones left his job in a large book distribution warehouse in England to travel and work in New Zealand, whilst continuing to write. Now in Wellington, he uses his writing to create other forms of artwork, in a style that fits the poem/piece.
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Space is a physical property. Like the buzzing of bees or the electric heat of fruit in its foliage waiting to fall, it is as alive as the sky. At the open window of his room,
Spaceboy senses space’s palpable need to escape and be one with the wind, not a part of his solar system mobile or his posters of Rutherford, Einstein and Niels Bohr.
Spaceboy is convinced he exists in parallel dimensions. Inside, his bedroom tremors with quanta of light vast as the Hadron Collider. Outside, the sun swallows a home which once peered in upon Spaceboy with its long corridors and landing, its stars firm upon his friend Isaac’s walls, garden with trampoline and tree house. And with it, Isaac vaporised, emptiness consuming him into a black hole.
When Spaceboy closes his eyes, he sees compact mass, gravity and the impossibility
of escape stacked like lonely dominoes moments from devastating collapse.
Later, darkness sinks in Spaceboy’s room, planets rotate their orbits and physicists dance in time and relativity they never knew. Such stellar chaos as spins out Spaceboy’s dreams.
Later still, morning returns order to the safe edges of the bodies defining his room. They fix him with a certainty hard as a void.
Siobhan Harvey is the author of Cloudboy (Otago University Press, 2014) and co-editor of Essential New Zealand Poems (Penguin Random House NZ, 2014). She is a Lecturer at The Centre for Creative Writing, Auckland University of Technology. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Best New Zealand Poems, Evergreen Review, Meanjin, Meniscus, Stand, Landfall, Pilgrimage and Segue. She is the winner of the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize; readers can also find her work on her ‘Poet’s Page’ at the UK’s Poetry Archive.
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I strode into you thinking of her, willing as a moth. When I looked up and saw you, tonguing the sky with your marble dreams, rocking burnt amber crescents slowly into the wind, your sad crimson bleeding across a macaroon sky, I cupped the scent of your color to my face and inhaled, hoping to fathom fathomless things. I asked you. Did you miss me lingering at the edge of the sky, adorning your life with yearning, heart-wrecks brushing on soft blush strokes, palpitating, the adoring touch that was once upon a time. I am desperate to transform you into pure white. I am consumed by fat gobbets of recollection, by blue, seeping with me into the ground.
George Korolog is a San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer whose work has been widely published in journals such as Southern Indiana Review, The Los Angeles Review Word Riot, The Monarch Review, The Journal of Modern Poetry, The Chaffey Review and many others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His first book of poetry, Collapsing Outside the Box, was published by Aldrich Press in November 2012 and is available on Amazon. His second book of poems, Raw String, was published in October, 2013 by Finishing Line Press. He is working on his third book of poetry, The Little Truth.
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I stand at the window, my dressing gown no barrier against the cold reaching through the glass. Beyond rude reflections of an aging man, clouds of dull shades hang over a limp sea, a watercolour scene of irredeemable smudges, pigments overworked by a heavy hand. A bad sky day.
My joints ache, my jaw is stiff with tension. The air presses down, seeping into neglected muscles, feeding despondent spirits inside my head.
I shiver, not from cold but to shake off the insidious mood.
“This will not do” I whisper to myself. “The reflection lies. The glass is old, full of flaws. And the sun will stir the air as the day moves on, shift this gloomy mess.”
Movement catches my eye.
A gannet glides silently by, a chance ray of sunlight casting brilliance on white plumage as the bird banks steeply to one side, abruptly changes tack and plummets into listless waves without a splash. A spectacle so brief it could have been imagined, but then the bird leaps skyward, a flurry of foam, a glint of silver in its beak.
A knock at the door shatters my thoughts. Another knock! These people urge me on too often. I am so busy with memories and ghosts, I must seem slow to those moving only in this world. Unfair my brief absences should make them think less of me.
But the day has come. They are taking me from my beloved sea.
Bob Halford worked for many years in hardware and software development in the UK and New Zealand. After living in Wellington for a decade, Bob and family relocated to Black Rock on the Melbourne coast to pursue creative work in clay. They eventually returned to Wellington, where Bob revived a longstanding interest in writing fiction.
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Waiting for a package from Oropi – the blur-of-a-town of wandering parallel universes and possum-fur condoms that turns up as number 666 on rarefied bucketlists. While I was there I wore holes in gardens of cunning green and fed donkeys that traced back to Jesus’ bravado ride. The only virgin around was the forest and that had been raped by the unhinged with overeating disorders. This collection of inhospitable hideaways hugged the side of a mountain that had a hardened-criminal attitude that turned weekend hikers into firing pins. People don’t thrive there – they survive, narrowly. The nebulus sky above it crawls with sudden disasters and stares down like a pornographic director demanding the abominable.
She had rung earlier with a crackling sneer. Not long. Just to say something’s in the mail. I looked down at my left hand – must be the ring finger.
Keith Nunes is a former New Zealand newspaper sub-editor who now writes for the sheer joy of it. He’s had short stories published in NZ (Flash Frontier, Takahē) and increasingly in the UK (Prole, Iota) and the US (Straylight, Blotter). He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. He lives beside Lake Rotoma near Rotorua with artist Talulah Belle and an assortment of nutters.
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Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of seven books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com). To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over five hundred of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.
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The words rolled out and around her. She felt them burrow under skin and pull at the muscles of her heart.One finger found a tear at the corner of her right eye. She slipped the single salty drop into her mouth. What was the word for sea? Moana….morw-ah-nah.
She had walked on the dark hard sand yesterday, searching amongst the foam and crumbled plastic for a shard of sea worn glass. In the water kids waded deep, pants rolled up, toes digging to expertly pluck white shells. Kia ora – key-ah-or-a. It sounded right in her head but never slipped out between her teeth to greet them.
The voices began to wind around her, deep tones rising up from the earth. Her eyes drifted to follow words amongst the clouds. Karakia. That one was easy, no double vowels. She closed her eyes and whispered it softly.
The harmonies took flight, chasing one note after another, up and up into the deep blue sky, to fall back among them…… āmene, āmene.
A hand at her back, and with one step she took her place in the line that moved slowly forwards. She wrapped one hand in the other, holding back fingertips which longed to gently trace dark lines woven into skin.
“Moko,” she breathed. Beautiful.
Her turn. Eyes met, hands grasped, noses pressed and breath shared. She breathed in, a gulp to fill her hollow white spaces.
Rachel Smith has been writing short fiction for many years, and more recently flash fiction. She has recently embarked on a new career as a freelance journalist and enjoys writing in all its forms. Her work has been previously published in JAAM and Takahē, and she was long-listed in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competition.
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The house martin falls, an arrow driving to earth. The dark blue sky infinite, still, as if suspended and pinned in place. Scant clouds tickle the outer reaches like wisps of hair on a baby’s head.
My brother, with me, under the faded blue beach towel; it whips rough as we each hold a corner and run. We fly up the steps, bundle in and barricade the door, squash our noses to the glass and watch the frenzy as insects splatter in greasy smears. I feel sick but I’m mesmerized, can’t look away. Neither can he, our breath clouding the glass, the beach towel our wiper to the crazy outside.
The insect storm comes late summer when the weather’s driest, its busy black mass filling the horizon as it crosses the sea. I feel a little scared as I watch it approaching. It’s on us so quickly, saturating our world, everyone swiping and flapping, jigging to some lunatic tune.
Amid the chaos we watch the martins dive and dive, as if it’s their last moments on earth. They risk daredevil manoeuvres, cascades and barrel rolls. Their beaks overflowing with the wriggling black manna. A feverish swooping dance of excess.
Carrie Beckwith lives in Stratford upon Avon and is a former student of the Hagley Writers’ Institute. She runs Custom Content Ltd and provides marketing advice and copywriting to businesses in NZ and the UK. She’s getting back into writing after a hectic year and writes short stories, poems and flash. More here.
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A black bird sails in circles above me. Clockwise. I see time flying. I glance at my watch. The old watch I purchased at the flea market with brown leather straps constantly creasing like my father’s brow. The wrinkles that lead to cracking. The cracking to tearing. I will wear it till it breaks.
She is usually on time. Five o’clock means four-thirty. I call her from my cell phone to her old rotary phone. It was grandmother’s. The ones that dial forward and whirls back again. The bird lands on a telephone wire. She picks up.
“Mom. Let’s not do this.”
“Is that what you want?”
“It’s not about me. It’s never been about me.”
“He’s never forgiven me you know.”
“And what if this doesn’t work?”
“Then this time, it may kill him.”
“…You sure he isn’t dead already?”
My father shows up with a cigarette burning in his hand.
“Where’s your mother?”
I hang up the phone.
“She’s not coming.”
He drops the cigarette and flattens it under his dress shoes.
“Might as well.”
“It’s just you and me dad.”
Around his neck, there are chopped bits of hair. And he usually never wears aftershave. He wraps his heavy arm around my shoulders. I will wear it till it breaks.
The black bird glides clockwise above us. But to the bird, it leans to its left as it goes around and around, backwards.
Young Lee writes under a thousand words at a time. She is published in 99 Pine Street, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Literary Orphans and the print of Korean Quarterly. She is currently working on her first novella and occasionally scribbles on her blog, youngleewrites.com.
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I look up. All eyes focus on me with casual intent. The worms freeze. I smile, warmth spreading like a blush. My winter had been spent walking the streets with the flea-ridden dog of poverty by my side. No matter how fast or how far I went it kept pace, repeating beneficiary, nobody, unemployed, with every step. No one wants to feel the wriggle of my worms on their skin. I raise my hand to confess difference, when I see my arm lean, toned, coloured. The worms shudder, tasting their demise. These ghosts from my past will never know – fire flickers as flames lick at my glass walls. Smoke rolls over my tongue. I’m alive. My story is filled with the fragrance of sex, sand, golden skies, as my body shifts and turns to ash.
Rebecca Simons has a passion for art, music, culture and understanding what “makes us tick” and enjoys weaving these disciplines into her writing. She was the recipient of the Flash Frontier Summer Writing Award 2013 and nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the same year. Her work has appeared recently in Wilderness House Literary Review. She blogs here.
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The air seems different up here, Dan thinks – thinner, hungrier. It bites at him as he shudders; nibbles with sharp teeth and lapping tongues. Inside his head, he can hear its snarl.
Maria’s laughter sweeps around him, buoyed by the breeze.
“Don’t be scared!” she exclaims, her voice suddenly loud in his ear, so close that he flinches. “Take a look – it’s spectacular!”
Dan manages to force his eyes open a crack, eyelashes refracting sunlight.
The city stretches out beneath them. From this distance the churn of vehicles is less a roar than a murmur.
“What d’you think?” Maria asks, pride in her voice as though expecting him to be awe-struck and amazed. “It’s all so tiny – we’re like gods!”
“Yeah, nice,” Dan mumbles. He’s never felt more mortal, more fragile. He tries to turn his head, move his cheek from where it presses against cold metal.
Beside him, Maria exudes exhilaration that dances from her in dizzying waves. The sky doesn’t growl at her – it welcomes her even as it rebuffs him.
If only his desire had not superseded his dread – made him follow where she led, climb the crane hand over hand. Now his legs tremble, his heart shakes, and all he craves is a steady piece of land to lie down on. The space between him and this goal seems as vast as an ocean. He tightens his grip, closes his eyes, vows to himself never to trust Maria again.
Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist. Her writing has been published by literary magazines and anthologies including The Literary Bohemian, Streetcake, Germ Magazine, Litro, Riptide Journal, and The View From Here. Judy’s work has been performed on BBC radio, across the UK and in Hong Kong. She blogs at www.skylightrain.com and tweets @judydarley.
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Pia Z. Ehrhardt is an American writer whose story collection Famous Fathers was published by MacAdam/Cage in 2007. Ehrhardt has also been published in Narrative Magazine, McSweeney’s and The Mississippi Review. She acted as Guest Editor for Guernica Magazine in September, 2009. This photo was taken on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
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My Jeanie’s got her telephoto lens on and keeps clicking away but this is no joke, not with my fear of heights. Plus, we’re not talking just any building, we happen to be in some medieval French cathedral.“Hang on,” she cries. “Don’t let go.”
“Let go?” I’m trying to grip a splintery rafter. “It’s musty up here, I’m sweating my balls off. Did I do something?”
“Heat rises,” she says.
The crowd is chattering away, pointing, until it wears off and I begin my descent. Slowly, thank God. Seeing the gawkers scatter is some satisfaction, but I’m on the verge of losing lunch each time I glance down or over to one of the flying buttresses.
There are theories but no one offers a logical explanation. The locals or the American doctors.
“She’s my witness,” I said, “it wasn’t a dream. We’re just sightseers.”
“Sit tight,” she says, fastening the straps, “stop squirming, will you?”
“Great! So how do I get around?”
“Slowly. Step by step. At least you won’t float anymore.”
“What if the rate of speed increases? What if I float to the sky?”
“What if?” she says. “There are things we have to live with.”
Maybe if I’m on high alert always, but it’s just a matter of time, that’s all, and she knows it too.
A N Block is a relatively new fiction writer who has had a story accepted by the Blue Bonnet Review and has one being published in The Binnacle which won Honorable Mention in its Twelfth Annual International Ultra-Short Competition. He has an MA in History and is a Master of Wine who teaches at Boston University.
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Six of them stood under a sky crackling with frequent lightning.
Five of them stared at the ramshackle framework of the novel from which they’d been excised.
“What’s he going to do without a cheerful character?” asked Shoat, a man in a heavy raincoat (it rained often in his country). “I was the best he had. That other bloke’s a villain.”
The woman to his right ignored his question, glared ahead. “I was coping with the sour, self-focused dialogue he gave me…” She spat on the ground, to Shoat’s surprise. He’d thought her genteel. “But killing me off with cancer was the last straw. Before the book even started. Obliterating my name!” She strode off amidst thunder, after sending a long, thick spittle at the building.
Bemused, the wizard Mukkeljugson half-heartedly cursed the framework.
It was oblivious to his magic, although it shivered. Its appearance altered continually.
Shoat’s enormous draught horse, Arnold, said nothing ˗ as you’d expect ˗ though he nodded in agreement with the others’ complaints. He nudged Mukkeljugson, who, not being familiar with horses, jumped back, unsure if it was a warning or an encouragement.
The last two, a middle-aged man and woman seemingly joined at the hip, scowled like souls lost, silent. Then the woman burst out at no one in particular, “The whole idea began with us, you fool!” She hammered at her mild-mannered husband with her fists. He knew her anger was directed at the author.
The downpour began.
Mike Crowl, writer, pianist, composer and occasional actor, has just entered his eighth decade. In 2014 he published two children’s stories and a non-fiction title as e-books. He’s currently working on a third children’s story. He blogs regularly, writes book reviews and is possibly involved in too much social media. His musical Grimhilda! was presented in Dunedin in 2012 and is available on Kindle or Smashwords. The Mumbersons and the Blood Secret – the ‘sort of sequel’ to Grimhilda! – is available on Kindle and Smashwords. His non-fiction e-book, Diary of a Prostate Wimp, is available on Kindle or Smashwords.
Lola places the cursor over the photo, clicks and drags the digital cutting tool around the top of the pines and a grass-roofed cabin. Cuts out a grey sky. Inserts a new one with arrows of dawn-streaked pink radiating from behind the hut.Apply.
Lola Robinson, award-winning photographer, is working on her forthcoming exhibition, Spring from the Earth.
Amelia looks over her sister’s shoulder, but says nothing. She doesn’t approve of Lola’s work.
“You cheat,” she’d once said.
“It’s artistic licence,” Lola had justified herself. “Painters do it all the time. And writers…” — a dig at Amelia — “with your selective memories.”
“But it doesn’t really look like that, Lola.”
“They are all my own photos. I’m only redistributing them.”
Lola has an extensive collection of what the photographic world is beginning to label Robinson Skies. It’s a marriage, Lola feels, finding which elements – earth, sea, sky, landscape blend the best.
Image. Imagined. Reimagined.
The idea had come to her as a first year student seeing her mother’s latest boyfriend washing at the kitchen sink of their tiny shared apartment. He’d come out of the bedroom, ripped off his sweaty shirt and washed his face and neck with the dishcloth. Lola had seen the tattoo round his neck for the first time, a series of dashes circling his throat. Tear off at the dotted line the ink instructed.
Replace a head, choose a different body. Reinvent.
Attach the perfect sky.
Jane Swan is newsletter editor for the Waitaki Writers’ Group. Highly commended in the Heartland Short Story Competition and short-listed in the Sunday Star Times competition, she has also been included in the 2015 Best Small Fictions anthology. Her work has also been read on Radio New Zealand and published in local and daily newspapers, Alfie Dog Ltd and Essentially Food. Jane has recently moved to a seaside village north of Dunedin. She doesn’t share her chocolate with the the seals and birds.
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Megan Bowers-Vette is an art lover from way back who found she had no talent in painting or drawing but excelled in science — but who finally discovered her talent in photography. Taking inspiration from both the natural world and also the world of fashion, she works with both nature and people. “Photography is my adventure, my escape, my voice.” More at her website.
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The sky was sombre.
“What’s up?” asked the sun.
There was a flash, then a sharp bang, followed by a long, thundering growl.
“It’s started!” cried the sky, as a mushroom cloud billowed.
“Filthy beasts!” the sun roared.
From both East and West, salvoes of missiles soared across oceans, and then streaked down to their chosen cities. Flashes lit up the earth, brighter than sunlight. Fireballs erupted. Mushroom clouds, like menacing fists, punched at the stratosphere and dissolved into radioactive blobs that merged and started circling the globe.
The sky coughed. “Is it time?”
“Yes. I’ve seen enough,” snapped the sun, gazing down with a look of disgust on a sea of upturned faces and outstretched arms. “Look at the apes. They bring it on themselves, and then pray to Heaven for help!”
Survivors stared at the sun in horror. Viewed through a thick veil of atomic dust, the expression on its face was now visible for the first time to the human eye. It seemed to glare down in derision, like a spiteful cat with lips parted and teeth bared, poised to attack.
People of every nation united in grief and frenzied wailing as the sun turned its back on the earth, and shot off at unimaginable speed.
It turned into a speck and vanished.
Bruce Costello lives in the seaside village of Hampden, North Otago. After studying foreign languages and literature in the late sixties, he spent a few years selling used cars. Then he worked as a radio creative writer for fourteen years, before training in psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy and spending 24 years in private practice. In 2010, he semi-retired and took up writing. Since then, he’s had eighty stories accepted by mainstream magazines and literary journals in seven countries.
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When the sky fell it fell slowly, sagging and peeling like old wallpaper. It scraped the backs of jets and we couldn’t fly anymore. Then it stranded men on K2. In the places where it tore you could see the stars, brighter and clearer than ever.I lay with Diane on the roof, studying nebulae, fine purple mists spangled across deep black. I rested my head on her belly, hemispheric and taut.
“What will happen?” she asked me “What should we do?”
“It’s just a change. It’s no different from cellphones, or from when they stopped making the shampoo you liked.”
She gave a weak smile. I half-believed it myself.
The next day we drove north, to Castle Hill. The sky had settled there atop the limestone karsts, trapping the wind and forming vast, billowing tents. There were others there too, trying to come to terms with things.
We joined a ring of people, holding hands around a pile of burning tyres. The hope was that the heat and smoke would cause an inflation, that everything boiled down to a lack of pressure. It just drooped further, and the heat became unbearable.
We found a place where the sky met the tussock, and got down to nestle into the folds. It was cool and smooth, like fresh sheets. The baby kicked and I felt it, too. It already understood this new world, the tight spaces.
“We’ll get used to it,” said Diane.
I half-believed it myself.
Sam Averis is a developing writer from Christchurch, where he lives with his wife and daughter. His interests include sports, gaming, cooking, and brewing. You can find him here.
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Stephen Jacobson is a painter originally from Manchester but now living in Portishead, finding inspiration most recently along the rural coast. He can be found here.
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She fell out of the sky and crash landed on my lawn.
“Fuck,” she said.
She lay on one side, rubbing her knee with both hands.
“Holy shit. Stupid freaking wings. Jesus fucking Christ.”
She rolled over, moaning and cursing.
“Are you okay?” I asked from the safety of the vegetable patch.
“Bloody hell,” she whispered under her breath. She pushed herself to her feet, smoothing down her white robe, looking around until she found me.
She looked a little bit like me, only younger, prettier. A me that might have been.
“I said, are you okay?”
“Yup, just fine,” she wiped something out of her eye.
She shook her head. “He’s going to freaking crucify me.”
“Who?” I asked.
She glanced up at the clouds.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Shit. Just my luck. Trust me to have a guardian angel who couldn’t even get the hang of flying. No wonder my life was such a mess.
“You gonna be okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess. New wings, freaking annoying.” She winced as she flapped them a couple of times.
I just wished she would stop swearing.
We stood there for a minute, eyeballing each other.
“Cup of tea?” I said.
“No, I’ve got to get back.”
“Right. Okay then. See you around.”
She straightened her halo. And disappeared.
Having spent years working in television and website production, Melanie Dixon is now indulging in full-time writing. She has published work for adults and children, is working on her first novel for children and has been short-listed in several writing competitions including the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing and the Christine Cole Cately Award. Her flash was highly commended in the 2013 and 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competitions. Originally from Wales, Melanie now lives overlooking the beautiful Lyttelton Harbour near Christchurch, with her husband and two energetic children.
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When Chicken Licken told us the sky was falling, I thought the worst had happened. Then Foxy Loxy ate us. Whole, one gulp each!I haven’t been able to look skywards since.
“Turkey Lurkey,” said Dr Waddell, our General Quacktitioner, “you have a condition called anablephobia, and the unimaginable terror of being swallowed by a fox has cemented it in your psyche.”
These quacks all talk the same.
When the fox farted, signaling the start of digestion, I looked up as a flash of light entered through his pucker. This, I imagined, would be my last glimpse of the outside world, and the way we were going to exit. I was traumatised at the prospect of my metamorphosis. Brown was not my favourite colour.
However, quick-thinking Henny Penny (another Mensa member like – ahem – myself), finding herself heading for the cavernous mouth of Foxy Loxy, had grabbed a Death Cap toadstool.
This marvellous fungus gradually released its poison and, after much bubbling and heaving, we were spewed out to freedom. With only a few dishevelled feathers, we ran away squawking and hissing and gobbling, deep into the forest, only Cocky Locky stopping to crow on the dying fox’s head.
Since then, as I said, I’ve developed this weird condition, anablephobia, but it has its positives. I spread some twaddle about planes emptying their toilets when they fly over forests and, when the others look up at the sound of aircraft approaching, I snaffle their food!
Jan FitzGerald has been published in mainstream NZ literary journals since the 1970s and in Poetry Australia, The London Magazine, Acumen (UK), Orbis (UK) and others. Her latest poetry book is entitled On a day like this (Steele Roberts, NZ). Jan works in Napier as a full-time artist. For more see her website, Painting Poets.
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I think Mama knows. I lie still listening to her shallow breath as the others breathe deeply, lost in sleep.
Each day since my knowing, the tiredness shows more. I’m the slowest kid in the field to fill the potato-picking buckets now, and by evening’s meal, my calves ache – eyes burn.
Wish I could take that night back, when I snuck from our sleeping pallet. Getting past Mama’s roundness in the dark required tiptoes and twirls, but I made it into the hallway. I crept along, far past the recessed potty room with its single flickering candle. I’d never been this far from Mama at night, but there seemed to be another light calling me.
Borgkin, our sleep protector, was slouched forward in his chair, right in front of the Way-Out-Way-In Door. His snores were soft and steady. I scooted past him to the door and leaned close against its steel bars, then peered through the thick glass at things I’d never seen: a black-blue sky, pinned by a huge silver globe of light that shimmered across haunted faces with seeking eyes.
Clawed beasts with wings paced like men. Screeching vibrated the glass as they began to flap wildly, then the herd moved as one toward our building. I froze. The shrieking increased; Borgkin’s snores halted. Then I ran.
Every night I replay this, and pray to forget so I can sleep. Now, instead, I lie and listen and hear the occasional shriek that night echoes.
Mama whispers, “You know.”
When she’s not working on her current long-fiction project, Shermie Rayne likes to use written words to ponder, push against, or relish in life’s journey. She’s finding that micro/flash fiction is an excellent medium to do just that. Some of her works have found homes with 101words, The Voices Project, NailpolishStories, and 50WS. In 2013 Rayne placed second in WOW!’s spring writing contest.
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I heard, one, two, three, then I stopped counting.
Waves hurried towards the shoreline, reaching past the beach to tell me something.
Perhaps they’d always had something to say. I’d not listened until this morning, when I walked along the beach where the booming sounds resonated.
My grandfather said that when he was a child his grandmother told him there would come a time when the world we knew would begin to change, and when these changes came we were not to be afraid, for it would herald the time of knowing.
He wouldn’t tell me what the changes would be like even when I begged, tell me, if you don’t tell me how will I not be afraid, how will I know if you don’t tell me what to know. Instead, he placed his hand over my left ear, he cupped it, and I heard the boom, boom, faintly as if it were years away.
I remembered that moment this morning when those years fell away and I heard the boom, boom, boom, and the waves spoke to me, and I remembered not to be afraid, as I listened.
“Now is the time to know all living things including the things you assumed weren’t living: the rocks, rivers, lakes, mountains, clouds, winds, earth and sky, all longing to be known.
The booming, the heartbeat of all life, resounded within me.
As the sea rose higher.
Teoti is of Maori, Irish and Scottish decent. His tribal affiliations are: Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu. He attended the Hagley Writers School in 2011. His poetry and short stories have been published in the Christchurch Press, London Grip, Te Karaka, Ora Nui, Catalyst and JAAM. He reads at Catalyst ‘Open Mic’ sessions. He is member of the Canterbury Poets Collective Committee and reads at their Springtime Sessions. He is member of the Kai Tahu Writers Roopu. He and his dog Amie live in a beautiful old house in the Linwood suburb of Christchurch.
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Please also see this month’s feature with Flash Frontier contributors. Jane Swan is interviewed about her story inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2015, and we also take a closer look at the Flashnano: 30 days- 30 stories project, with Nancy Stohlman, Patrick Pink, Paul Beckman and James Claffey and introduce you to Maggie Rainey-Smith‘s new novel, Daughters of Messene.
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Coming in December: the micro issue.
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