"Tripping on a Blue Hole in a Paper Heart" by Begoña Montesinos
"The Woman Who Loved a Spy" by Leslie Muzingo
Whispering, stunningly beautiful landscape wrapped around my heart as magic is revealed to me in a second. As a cure to my grieving soul, crawling while lost in a picturesque forest made of paper heart and loneliness. Could it be the perfect dream, everything we, as tiny beings, aspire to? Drizzle all over, bouncing, caressing heaven on ground, minimal consciousness embraced by the sweetest and fragile touch, maybe God-like paradise creating a blue symphony of what is to be loved, or is it just me and my journey to the never ending pure land of fertile leaves and trees?
"EGG" by Mary Finnegan
April was looking for a rosebush on the easterly section of the hiking trail to verify the note she’d received was genuine. She found none. If this were a safe place, I’d find a rose somewhere. At least a rose bush.
Stephen always told her to beware of false messages. It was one of the hazards of being in love with a spy. “You must understand the risks,” he’d say in that delightful Irish accent of his.
April sighed. She loved thinking about Stephen, the way he talked, walked, even the way he smelled! But now she had to find the rose or leave. That was the rule.
"Berserk" by Bob Joncas
I know to just walk into the cabin in the overgrown forest; there is no lock, no security system. Lit by elongated spherical candles, the expansive room is filled with shadow and stark illumination and eggs.
The ghosts of my ancestors haunt me about what I am about to do. Well, somebody has to put Ma into a nursing home, for her own good. And it should be someone who loves her.
I feel stupid dressed in a suit and tie. Compared to her, I'm big and powerful. And really, I'm not.
Inside, I'm still the child who grew up here.
"Ambition" by Michael Colonnese
The day that Lisa Crenshaw walked into Bea’s Antique and Curio Shop, the last thing on her mind was murder. Lisa slowly walked through the store, perusing each item. Rounding a corner of cluttered shelves, an unusual cast iron muffin pan caught her eye. It sat on the back of a shelf surrounded by objects once used by nameless people—certainly long dead.
"Journal Entry #1979 February 2nd, 2017 12:01 am" by Katrina Pascuzzo
Marty McGrath, Leo Fisher's 10th grade English teacher, was clearly upset when the boy refused to read Julius Caesar aloud in Special Ed. Instead, Leo sat in the back of McGrath's classroom, surrounded by a pile of musty-smelling philosophy texts and short-story collections, discards from the public library, while the only other three students able to read at all were expected to soldier on--with or without Leo's participation.
"Groundhog Days" by Conner Russell
Knowing I have to get up early, I tend to toss and turn all night. As the clock strikes midnight, I am reminded that I will soon be taking my annual trek up to Gobbler’s Knob. The bright lights, the cold, the screaming crowds, all waiting to hear if there will be six more weeks of winter. I am no longer a “spring chicken,” but manage to get up, just a little slower than when I was younger. I make my way down the hall to the lavatory, run the brush through my thick brown hair, and eat a light breakfast.
By 4 am, my friends are knocking on my door to pick me up for our yearly trek up to the Knob.
"Country Club Christmas" by Michelle Cox
February 2 was warm and sunny when the groundhog stuck his head out.
“I’m so alone,” Tommy said to the groundhog. The groundhog studied Tommy’s river of tears and receded back into his hole.
The clouds blocked out the sunrise.
“Mornings without sunrises are portentous,” Tommy used to tell me. I didn’t want to say that the day Isabelle left him began with the most magnificent sunrise I’d ever seen.
“I wish the groundhogs could see this,” Tommy said minutes before Isabelle called to say it was over.
"A Practiced Office Dance" by Tarsilla Moura
I'm sitting on the bench by the hostess stand of the country club's restaurant, humming along to the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and thinking "Where are the Reindeer when you need them?"
Then Officer Joachim interrupts my tune. "I'm doing you a big favor," he says, snapping his notebook shut. "Procedure says someone should be leaving here in handcuffs. Merry Christmas."
"Thank you. I appreciate it," I lie, knowing he's extending me this professional courtesy because I work for the prosecutor's office. In truth, I'd love to see my mother in handcuffs.
"Losing" by Monica Spees
Jillian Montgomery climbed the steps to her office on the 4th floor. Her high heels sounded loud in the silent stairwell. It was 8:47 a.m. and already she tugged at her blazer restlessly. The day hadn’t even begun, and yet she felt drained. Boxed in. Usually avoiding the building’s invasively crowded elevators helped, but today not even taking the stairs worked.
She entered her office floor, head held high but eyes never resting on anyone for long. Making herself small and invisible, that had always been Jill’s formula to a good day when she was younger. But she quickly learned she couldn’t stay invisible forever. Before long, what had kept her sheltered from the world had suddenly made her easy pickings. A target.
"Blood" by Helia S. Rethmann
It was all in good fun, the office weight loss challenge. Donate a buck per pound lost for the local food bank, all while feeling good inside and out. Health in the name of charity. Sherry had donated twenty-three dollars so far.
Marissa was stiff competition, though. Not only was she trailing Sherry by only two pounds, she was also studying for her personal trainer certification exam in just three weeks. Everyone was rooting for her, even Sherry, when coworkers were in earshot. A taste more bitter than bile settled on Sherry’s tongue when she thought about how the challenge, just like everything else, probably came easy to Marissa. How could it not, with her long legs and hourglass figure, even if it was padded with a roll of fat? Sherry was certain her own roll had been larger than Marissa’s and on a shorter body, so she’d surely put in more work.
“The Blind Oasis” by Anthony Johnson
Heather had just raised her arm, when the alarm let out three shrill rings, which meant the place was on lockdown. Too late, too late, and it was her own fault.
“Not again,” Shona’s book slammed shut. “Why is this always happening right before lunch?”
Kyle, who was charged with in-class security, bolted the door.
“Leave se books open, please,” Frau Schrampf said. “Sis will gif us more time to finish se story.”
Demetrius and a few others got up and peered out the bulletproof windows. “Can’t see nothin’,” Demetrius said, “can’t hear nothing, neither.”
"El Duende" by Casandra Hernández Ríos
The itch behind June’s ear burrowed into the pulpy sponge of her brain like a clicking beetle. The irritating sensation began the evening she had dropped a wreath of azaleas into the ocean from the very same barnacled dock her brother had jumped from exactly a year before.
Her mother, ever fussy, had suggested June drop lilies instead. Azaleas are more of a love flower, the heavyset woman had told her. They're usually meant for women.
In the end, June stuck with azaleas and after watching the pink wreath spin atop a green whirlpool before vanishing into its depths, she dropped herself into the seething sea.
The day a duende appeared in Emilio's room, he ran to tell his mother and father, but they looked at him with disappointment and shook their heads. They told him it was just his imagination, but Emilio insisted. He tugged at his father's sleeve until he gave in and agreed to look under the bed, where Emilio had seen the small, child-like creature run into. His father lifted the twin mattress from its frame and slid the wooden slots out of the way for a better look, but no duende. His father repositioned the slots, fit the mattress back, and sat on the edge of Emilio’s bed.
It hadn't always been this way, but for the past year, Emilio's father spent a lot of time explaining that gnomes, monsters, or creatures from his grandfather's stories couldn't be dreamed into reality. “Your abuelito told me the same bedtime tales when I was your age, but they’re just that—tales and stories,” his father said.