Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Farmer's Daughter

He kept her heart in his hands when it wasn’t in the barn, and he made her dance for him when he held it to remind him of what he’d lost.


He liked being a farmer. It was an old trade, an inevitable transition for someone who is endless. You can’t make your way through life with magic alone, after all. Magic was too conspicuous, too unexplainable. Farming was not. Farming was idyllic.

His wife, the last of dozens, eventually left. He forced her out finally, and he sealed any possibility of her return with a binding spell. It was an unfortunate consequence, but a necessary one should the little girl be raised as one who is endless. This was all before the little girl was old enough to remember. So that made it good.

The little girl loved to dance around the farmhouse. It was the only trace of her mother that remained.

He loved her more than the world since the day she was born. They were inseparable.

She was his first – a funny thought, given the fact that he was two centuries old and well able.

He raised her himself. He bore her proud upon his shoulders when they rode into town. She learned her way about the farm at a very young age. She loved her father more than anything else that could possibly exist in her little world.

They were alone together and very happy.


Inevitably, she turned fourteen.

And she met a boy.

She told him that she had fallen in love. He told her that, in time, she would come to find the notion of love ridiculous. Their kind did not fall in love with strangers.

She told him that she did not believe in being endless. There was only now. He forbade her from such blasphemy.

She stopped talking to him about the boy.

Life went on, but quieter. There was no more music. She told him that she had forgotten how to dance.

She didn’t sit with him on the porch in the late afternoons as she had always done. She grew nervous around him at the supper table. He sensed that she had begun to wander away in her soul.


One morning, he woke early to bail the hay.

He found them in the barn. He found her naked with straw in her hair, curled up fast asleep in the arms of the boy that she thought she loved.

He snapped and before he knew it, a good bit of his old self made things known within the world again.

He snapped his fingers and her heart exploded from her chest into his hands before she had time to wake. The boy saw the blood pour from the wound in her breast and screamed like a little boy does until he made a sign in the air and closed the boy’s throat from the inside. He lifted the boy from the ground and threw him so hard that it sent him through the roof into the sky so far up that the boy’s people never found the body.

The girl eventually opened her eyes. They were milky white and sightless. She stared after her own beating heart in his hands, and she followed it stumbling back into the house.

Inside the house he wept for her. He sat in his chair in the dark before dawn and whispered for her to dance and she did, twirling naked around him through the shadows, the gaping hole in her chest empty and throbbing black blood, until the sun began to rise and he felt like things were right again.

In the early hours, he locked her and her heart in separate corners of the barn and went about his chores.

When the sun fell, so did his heart, so he drew hers out again. She followed.
Things went on this way for many, many nights, until he eventually died of a broken heart. She took her heart back from him but the damage was done, so she held it in her hands and she stumbled as she wandered away from him for the last time.

She met a violent end, finally, at the hands of those who do not know magic and are afraid of things they cannot explain—an unfortunate ending to an endless tale.


Jeremy Kelly is a writer who lives in Decatur, Georgia. He's currently writing his first novel. Find out more about him at

Sunday, July 18, 2010


by Brendan Carson

I come into the ER, wet from rain. Bulmer looks up. “The late Doctor Robinson,” he says.

“Sorry,” I say. “You seen Donna? She didn’t come home”

“She was around,” Bulmer gestures vaguely. “It’s been busy.” Bulmer turns to the interns. “Doctor Robinson is senior on the morning shift. Run everything past her. She has a particular liking for the mad, the malodorous and the malingering.”

I grin and shake my head. “Who’ve we got?”

It’s first shift for the new interns, and night shift in Emergency can be hell. Sometimes I think I should have done Psych like Donna. She’s on one night in twenty, I’m one night in four. It’s hard to keep a relationship going. The screen is full. It’s been a busy night. Bulmer starts handover.

“Cubicle one is a sixty two year old man, viral pneumonia, stable on four litres oxygen…”

The new interns scribble copious notes, the others jot a word or two. The litany rolls on. Bulmer hands over the unstable cases himself, lets the interns (nervous, occasionally stammering) do the others. I smile, thank them, try to sound less impatient than I am. The last intern is squat, muscular, a thin film of sweat over his face. For a moment he seems oddly familiar. His lab coat hides his name-tag.

"Cubicle forty,” he starts, “is a thirty two year old man, detained under the mental health act as a danger to himself or others, with a long history of a schizophreniform illness. Since his early teens he -…,”

Bulmer looks up, irritated.

“We’ll see him first,” I say. “Tell me as you walk over there.”

Away from the other doctors he seems more nervous, more sweaty. He checks his notes as he walks. “Classic erotomanic psychosis, resistant to diagnosis and therapy, delusions about his female neighbours spying on him, inserting erotic thoughts into his head, she’s the one to blame for all his symptoms. Previous diagnoses paranoid subtype--,”

“In emerge,” I say, “we don’t care about all that developmental history stuff, how his mom molested him with a carrot or whatever.”

He looks surprised. “But what-- ,”

“It’s all about problem solving.”

He nods, like he understands. We reach the secure cubicle. I swipe my card, “So, briefly, what are we doing with him?”

“He’s for psych review today,” says the intern.

I shake my head. Psych are meant to review all emergency patients on day of admission. They act like seeing patients will kill them. I can say that because I live with one.

Inside the room is silent, simple. The thick door hisses shut behind us. No windows, a single light. A low stimulus environment keeps things quiet for all of us. The patient is a shape beneath the blankets.

“Medically stable?” I say over my shoulder. The intern is doing something with the keypad.

“Medically, he’s very strong.”

I glance over at him. It’s a strange thing to say. The patient hasn’t moved. The intern steps forward.

"Here" he grins. "I'll introduce you."

He reaches past me. He twitches the blanket away.

I stare. It's not a patient, it's Donna, and she's dead. My heart thumps in my chest, I feel like I’m going to be sick. I turn. I’m shaking so I can hardly stand.

Behind him, I see the keypad, hanging by a flex.

"She got me in a lot of trouble," says the new doctor. Now I remember his face, dark and suspicious, his door closing as we opened ours, across the apartment hallway. "But you won't, will you?"

And then I see the blood beneath his fingernails.


Brendan David Carson is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror. He has been published in Aurealis, Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and a number of other magazines. His blog is at, he went to Clarion South 2009 and he is facebookable.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Scenic Path of Human Artefacts

by Cate Gardner

You arrive at a fork in the road and you have a choice.

A Buddha statue tells you that your path lies to the left, noting that said path is leafy, dark and plain creepy. Beside him, a man with a guitar points to the right advising you to take the populated route with its souvenir shops, tourists, alien artefact museum and security cameras.

You listen to Buddha, right? Because the guy with the guitar, well he has no face.

Anita found the sneaker a little way down the path. Its sole covered in mud, its laces gnawed, and the foot that had once inspired movement severed at the anklebone. At that point, screaming was redundant. A sword swept out of the dark to sever her vocal cords. Anita’s disembodied head spun at dizzying speeds and landed nose down in the dirt. Unfair, she thought. Now she couldn’t scowl at her attacker.

A hand gripped hold of her ponytail and picked her up, dangling her in front of his face. The last remnants of her spit travelled across the air to land on his bulbous nose, his snot dripped blue, his tears welled green. Adding insult to obvious injury, he jammed her head down onto a branch--it scraped against her brain--and stepped back to take a photograph. A Polaroid--the guarantee of instant humiliation.

In a bizarre twist on the ‘who am I?’ game, her attacker stuck a post-it note on her forehead and the photograph of her rotting head on his. He sat and stared at her, while she just stared. She wanted to ask, “If I get it right, will you sew my head back on?”

The shake of his confirmed he was telepathic and unsympathetic. Several of the arms attached to his coat waved their fists at him. The non-blue tinge to their skin confirmed they’d once belonged to humans. Anita recognised the deer tattoo on the hand beating against the attacker’s chest. It confirmed that Red had not walked out on her.

I’m not playing. She pulled her tongue at the blue man and found she couldn’t pull it back in. She felt sick to her phantom stomach. Fall leaves dislodged with the shake of her head and the twig prodded into her brain. A few memories dissipated with the act, but sight, hearing and pain remained.

He pressed Red’s fingers to the Polaroid and pointed at her. If her fingers weren’t digging into the dirt, she’d rip off the post-it note and point at him.

And I am what became of your kind. She blinked.

He nodded and pulled her head off the branch when she would prefer he slammed his fist
down on her skull and ended this. Perched beneath his B.O. soaked underarm, and deaf from the press of stolen flesh against her earlobes, Anita joined him in the journey back to the path’s beginning. The man, he of the wise advice, continued to rest against his guitar, and she now saw that it was jammed into his butt and their attacker had pasted his missing face to Buddha’s backside.

The alien placed her head in Buddha’s lap, and then he waddled back down the path to wait for the next fool.

A duo of giggling girls stopped to take photographs of Anita’s head—now she was a celebrity—and the Guitar Man’s faceless skull. Their sneakers tripped against the yellow lead and woke Buddha. The sage advised them to take the scenic path.


Cate Gardner's addiction to souvenir shops means she wouldn't have followed Buddha's advice. For once, her long suffering family are grateful. You now have two choices, you can visit her on the web at or you can read more Stitches, she recommends the latter.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fire Boomers

by Doug Murano

What a cluster-fuck, thought Officer Hammond as he crossed the threshold of the doorway into the machine shed. A drive out into the country to find an old man who'd worked himself to death in the July heat was one thing. But the smell coming in waves from inside the metal structure suggested a wild animal problem, and that was quite another thing entirely. He drew his pistol and moved forward.

Hammond couldn't call for backup. In a town the size of Cherry, he was the sheriff, the deputy, and the goddamn dog catcher. Besides, most of the town was already half-cocked at the Independence Day street dance. That meant yet another busy night, another holiday he'd have to miss.

The day's last light filtered through the small, rectangular windows spaced along the tin shed's long walls. Hammond's flashlight cut an alley of daylight through the spacious blackness that didn't reveal much--just some dusty cardboard boxes, broken lawn mowers and a few moldy straw bales.

A flash of green and red seared through the windows, followed a few seconds later by a loud crackling sound. The sun wasn't even down yet, but the good people of Cherry didn't waste any time when it came to celebrating the nation's birthday.

Before he left town, Hammond promised his son that this year would be different, that he'd be there this time to watch "the fire boomers." If he didn't get himself in gear, Davie would be crushed. Again. He decided to perform a quick sweep of the shed and then scoot his boots down the road. The heat in there had started to choke him out. And then there was that smell--the sickening sweet-and-sour of death and something underneath, like the lion cages at the zoo.

He stopped when he saw a human form on the floor a dozen feet in front of him.

"Well, shit," said Hammond as he approached the old man's corpse, which lay facedown in the dirt. Pools of blood flanked his midsection like like obscene wings. Kneeling down, he grabbed the body by the shoulder and wrenched it onto its back. What was left of Miles Brody's abdominal cavity reminded Hammond of the cattle mutilations he'd seen over the past few weeks. It was a growing problem nobody in Cherry wanted to acknowledge with more than threats toward the local coyote population. Whatever had disemboweled the old guy had also plucked his eyes out of the sockets and sliced off his nose, leaving only his mouth intact, which hung open in mute protest. Red and blue lights blossomed outside and glinted off the old man's teeth. Soft reports followed.

That monkey-house smell grew stronger still. Ragged breaths filled the air behind Hammond.

He barely had time to turn around before it was on him, ripping into his insides just the way it had done to Miles Brody. His only shot went wide before the thing reached one of its malformed limbs to knock the pistol away. Then the other hand fell to the ground, still clutching its flashlight. Thus disarmed, Hammond screamed and battered the creature's moist skin with his gushing stumps as the creature continued its deadly work. Wet sounds, like a serving spoon moving through his wife's famous macaroni salad (which she brought to the pot luck earlier in the afternoon), echoed off the shed's thin walls.

More colorful blossoms filled the shed's windows when the thing pinned him to the dry ground and brought its smooth, broad face up close to Hammond's. As he faded into oblivion, Hammond watched little stars--blue, green, red and yellow--cavort and dance deep within the thing's vast black eyes. I made it to the fire boomers, Davie, he thought. I made it this year.

Doug Murano lives somewhere in the wide-open spaces of the Great Plains. Before beginning work on his M.A. in English, he promised himself that he would make his living with the written word upon graduation. So far, so good. When he's not on the job, he composes dark little stories. During the last two years, he's even sold a few. Find a complete listing of his publications, and keep up with his latest shenanigans, at