by K. M. Chavez
She comes to town in June, a few weeks after the shell-shock of graduation. You almost don’t notice her the first time she comes in, too weighed down by your waitressing job, your three college rejection letters. But some guy you went to school with for twelve years holds the door open for her and tells her some stupid joke and she laughs. You look up. She’s wearing tiny bells for earrings and more necklaces than you thought possible.
You aren’t even aware that you’re staring until she glances your way. She tucks dark hair behind her ear and smiles at you and you feel yourself blush. You look away and rush across the small diner, delivering Eric Wilson his breakfast. You ignore his attempts to flirt with you with automatic amusement. He’s almost seventy years old and flirts harmlessly with every girl between the ages of eighteen and thirty.
“Nice, pretty girl like you,” he’s saying as you watch this mysterious new girl lean against the register and talk to poor Lenny MacDonald, who looks like he’s going to cry of Pretty Girl Syndrome. “How come you don’t have a boyfriend? It’s just not right.”
“I guess I just haven’t found the right person yet,” you say, not taking your eyes off of her.
Judith in Repose, with Severed Head
The children feel it
though it makes no noise.
In the past three weeks,
there have been eight
In the morning, each was found eviscerated
but not bloodless.
The ranchers’ children talked of
something moving in the night, but
no one believed them
until James Fenny saw it too.
The media calls it a chupacabra, but
we know better here.
It lumbers across our fields,
an anatomical horror with a canine face, which snaps
with the jaws of a coyote
but has the rough, mottled hide of a cow.
Stranger still is how its front legs end
not with paws but flippers.
Its labored locomotion fails to hinder it.
If you stare too long,
you’ll fall under the spell of its hypnotic eyes,
which fascinate and fabricate tranquility.
They say the Rundell boy, who was just a toddler,
died that way last Saturday.
All I can say is
bolt the door and lock the windows
before it comes for
by Katherine Weinberg
They all knew the rules: shuffle the cards and dare to ask your question. Flip the card over for the answer. Red means yes, black means no. Start with, “Spirit, are you with us?” and end with, “Spirit, may we leave?” You have to ask permission, or the spirits claim what’s theirs.
“It’s always right,” Brittni-with-an-i told Georgia and Sato. At first Georgia had given her a hard time for playing around with that cut-rate ouija board. But then Brittni told her they could play in the next-door graveyard Friday after sunset. Georgia nearly dropped her backpack full of R.L. Stine books in excitement.
What lurks beneath the sand this night,
what rises with the waning light
from black shores, rotting and reeking
as though dead, yet moaning and shrieking
as it heaves its pale green corpse onto the rocks
‘tis a kelpie, child,
roaming the loch,
searching for the innocent,
in deepest darkness lost.
In moonlight gleaming it stands apart,
and even those with fearless hearts it drags
into the deep, the waterlogged cold
to devour the screams of the heedlessly bold
as they bubble toward the mirrored surface.
Beware the kelpie, child!
Beware the shallow shoals!
Do not go near the loch, my son,
for the depths Death’s secrets hold.
by Christina Im
She played until her fingers bled.
When the crescent-moon prints of red blossomed onto the keys, she ignored them. A day and a night she’d been playing already—her arms looked as if they would burst at the seams, and even the strings that held her up were wearing thin. The strange, lovely bumps and grooves on the piano’s keys called her fingers home. She played a soaring minor melody, tenuous as a tightrope, letting it stretch over murky, fast-moving depths.
Mine is a family of Amazons
taking knives to their cheekbones
to swallow their menfolk whole.
I grew up among their thunder-thighs,
gripping tight their lightning hands
in black forests of their hair on end,
tow-headed, I was never lost.
Now there’s no closet space for spears
in pink-walled condominiums,
and they each wear one round falsie
to potluck-and-pinochle night.
I remember the sloping hips that sheltered me
from lions and panthers and invading Greeks,
but they worry more these days about
the menfolk’s sodium and
the niece’s nose ring.
We’re fresh prey for cable psychology
on Nemo’s couches in the lounge.
They call us codependent women,
but I remember our kamikaze hearts.
By Jonah Eckels
I remember well the first time I knew my mother was afraid of me. I must’ve been almost three years old, or just turned three. It was spring. I know this because it was the afternoon after the first traders of the year came over the pass from Swansea with their copper pans and brown packets of sugar and pepper and cinnamon. The sun shone in through the open shutters of our kitchen window, slanting warm and sweet on the clay bowl full of early strawberries on the table.
The memory is brief, with nothing of before or after attached to it, but I remember standing next to the table, one berry in my hand and one in my mouth, the tart red juice smeared down my chin. When my mother came in the front door, she was singing ‘Aderyn Du,’ or at least that is how I recall it. Her voice was unlovely, but she liked to sing in spite of that, and I do not know, now, if my memory of what she was singing that day is a true one, or if my other memories of her songs have bled into it. But I remember true the look on her face when her eyes lighted on me.
The look only lasted for a moment, but I knew, even as young as I was, what she was seeing. Everyone always told her I was a monster, that her true daughter had been stolen and I was an ugly thing left in her place. She always insisted that she didn’t believe it, but when she saw the red on my chin, her first thought was that it was blood. I, her tiny daughter, had a mouth full of blood like a wild animal or an empty-soulled demon. She was terrified of me in that split second before she remembered the traders and the spun wool exchanged for strawberries.
by Gemma Files
It rings in the night, inside
your closet, under your bed. In that
spare guestroom you never use. When you
pick up the receiver, you smell
someone else’s breath. The dial-tone
skips like a heartbeat. At first,
only dead air. Then some vague
water-logged words, unfathomable.
This is the drone of bees, the slur
of shifting earth, of silt. This is
the underground din of termites
dug deep and murmuring, hunger-drunk,
a crowd-wide madness of consumption
that will leave them homeless, dead
in sheaves, the wood gone to wax-paper,
a killing-jar hive.
Communication comes at a price. Language
infects. The wire spreads its blight, its vector.
Where are you calling from? you ask.
A distant voice answers, speaking no human tongue,
with no human tongue. Nothing you recognize.
Yet you reply courteously, patiently, telling it: No,
I don’t know you; I can’t make out what you’re saying.
Who? No one here by that name. What? No;
I don’t know. How did you get this number?
What do you mean, ‘what number’?