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July 2018: “Free & Clear” Call For Submissions

“I only ask to be free.”
– Charles Dickens (Bleak House)

Share your original flash fiction, non-fiction, or poetry piece that fits our “Free & Clear” theme by Saturday, July 21 for a chance to be included in our publications the following week.

Send in your work via our Submissions page!

Here’s a word list to prompt some inspiration – try writing a 500 word description or stream of consciousness for each one, then go back and expand on an idea that stands out to you the most:

The Liberty
The Rein
The Privilege
The Acquittal
The Lucidity

Tequila Kisses

by Alicia Aitken

The club is full, a lot of us are celebrating the end of University, the end of a chapter. Our happy shiny faces go from green to pink to blue from the flashing lights around us. I grab the shot glass from the sticky metal tray and grin at my friends before me.

“Cheers!” I scream and slam my fourth or fifth tequila shot into the middle and then as the liquid hits my mouth, my eyes squint shut and I shake my head side to side to help it go down quickly. I may regret that shot in the morning. The icky feeling passes within seconds and I carry on dancing allowing my body to sway to the rhythm, the music vibrating beneath my feet, enjoying these moments of pleasure.

I spot Sam leaning at the bar by himself and I walk over to talk to him and even though a little voice in me says you’ve had enough, I ignore it. I say that dangerous word “Shot?” Another won’t hurt, I think to myself.

“Yes!” He shouts back at me excitedly.

We clink our glasses together and toast to our future and down another tequila slides. I struggle with the sour taste, it catches in the back of my throat and I regret it instantly. Sam downs his with ease and asks if I’m alright, I force a smile to say I’m fine.

We chat some more while waiting for the barman to come back round to us, I’m hoping he’ll take his time I don’t think I could handle another drink. He looks into my eyes for a few moments, I playfully hit his arm and he pretends to be hurt. I want to kiss him, he leans his head slightly towards me, so I start to lean a little more but I stop.

I take a shaky breath, I can feel it coming and Sam throws me a hurt look. I’ve no time to run before the contents of the evening projectile before me.

Horrified I look up, Sam is frantically wiping his shoes and stares at me in disgust. I regret every single shot.


Alicia is an avid reader and traveler and her writing is fueled by these two loves as well as a lot of coffee. Alicia loves the beach, paddle-boarding and of course writing lots of stories. Follow her on Twitter @aliciaaitken01

Waiting For Inspiration

by Mark Kuglin

I was sitting morosely at my writing desk, in a full blown panic, and was on the verge of pulling my hair out. The bills were piling up and my creditors were calling constantly. The money from books I had previously published was long gone. I hadn’t written a word or had a burst of creativity in months. To make matters worse, my publisher and agent had been calling and pressuring me to come up with something.

I was at my wits end and seriously considering giving up writing altogether. But then, I felt the old familiar magic starting. When the idea hit me full force, it was like getting struck by a lightning bolt. Electricity and excitement surged through my body and I felt it in each and every cell and nerve ending. It made my skin tingle and was an absolutely incredible sensation.

Words started flowing into my head so fast, I was momentarily stunned. After I regained my senses, I ran to my computer only to find it wasn’t working. Panicked, I raced around my apartment in a desperate search for a pen and something to write on. When I finally found an old notebook in the closet, I was thrilled.

I quickly returned to my writing desk, and was about to put pen to paper, when I was suddenly overcome by a series of new sensations. I felt my heart rate increase, my chest tighten and then made several rapid inhalations. In an instant, time stood still. No, not now! I screamed.

After the episode was over, I didn’t feel the slightest bit of relief. I was numb and completely devastated. My hopes and dreams were crushed in an instant. My idea was lost and gone forever, the victim of a fateful sneeze. And then another…


Mark is a writer and a poet. For more of his work, please visit his website markkuglin.com or follow him on Twitter @cr8fiction

Punishments

by Tony Sakalauskas

The dark wooden door opened to allow the first of the three prisoners to enter the room. Three judges, two men and a woman, draped in black robes, were waiting for him.

The man wore an orange prisoner suit beneath his long brown hair. He had indistinct tattoos darkening his neck. He hadn’t shaved for two days.

The male judge, in the middle, seated behind the long table, shuffled some papers and spoke.

“It says here, from your personality tests, that you don’t like to read. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor. I never read a book in my life.”

“Okay. It also says that you hated school. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor. I dropped out in junior high.”

“Okay then. Here is your punishment. You will have to read a couple of dozen school books. Books such as: history, geography, biology and so forth. You’ll read them in jail. After you have read these books, you will be tested on them. Only when you pass the tests, will you be free. You may leave.”

The second prisoner appeared before the judge. Like the guy before him he had long brown hair and some matching brown facial hair. He also had some tattoos marking his neck that you couldn’t make out.

Once again it was the middle male judge who was doing all the talking.

“Your personality tests show that you like listening to Country and Western music. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor. It’s all I listen to.”

“And that you hate heavy metal music. Is this also true?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“For your punishment, you will be given about two dozen heavy metal compact discs to listen to in your jail cell. You will learn the names of all the bands, the names of their albums, the names of their songs and the lyrics. You will be tested. When you answer all the questions, you will be set free. You may leave.”

The third prisoner appeared before the three judges. He was a clean cut kid with short blond hair and a clean shaven face. He wore silver-rimmed glasses. His neck did not display any tattoos. Even is posture was different; he stood more erect.

“Your personality tests show that you like to read,” said the middle judge. “That you’re a bookworm. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“And that you hate boredom. Is that also true?’

“Yes, your honor.”

“The tests also show you to be an intelligent person, a law-abiding citizen. Why would you be involved in a break and enter with these other two prisoners who were here before us?’

“I just moved to the city and didn’t know anyone,” said the third prisoner. “All three of us live in the same apartment building. And um… I don’t make friends easily.”

“I see,” said the judge.

“For your punishment, you will not be allowed to read books or magazines or any other reading material. Also, you will not be allowed to watch television, or listen to the radio or to be on the computer.”

“But your honor, if I can’t do those things I’ll be bored to death. I’ll go crazy.”

“That’s the idea,” said the judge. “That’s your punishment, boredom. We had a difficult time thinking of a suitable time period for your sentence. So, we came up with this. When your so-called friends finish their sentences, you will be finished yours. You may leave.”


Tony is a 63-year-old Canadian from the city of Halifax, on the east coast of Canada. Follow him on Twitter @TonySakalauskas

Whispered Answers

by C. Joy

Dom knelt next to the broken body on the road. He wouldn’t need a medical examiner to tell him what he already knew. He had watched the blue mist of the guardian and light of the soul depart, one upward and the other not. There’s an advantage to knowing your guardian personally. His was named Arerial. As a hired contract killer, it was nice to know he still had one.

A small cry from the crumpled car startled Dom as he rose up from the pavement. Not possible. Intel had the target traveling alone. A quick shot to the driver’s forehead had been the plan. Quick, and clean. But the shot had gone low and wide, shattering the side mirror instead. Instantly, the target was aware. Dom had dropped from the tree he was in, when the car suddenly spun, losing control and bee-lined directly for the very spot he was in. Another quick shot found its mark and finished the job, but left him directly in the path of the out of control car. Escaping a direct hit, the bumper had caught his hip and flung him to the pavement.

He was too old for this…then he heard a whimper again. His knee cracked as he quickly strode over to the car, glanced inside and inhaled sharply. A small girl, luckily still in her seatbelt, which was the only reason she didn’t resemble the body on the road. None of his targets were innocent, but this job had been compromised. Quickly calculating multiple variables, Dom reached into the car. He had a decision to make.

Dom started walking, away from the body and the wrecked car, carrying the small, delicate form. As he walked the quarter of a mile to his car hidden among the trees, small twinges of pain broke through the fog of adrenaline. Dom looked down. His arm was broken and he had torn something around his knee. He also suspected he might have a broken rib or two based on the tightness in his chest, but he would deal with that later. Gently and gingerly, he laid the child on the seat next to him, started the car with his one good hand and began the drive toward town. His focus: find a hospital.

As he drove, he kept constant watch around him and on the little blond girl laying on the seat. This job had come with too many surprises and he couldn’t afford anymore. And he recalled the hesitancy in Arerial tonight. Curious, since Guardians weren’t supposed to use judgment on if to save their subject of protection, but only on how.

Dom was well known for his human mercenary abilities, but secretly favored his supernatural ability. To see the light emitted from souls, alive or otherwise definitely aided with his occupation. But recently, his senses picked up other possible entities. The little girl stirred and whimpered again. Dom pressed down on the gas pedal.

It had taken him awhile to understand what he was seeing. In his line of work, being observant was the difference between job security or involuntary early retirement. Over time, he had noticed more. Blue misted guardians protected, helped find lost keys, whispered answers and gave inspiration to their charges. Shadowy tormentors, well, they were the snide thoughts of insecurities, nightmares and vicious doubt and they seemed to be multiplying.

Years ago, as he was piloting a soon to crash twin prop fireball at 15,000 feet after a sniper targeted his fuselage, Dom had dejectedly muttered “think this rides over, thanks for the good run”. Expecting silence, Dom had nearly jumped out of the burning airplane when he heard a soft, controlled voice whisper.

“It’s not your time”.

It was the only time. But he often wondered what happened to Guardians when their human charges passed on. Did they retire, or were they reassigned to incoming charges? Were they reassigned by lineage or was it a random draw?

The bright orange blinking arrow pointed toward the Emergency Department. Dom followed the sign, parked the car, and tenderly carried the girl toward the entrance. He could sense that Arerial was close, and he was comforted by it. Which is why when another, sharper pain coursed through his chest and took his breath, he was unsettled. It quickly subsided and was forgotten when Dom was overtaken by nurses questioning about the child in his arms. Quickly, they whisked her away with a flurry of activity and hushed voices.

It was ironic, that in a hospital, Dom felt safe. Spiritually, it was Grand Central for both tormentors and guardians, as regrets, hope and sorrows were abundant. Humanly, he was safe from other snipers as they preferred a much more secluded location.

Dom signed some forms before taken to an exam room. On the way, he watched a blue mist followed by a lighted soul rise from a curtained area down the hall. An old soul. Not the girl. Relieved, Dom let out the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding.

Mistaking it for pain, the nurse left Dom in the room in search of morphine.

“We have done good tonight.” Dom stretched his neck, and looked for Arerial. But something was off. He felt…alone.

It was as if he was missing…something.

The pain hit him again, stronger this time and dropped him to his knees. He struggled for a breath. A heart attack? This wasn’t the exit he had planned. His chest exploded in another wave of pain and darkness began to close over him when Dom heard a familiar soft, controlled voice whisper.

“It’s time.”

The little blonde girl lay on her side and watched a second bright light receded down in the hall. She wasn’t alone, even though she had heard the nurse whisper to the Doctor she was. But she wasn’t scared. She felt…safe.

“You’ll stay now?” she asked softly. A small blue mist had settled next to her.

Understanding, she whispered “Thanks, Arerial.”


A reading gypsy, C. Joy enjoys traveling and people watching, finding inspiration in both.