The End

by Laura Pearson

After dozens of false alarms, it was time. I sat with her head in my lap, stroking her ears the way she’d always liked. You didn’t say anything, and I knew your heart was breaking. She’d been with us from the start. Our second date, we walked past an animal shelter and you said you’d always wanted a dog, and we went inside. You took her home that afternoon. Two weeks later, I moved in.

‘I’ll drive,’ you said, a hairline crack in your deep voice. I lifted her, and noted how much lighter she felt. As if she was empty inside. We took her bed from the kitchen and laid it in the back seat, trying to make this last journey the best it could be.

You carried her in, and we were shown to a room where we could say goodbye. It was bright white, clinical, but there were human touches. A vase of fresh flowers, pale green cushions. I knew you were going to break down before you did, and I knew, too, that I would not. That my crying would be done later, in private. We held her, and your tears fell on the fur of her neck, and I knew I’d always remember that.

Afterwards, we went home, and it wasn’t the same place we’d left. We both knew it was over. I said I’d go to my mum’s, and you nodded, your face still wet with tears. I packed some things in a bag, said I’d come back for the rest. At the door, I turned. I said thank you. I meant for the way you’d loved me, and her. You put your arms around me and almost lifted me off the ground. And in that hug, all the love we’d squandered.

Laura Pearson lives in Leicestershire, where she blogs (, writes novels and flash fiction, and runs around after two small humans. Her first novel will be published in 2018 by Ipso Books.

Life After Debt

by Derek Hamilton

As of this week, I’m officially debt free. As a millennial, just saying that feels unnatural.

I must have logged into my student loan account three times per day this week to be greeted by the “Congratulations!” zero-balance notification. It’s a celebration GIF that makes confetti rain down on my screen. I don’t get any satisfaction from it, so that’s not why I keep checking my non-existent balance. I keep logging in because I’m afraid the bills are going to somehow re-materialize on my account.

It’s like I’ve become so accustomed to student loan dread that I’m filling the void with my own fabricated version of the anxiety it caused. It’s debt-related PTSD.

The journey started at the low point that all new grads experience: tallying up the bills and realizing what I’d gotten myself into at the behest of my teachers, family members, and even my own overly-idealistic self.

Student loans felt like an anchor. They felt like a prison. They felt like a tombstone. Here lies: my financial stability, and all hope of establishing personal wealth. It was like being in an abusive relationship – where there was a domestic disturbance every time my paycheck was deposited.

Throughout my repayment process the past five years, I realize that I became financially anorexic. Even now, knowing I’m in the clear – it’s incredibly difficult to splurge or treat myself to anything. I’m such a fiscal fascist that I can’t even justify my own celebration. After years of practice, I can tactfully convince myself to avoid any non-essential purchase.

The only glimmer of assurance in this story is that I couldn’t have done this without my wife. She had her own set of student loans that needed to be addressed as well, so the threat was on both of us. We’ve kept a running tab in our minds of everything else we could have spent this money on. It has been painfully unmistakable to us.

Paid in full. That’s the only concept we’ve been focusing on since we graduated. Now that our student loans are gone, we’re finding ourselves becoming more and more debt averse. We don’t even want to purchase a home unless it’s with savings and we pay for it outright. We’ve already experienced the smothering curse of debt.

We have drunk from that cup, my friends, and it is bitter.

We keep asking ourselves how we feel about all of this, but we still don’t know what to make of it. It’s insane that we’ve joined the minority of Americans who have paid back their student loans without defaulting. It’s sickening to think that we’ve paid off the equivalent of a 30-year mortgage in five years and have (basically) nothing to show for it. We know it’s for the best. We know we did the right thing. We know we finally achieved what we set out to do – but we don’t feel any relief from it right now.

Paying back student loans is a personal victory that has all of the symptoms of an absolute defeat.

Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at

The Epiphany

by Nelia Aboagye

It is January, it is a new year and suddenly I realize that what was once my last year’s resolutions are creeping up in my mind, screaming out to be let out into my new year planner/journal. It suddenly dawns on me that I never accomplished my last year’s resolution.

The guilt fills my chest and my heart begins pounding, my palms are sweating as my eyeballs push out of their sockets and are ready to pop out. I rub my sweaty palms on to my arms and my panic is disturbed by the goosebumps all over my arms and my ice-cold feet. Wait a minute, I am having a panic attack!

I run across the room searching frantically in my desk drawers, looking for my last year’s journal. Documents, bits and bobs fly out of the drawers as I throw them out in search of my old journal.

“Aha!” Found it, I quickly find a spot to sit while I flip through the pages in search of that long list of old resolutions.

With my face buried in my old journal, my eyeballs swing from left to right, back and forth hoping to see a tick reflecting an accomplishment – but no chance. A rush of sorrow fills my heart followed by disappointment. My body slouches as I exhale letting out a big sigh.

I sat in my home Office feeling disappointed in myself, I look around and I see a lot of things I have accomplished, a happy home, beautiful healthy children and suddenly I have an epiphany. New year’s resolutions are overrated and exaggerated. I was being harsh on myself and had false expectations of myself merely based on what others expect.

I realized that I owed no one but myself I answer to no one but myself, I realized I am happier having forgiven and loving myself. I suddenly realized I achieve more goals by doing what I love and happier at this.

The Epiphany is profound happiness in loving self.

Nelia Aboagye loves herself and her family (husband and four children, all boys) give her joy. She enjoys writing children’s books.

The Guitar

by Damon M. Garn

I’m going to do it, I decided. I’m going to buy it.

The sales guy was in the back, finding the box and paperwork. I stood alone at the front of the shop.

I was terrified and excited. Wary and thrilled.

I hadn’t consciously realized that I’d dreamed of this all my life. Sure I had fantasized about it but I’d always believed I had no ability. Now that I embraced my potential, I felt liberated. It’s the journey, not the destination.

So I put my debit card on the counter and carried my box of dreams outside.

Damon Garn lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife and two children. He enjoys hiking, writing and annoying his neighbors with mediocre guitar playing. He writes in the fantasy/sci-fi realm experimenting in flash fiction, short stories and a novel. Follow him on Twitter @dmgwrites or at

There Was Time

by Mwangi Ichung’wa

The clock is loud in the small room. It sounds like a stopwatch – tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik – an infernal countdown to who knows what. The people who were to come here are late. The people waiting to meet them are getting anxious. They are a man and a woman, both tall and thin. The woman is lighting her third cigarette in ten minutes as she tells the man, her hands waving about, that this may not have been the best idea. Tendrils of grey cigarette smoke, wispy things, float about.

Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik

There is a knock on the door. The man and woman who are not a couple exchange a glance. The cigarette hangs loose from the left corner of her mouth. The smoke curls straight up into the ceiling. The people they were to meet are here. The man heads for the door. The woman can hear her heartbeat over the clock. The sounds are not in time with each other. One beats too fast, she cannot tell which. She crushes the cigarette in a wooden ashtray.

Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik

The silence is heavy as the parties mull over a slight change in plan. There are now six people in the room. Three of them are smoking and no one has thought of opening a window. There has been a problem. One of the things the four new people in the room were to bring wasn’t available. The man and the woman cannot leave this place without it. The four people cannot leave without what the man and the woman have brought themselves. They also have guns.

Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik

The clock is loud in the small room; counting down the time it takes for breath to escape the crumpled bodies on the dusty carpet. Butts smoulder in the wooden ashtray, the upward spiraling tendrils growing less dense as fire slowly dies. There is a low sound, like a cough, as the last soul exits its host. Outside the light changes as the sun sets, lighting the room a fiery orange. Stark shadows of what was are drawn across the surfaces and in the stillness, disrespectful and insolent, the clock goes tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik.

Mwangi Ichung’wa is a Kenyan writer of “transgressive” fiction. Currently writing for an ad agency to pay the bills.