Something Else

by Derek Hamilton

I remember his smile. I remember making him laugh. I remember how he gently held my hand. I remember chilly nights spent looking at the stars. I remember long drives to nowhere in particular. I remember how the summer air smelled when he walked me to my car.

I remember when he said goodbye.

It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve all been told that time heals all wounds, but that’s a crude simplification of the healing process. You can always ask why. You can torture yourself trying to figure out where everything went wrong.

That’s how I’ve been spending my time lately.

I go to work. I think about him. I remind myself not to think about him. I think about him. I try to distract myself. I think about him.

Growing up, I was always told “If you want something bad enough, you have to earn it. Nothing is worth having that isn’t worth fighting for.” Looking back on it – there’s a strange disconnect.

What if I’m fighting for him and he doesn’t reciprocate? What if he doesn’t want me? Why is my happiness so dependent on this other person being in my life?

I guess it’s love, but it doesn’t seem right to call it that. It’s something else. It’s like the shadow that love casts. The negative energy that balances out all its positives.

Someone asks me how I’m doing. I think about him. The pit in my stomach turns as I wrestle for sleep. I think about him.

This is my life now. I think about him.

This is all I have to look forward to. I think about him.

This is the summary of my entire existence. I think about him.


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 derekhamiltonedits.com

Friend

by F.C. Malby

You used to listen to my questions, your mind racing faster than life itself. Your thoughts were sharp and fast. You asked questions: Thoughts about life, and God, and justice. You cared and you worked to help others. I used to look into your green eyes and wonder how we became friends; I, almost three years your junior, and far less cool and together; you, slim, sophisticated and ‘on point’ when it came to fashion. It was the eighties, then. I remember talking to you about school buses and timetables at the Girls’ Grammar. You wore a pale pink shirt pulled out over a slim belt, and a white, flowing skirt. Your lips were glossed and you sparkled. You were beautiful.

The years created a certain kind of cynicism in your mind. We talked about boys and future children, about passions and God. You became worn down with questions and I know you now have the answers. I go to pick up the phone when I want to talk to you or tell you something, a big event or a new child. I replace it and think back to what you might have said to me. I try to feel grateful for the time that we had, but life is cruel.

Then it came, the phone call – the first to tell me you had ten years. Those ten years were long. The second was unexpected. It was exactly ten years later but it was a surprise. They told me you were gone. I didn’t believe them, not when they called, not when I went to pick up the phone to call you, not when I stood and gave your eulogy in front of hundreds of people to tell then who you really were. I believed them, finally, as I walked up the hill towards your open grave. It was brutal, the shock, the tears, the feeling in my body that made my legs want to give way. I felt an arm around my neck and a voice telling me, “Take your time, it’s ok.” I broke at that point and hung back so as not to cause a scene. Emotions can do that, cause a scene that no one wants to witness.

I made it to the edge of the grave, sprinkled earth over your coffin, looked down and wondered when we would meet again. Life is cruel, it can be short, it can be a struggle. Yours was lived with grace, you handled pain and uncertainty with ease. You fought, but you also knew when it was time let go. I’m not sure that I ever have… let go, my friend. You are hard to replace.


F.C. Malby is a contributor to Unthology 8 and Hearing Voices: The Litro Anthology of New Fiction. Her debut short story collection, My Brother Was a Kangaroo includes award-winning stories, and her debut novel, Take Me to the Castle, won The People’s Book Awards. Her short fiction has been longlisted in The New Writer Magazine Annual Prose and Poetry Prizes by David Gaffney, and won the Litro Magazine Environmental Disaster fiction competition.
Find out more on her website and follow her on Twitter @fcmalby

The Monsters That Broke Me

by Linda M. Crate

i think i left
bits and pieces
of myself
behind
so i could restring
myself together
with new burning stars
of the galaxy,
stars that don’t know the sting
of your name or the limitations
you would put upon me;
which is for the better because my
temper is like a wild fire
burning down forests and out of control
once a grudge is felt
so consider yourself lucky
i promised myself never to become
the monsters that broke me.


Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

The Last Unexplored Frontier

by John M. Carlson

Dad sometimes joked about how messy our garage was. “Our garage is the last unexplored frontier! We’ll have to explore it someday!”

Meanwhile, Mom thought that exploring was nice, but cleaning the hopeless chaos would be much better.

Dad died of cancer the spring I was 19. I knew that Mom would decide to clean the garage sooner or later. Most of the mess was Dad’s, and there was no need to keep it now that he was gone. So I was hardly surprised one July morning when Mom told me we’d start cleaning the garage that day.

After breakfast, we headed out to the detached garage, and started studying Dad’s last unexplored frontier.

Dad was a thrifty pack rat. He collected all sorts of things “that might be useful someday!” All those things had pretty much taken the garage over. There was barely—barely—enough space left to park the car.

Mom and I stood, looking at all the odds and ends that Dad had saved. There was a china cabinet, which he’d planned to fix up for Mom, who’d wanted a china cabinet to hold her good dishes. There was a pile of parts for his old truck. (He really should have let the guy who’d bought the truck have the parts. The truck was so unreliable it would be needing those parts sooner rather than later.) There was a mountain of parts for the family car. There was a big pile of scrap lumber. There was an old wood stove that Dad could install in the house if heating oil prices became totally unaffordable. There was a big shelf full of various chemical concoctions, like furniture stripper.

Almost all of this stuff was junk as far as Mom and I were concerned. It would take a natural tinkerer like Dad to make use of most of this stuff.

I thought of all the work it would take to clean up this overwhelming mess. We’d spend endless hours in this hot, stuffy garage. We’d make countless dump runs to get rid of stuff. We’d probably spend weeks trying to find people to take the more usable stuff, like car parts. All in all, this project would be a nightmare.

I briefly fantasized about cleaning up this mess using a gallon of gas and a lit match.

Finally, Mom sighed. “I really want this garage clean. I’m so tired of fighting to cram the car in. But I can’t face doing this! Especially with all the other stuff we need to get done this summer.”

And with that, we escaped from the garage.

The last unexplored frontier would remain unexplored. It could remain unexplored forever, at least as far as I was concerned.


John M. Carlson is a writer living in the Seattle area. You can find more of his work on his website.

Nothing Left To Count

by Maddie White

1…2…3…4…5… I count the bills in my drawer until there’s nothing left to count.

It’s been a long Friday. One after another, customers lined up in front of me to deposit money and cash their checks. They scheduled me to leave early, but I volunteered to stay.

It was 10 minutes before we closed and a tall man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes walked in hurriedly.

“You got here just in time.” I called to the man in the lobby.

He gave me a friendly half smile and tried to sign.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know sign language.”

I handed the man a piece of paper and a pen to write the transaction he needed. The other teller took her drawer to the vault, leaving me alone with the man. I saw him slide the paper and pen back.

My heart filled with a cold rush of fear.

Don’t make a sound. Give me all the money in your drawer. I have a gun. Make it fast.

My hands trembled as I fumbled for my keys. He watched every move and I tried to remember what the protocol was for this situation. We were being robbed.

Just breathe. He will not hurt you as long as you do what he wants. I told myself.

My drawer flew open and I debated whether to give him bait money. I took a chance and pulled the trap. He laid a black plastic bag on the counter and I filled it with the money. The phone rang causing me to jump.

“Is everything okay, ma’am? We received an alert of a hold up.” The woman from the security company asked.

“I’m sorry, we close at 5. I’ve got a customer now, but we’ll be closing after his transaction is complete.”

“We’ll dispatch the police. Is anyone hurt?”

“Okay, thank you. Have a great evening.”

My coworker emerged from the vault, unaware of the imminent danger in front of her.

Wide eyed, I looked up at the robber as I stuffed the cash in his bag. He pulled his white tucked shirt out of his pants revealing a gun.

“What the hell?” my co-worker whispered from behind me.

The man pulled his gun and shoved it in my face.

“You call the cops, she dies.”

I spit the gun from my mouth.

“Let her go. I’ll stay here until you leave. Just let her go.”

Sirens blared in the distance, causing him to look away.

“I told you, no cops.” His voice was monotone and he raised the gun.

I ran to the exit. I heard the shot and felt a burning sensation in my side. I laid on the ground and felt warm blood running down my leg.

No. This can’t be it. Keep breathing. It will be okay. I told myself.

1…2…3…4…5 I counted again, but this time it’s not money. It’s seconds between each breath until there’s nothing left to count.


Maddie White is passionate about mental health. She has work featured in Flash Fiction Magazine, Pixel Heart Magazine, and Rhythm and Bones. You can find her on Twitter @MaddieMWhite17