Here and There

by Helen Chambers

Here, rain splatters on the windows and seeps cold around my ankles. The dark is spreading and the light is departing. People slump in front of screens and turn their backs away from the weather.

There, we walked with a spring in our step and our hearts on our sleeves, and opened our faces and minds to the sun, watching each other in its golden glow. Channeling its energy, we lived summer outdoors like the elements.

Here, life trudges alone with a chill and a shiver, winds whip me round corners, desiccated leaves scrape my face. I cannot bear to stay indoors, but the cold drives me in.

There, we slept out under a light show of stars and meteors, watched sunsets, smelt honeysuckle and tasted salt spray.

Here, damp leaf-mould muffles my steps, and your words turn to dust.
I want to turn the clock back.


Helen Chambers gets creative inspiration when out walking (usually with her head in the clouds) and from her involvement in local writing groups and an Open-Air Shakespeare acting company. Since leaving teaching, she has been awarded an MA in Creative Writing by the University of Essex (2016), has won the Fish Short Story Prize (2018), the Felixstowe Short Story Prize (2016) and the Hysteria Flash Fiction Prize (2014). When she can remember her password, she blogs at helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com

Last Sip of Champagne

by John M. Carlson

Julia wondered if it was a good idea having a glass of champagne that night. One of her medicines had been making her feel a bit clumsy as it was, and alcohol might make that problem even worse. She didn’t want to be clumsy tonight.

But champagne was a tradition. Every fall, Julia and Stuart, her husband, visited California. They traveled about, visiting family and friends. They always ended up at a quaint inn located by a scenic lake. On their last evening at the inn, they sat by the lake at dusk, and enjoyed a bottle of champagne. Their champagne tradition hadn’t changed in twenty years, except they now were able to afford real French champagne, instead of André.

She didn’t want to break the champagne tradition. Not this year. Not since it would be her last year staying at this inn. Her oncologist made it very clear that she wouldn’t live much longer.

That night, Julia and Stuart sat in silence. They sipped champagne, and looked at the lake as the sun slowly set.

This was always the best part of these vacations, she thought. Stuart’s sister was always nasty. Then, there was so much rush-rush-rush visiting other people and places. But there was peace here at the lake. The lake was also a small chunk of paradise on earth. Discovering this place was the best thing that had happened during their marriage. There were times when she even thought it was the only good thing that had happened during their marriage.

“It’s sad to think that this will be the last time I’ll ever be here,” she said.

“You don’t know that!” Stuart’s voice had fake cheer in it. “The doctor could be wrong!”

“He hasn’t been wrong about anything up till now.” Julia sighed. “I’d once dreamed of moving here when you retire.”

“That would never happen. It’s nice visiting this place. I like it. But retire here? With taxes like they are in California? No lake is scenic enough for that!”

“Anyway, I want to make something clear. This place is special. Very special. And I don’t want you bringing some other woman here after I’m gone.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“So you say now. But I know you. I’ll die in a few months. After a suitable period, you’ll go out and find someone new. You’ll haul her down here to meet your crazy sister. And, on the way home, you’ll probably stop by here to show her the lovely inn you learned about during your first marriage.”

“Trust me, that won’t happen,” Stuart said. “I won’t be getting married again. I learn from my mistakes.”

“I’m not only thinking about a new wife. This also includes girlfriends.” She pulled her gun out of her large purse.

“Are you crazy?” Stuart yelped. “Bringing your gun to California? You don’t have a license here!”

“What will they do if they catch me? Put me in prison for life? That wouldn’t be a very long sentence in my case.”

She stood, feeling a bit unsteady on her feet, thanks to the champagne and the doctor’s wonder drug. She snapped the gun’s safety off, and pointed the gun at Stuart.

“I’m going to make sure you never bring another woman here! Ever!”

“Julia! I promised you! Isn’t my word good enough? Haven’t I stayed with you, honoring my marriage vows?”

“Oh, you did an absolutely wonderful job honoring those vows. You think I don’t know about Kimberly? Or Carrie? Or Nancy? Or Stacy? Or Consuela? Why don’t you be honest? The only reason you stayed with me was because I come from a good family, and that helped you professionally. Face it, Stuart, there is no reason to believe you won’t forget any promise you make now. Or you’ll laugh about your promise when you bring some 21-year-old bimbo here. So I’m going to make sure you never, ever bring another woman to my lake. Goodbye, Stuart. I’ll see you on the other side of the grave, if there is an other side.”

“No!”

He said “no” like he was saying “no” to a dog threatening to vomit in the middle of the living room. You’d think he’d beg for mercy, she thought. No matter.

She pulled the trigger.

She was a good shot. And she hit her target perfectly now. Stuart slumped in his seat, dead.

She sat back down. She picked up her glass, and finished her last sip of champagne. Her last sip ever.

She put the gun into her mouth. Then, while staring at the lake she loved, Julia pulled the trigger.


John M. Carlson lives in the Seattle area. His stories have appeared in a variety of online publications. More of his work can be seen on his website.

The Road Taken

by KSN Hridayanka

The choice lay there,
Right in front of her,
Between two paths
The best of which,
She hesitated to choose.
Neither could she decide,
Nor had the ability to infer
What the universe conspired
When she seemed tired.

She took her time
Analysing each road
And every other curve,
On how it would mould,
And gift her a dime.

There came a point
She knew it clear
Which path to choose
And which to avoid.
Yet she stood there,
Waiting for destiny to pull her
Towards that one road
She was hesitant to choose.


Hridayanka is an undergraduate student of Biotechnology. Writing is her passion, and poetry a chance to find her true self. What started as a method to uplift her mood has today become a field of interest that she’s currently exploring and learning bit by bit everyday.

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