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.

Lasting Impression

by Alexis Hunter

Her hand hovered over the door handle. She had saved this room until last. She was unsure if she could bring herself to cross the threshold. The thought occurred that she could leave this room and let the people who bought the house deal with it.

They wouldn’t be assaulted by the memories of sitting cross-legged on the handtied rag-rug, reading to Mamma as they were warmed by the sun streaming through the high windows. They wouldn’t hear an echo of Mamma’s voice or feel the drying clay on her hands as she clasped theirs with joy or consolation.

They also wouldn’t have the memory of opening the door and finding Mamma’s chair overturned. Of Mamma lying across the rug looking as though her colour had drained away into the vivid tufts.

Mamma’s voice gently rebuked her, “Don’t be daft girl, get in that room and do what needs to be done.” She ghosted a smile and opened the door.

The room was as it always had been, save for the unfinished pot on the table and the chair, now righted, sat against the far wall. The lump remained in her throat, she couldn’t deal with the pottery table right now. She chose to pack the rest of the room.

~*~

An hour passed, each piece of craftwork, materials and knick-knacks were now lovingly packed and stored in boxes for the movers to take to the storage facility. The misplaced chair was gone, the colourful rug had been rolled and stored. There was only the table remaining.

Mamma loved to make small pots, pinching and shaping the clay until it was transformed from a formless lump into something beautiful and with purpose. She smiled, Mamma had used the same technique on her, coaxing her into the best version of herself. Mamma said that the clay did most of the work and she only guided it to where it was supposed to be.

She touched the clay with some trepidation. It had dried out, moisture leaching away in the weeks that had passed since Mamma had died, setting the pot into this shape that it would retain forever. One side of the pot was buckled, almost pressed flat into the base. She could picture Mamma sitting here, molding and pushing the clay, and then the stroke had happened. She imagined Mamma being frightened, not sure why she felt so ill, not able to move part of her body. She imagined her fingers crushing this piece of ridiculous clay as she was trying to call out for help or stand.

She wanted to crumple the clay, crack it’s dried out edges so that it became dust. Her hand slipped into the crumpled part of the clay, and her breath was suddenly gone. Her hand fit perfectly into the four distinct grooves there, and it was as if Mamma was in the room with her. The warmth and brightness of the sun was her smile, the clay her gentle hands.

She knew what needed to be done.

With care, she unpacked the desktop kiln and turned it on. While it heated, she made calls to home and to delay the removal company, she needed a few more days here. She loaded the pot with caution into the kiln, ensuring she preserved the most important part, and prepared herself to wait the few days it would take for the pot to set and cool.

~*~

In the days that passed, she slept on the floor of the craft room and talked to the walls as though Mamma was still held within them. She talked about the things that had happened in the months since Mamma died. She spoke about Dad and his new home, how he missed Mamma so much that it was almost as if she had lost two parents. She confessed how she missed her, though they had seen each other less since she moved away. She even spoke about the incident with Aunty Pam sneezing in the pastor’s face at the wake. At the time it had seemed a strange and removed series of events, and now, in this room with the memory of Mamma’s laughter made possible, it became hilarious and caused tears of mirth which felt like a release.

When the pot was finally ready, she wrapped it with care and secreted it in her handbag, packed the remaining items away and then locked the house. She would never return here.

~*~

She drove the few hours to home, but before being able to kiss her husband and children, she had an important stop to make.

There was a raucous game of bingo in the communal hall as she arrived at the care home. She knew her father would not be with the crowd. He wasn’t ready to join in yet, but she was hopeful that he would make some friends to help him fill the lonely hours. Now that he was close by, she could be here often too.

When she opened the door to his suite, he was exactly where she expected him to be, in his favourite armchair, staring out of the window with his sad expression. There was no tv or radio to fill the silence in which he enveloped himself, only the deafening sorrow for his lost half.

“Hey, Dad,”

He turned, “Hi pet. You all finished?” She nodded.

“I brought you something.”

He withdrew a little, “I can’t…”

“Trust me.” She put her handbag on the chair and drew the package from within. She unwrapped the pot, coloured now the warm and faded orange of all terracotta. She had chosen not to glaze it so that the clay would have the perfect texture. She took his hand and slid his fingers into the four grooves where her mother’s fingers were forever imprinted.

Some of the torture slid from his face.


Alexis Hunter is a self-published author of a children’s picture book, Clara’s Search for Magic, from the North East of England. She loves exploring short stories or all genres and talks to her imaginary friends daily. They always reply. Follow her on Twitter: @casnarrative

Kaleidoscope Girl

by Fabrice Poussin

Once more she stands in the face of another soul
the smooth surface of century old looking glass
squinting at fragments of a self once whole.

The pulses in her breast beat inside the thin vessels
hovering timidly in the burning light of summer’s heat
she grasps only shards of her former thoughts.
when, little girl she pondered no such queries.

She may be that forgotten Renaissance girl in the attic
put to canvas by a hopeful lover from a distance
her fair complexion torn by the craquelure
at the jigsaw she has become to suspect so well.

Where does she begin, where are the boundaries
of so many parts in motion as she sits in fearful awe
sharp edges of the giggling teen she once was
cut deep at the dreams of a future she once fathomed.

Even the sorrow of a tear venturing down her lip
seems to break apart thus devoid of source or intent
her pain excruciating must remain hidden in her chest.

She is the kaleidoscope of her many dawns
a universe hoping to come together in a grand home
made of walls seamless of like a marble giant
idea of the child building days of carefree wisdom.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 350 other publications.

For Who He Is

by Linda M. Crate

musing mildly
a song of flowers
beneath
a stormy sky
cold winter
isn’t ready to leave behind
the fragrance of spring,
and all her warmth;
shivering and starving for light
we resent winter for holding on
but perhaps his last prayer
is that he be loved
for who he is.


Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her 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).

Breaking Ground

by Tianna Grosch

Flower buds poke gentle heads above ground to seek the sun’s stretching fingers. She throws her own fingers high above her head, reaching as far as she can until her shoulders pop and crack. Throwing her head back, her hair falls over her back like a cascading waterfall, rippling.

She breathes fresh air smelling of final frost and sets to work breaking ground, the teeth of her shovel biting deep into the dirt. She digs until her palms blister against the wooden handle, until they are scraped and stinging.

The hole is as big around as a fire pit, perfect for roasting marshmallows or summoning demons. She empties a box of kindling into the pit. She rummages inside another box until her fingers touch something soft. A stuffed animal, big beady eyes and stitched fake fur gazing up at her.

She throws it in the hole and pulls out a box of matches. She strikes one match, the smell of sulfur lingering in the air as she tosses the little flame into the pile and watches the fire expand, hungrily devouring its fuel.

The box contains old love letters – scraps of paper confessing undying devotions. It contains dried roses, hung upon a wall and forgotten. The box contains secrets and things better forgotten. A strip of cloth, a bit of lace. A leather-bound journal with its spine cracked and cover faded.

All of it belongs to the fire. Its flames lick and smile. She watches it burn and her lips curl. Tendrils of smoke caress her, tracing across her hips, playing with strands of hair, circling her eyes. She becomes clean, unburdened by what once held her down.

The fire crackles until it has finished its feast.

She will return under the cover of darkness. She will take off her shoes and walk through the pit, to feel what her past secrets have become. In the dead of night, a chorus of springtime frogs and crickets will serenade her as she dances in the ashes.


Tianna Grosch lives in the woodlands of PA, works as Assistant Editor at Times Publishing Newspapers in Bucks County, and received her MFA at Arcadia University this past May. Her work has previously appeared in New Pop Lit, The Odyssey and Loco Mag, and is forthcoming in Ellipsis Zine and Paragon Journal. Follow her on Twitter: @tiannag92