Life-Size

by Abigail Barnett

A spectacled woman sat at the counter this evening. She handed Garrett the art museum’s friends-and-family-discount slip.

You’re here far too often, she said through her thin lipstick smile. You’re practically an exhibit yourself. They both laughed.

Garrett brought the slip of paper into his pocket and back out again. In and out it went as he passed the marble sculptures and empty stairwells. Garrett liked the new mixed media exhibit. He told the dragon carving so.

Garrett paused at the impressionist paintings, tracing the pattern of their curling frames with his eyes.

It’s too cold outside for you, he told them. His boyish fingers hovered above their white and citrus strokes like an orchestra conductor.

Then his hand jerked and he was pulled by the weight of his own body down the hallways. Shoulders swaying, eyes open to all the colors he knew that he knew. His body lilted from wall to wall, as if floating homeward around the corners.

Perhaps the last visitors saw him: one green coat swimming past the last guests. Perhaps a bejeweled grandmother glimpsed his white shoes flash on the hardwood floor. Perhaps the intercom announcing five more minutes didn’t reach the far corners of the museum. Perhaps there was one pair of gleeful footsteps echoing off the metal sculptures. Echoing off the glass cases. Echoing between the massive canvases. Echoing echoes. Perhaps it was only an echo.

Perhaps that’s why a stray man in blue uniform paused. He hovered over the last light switch. He couldn’t remember the install of a new exhibit back here: a life-size young man frozen mid-stride beneath the red glow of an Exit sign. The figure’s eyes were closed, one hand in his pocket, glancing backward as if he’d heard the security guard approaching. His other hand glinted, clearly made of plastic, above his shoulder; a sort of final wave.

Modern art, muttered the security guard. His own footsteps echoed away. They were the only sound for a long while afterward.


Abigail Barnett is a senior Psychology major at Corban University in Oregon. She didn’t know she enjoyed writing so much until she took a Creative Writing class on a whim last year. You can find her at one of Oregon’s many coffee shops (in the next two weeks before graduation), probably pretending to be a hipster and drinking far too much espresso.

Catch and Release

by Steve Carr

Although Carton Laxwell had lived in the hills of Kentucky his entire life, he never liked killing another living thing, but he loved to fish.

He parked his pickup truck on the gravel road about fifty yards from Piney Creek. It wasn’t a creek at all, but a narrow, murky river that flowed gently through the woods just a few miles out of town.

He got out of the cab and went around to the back and lowered the tailgate. He took out a small basket containing his lunch of potted meat sandwiches and two cans of beer, his fishing pole, tackle box, and a folding canvas stool to sit on. He shut the trunk, then with everything either awkwardly held in his arms, or precariously balanced on both shoulders, he stepped into the knee high grass and walked through a grove of maple trees to the bank of the creek.

First making certain there were no birds nests or other woodland creature created habitats in the grass, he then stomped a flat area in the grass, making his own kind of nest, then laid everything down. As he unfolded the chair he saw a piece of red flannel in the grass on the perimeter of his newly created fishing spot. He bent down to pick it up, but pulled his hand back when he saw the cloth was wound around the wrist of a severed arm. The hand portion still attached to it was missing all of its fingers, although the thumb was still there, pointing upward as if giving the okay sign. The skin on the arm was gray and decayed, but teeth marks were clearly visible. There was a tattoo of an eagle on the forearm.

“That’s Neb Duly’s arm,” he said aloud. “I’d recognize that tattoo anywhere.”

With no one else around and uncertain what to do, he covered it with grass and returned to setting up his fishing spot.

Sitting on his chair he took a rubber worm from the tackle box and put it on the hook. He cast the line out into the water and watched the worm sink beneath the surface. He sat back and listened to the birdsong coming from the trees and opened the basket and took out a sandwich and opened a beer. While biting into the sandwich, there was a tug on the fishing line. He sat bolt upright, dropped the sandwich and quickly jerked the fishing pole and began to reel in his catch.

When he raised the line out of the water, a large catfish was dangling on the hook. He stood up and stared into the fish’s eyes as it struggled to breathe. “Well, aren’t you fine lookin’,” he said to the fish. He then removed the hook from the inside of the fish’s mouth and threw the fish back into the river. A few minutes later he threw the line back into the water and returned to his lunch.

“What a great day for fishin’,” a voice said from behind him. Carton turned.

It was Miles Pelroy, the owner of the local hay and feed store.

Miles was wearing rubber waders and carrying a fishing pole and a net. He stepped out of the grove and trampled across his nest and stopped at the bank. “What kind of bait are you usin’, Carton?” Miles said.

“Just a rubber worm,” Carton said.

“You’ll never catch a fish that way,” Miles said. “You got to get right in the water and go after the fish with somethin’ alive on the hook.” He held up his pole and showed a squirming worm that was skewered on the hook. “I always catch a big one on my first try. Pan fried catfish is some darn good eatin’.”

“I don’t eat the fish I catch,” Carton said. “I catch them and release them back into the water.”

“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard,” the man said.
“Ain’t no sense catchin’ somethin’ if you don’t plan to eat it.”

Miles waded out into the water and cast his line with one hand while holding the net in readiness with the other. A few minutes later he let out a scream and began frantically smacking the water with the net.

Carton stood up and helplessly watched as Miles thrashed about, letting loose of his pole and net and was then pulled under the water. Large blood red bubbles quickly rose to the surface. A few minutes later a bloody leg covered by a shredded wader pants leg was tossed out of the water and onto the river bank.

“If only I knew how to swim,” Carton said aloud, “maybe I could have saved him.” He shrugged. “I never much liked him anyways.”

With his pole still in the water, Carton was surprised when there was a tug on the line. Grasping tightly onto the pole he started to reel it in but lost his footing and was pulled into the water. Quickly submerged, he stared, terrified, at a man-sized creature the color of mud, with long sharp fangs, and an exposed human-like brain on the top of a fish-like head. The creature wrapped its sharp claws around Carton’s forearms.

Certain he was going to die, Carton closed his eyes.

A moment later he was flung up onto the river bank a few feet from his nest.

He didn’t take the time to question why he was still alive. He sprung to his feet, gathered his things and ran to his truck and sped off.


Steve Carr, who lives in Richmond, Va., began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over 150 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. Sand, a collection of his short stories, was published recently by Clarendon House Books. His plays have been produced in several states in the U.S. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter @carrsteven960

Lost Cassandra

by Holly Hearn

Cassandra waded through her malaise to the replicator. She ordered a chai latte, refusing to admit that this would be the most interesting thing she’d experience today. And the next day, and the day after, and the day after…

Mug in her thin hands, she shuffled over to the wall to wall glass windows. Outside, a white hot, tiny star was tethered to a spiral of plasma by its own life force, circling the drain and bleeding into an unknown.

Staring stoically into the abyss, she sipped her latte. There was no soundtrack for this spectacle, save the undercurrent hum of the generators, though she’d long since gotten used to those. The power for the station came from solar panels pointed at the lone star and its parasite; eventually it would run out.

Everything ran out in the end. It had been five years since her only companion died. Suicide, blew himself out of an airlock. She tried not to blame herself, but did wonder if he’d still be here if she’d been more accommodating.

No one else would be along. The slingshot trajectory from the next nearest base passed directly through the black hole’s event horizon, making any approach impossible. It also made transmissions back home impossible. Nobody knew she was still here. Cassandra would have normally retired by now from her position as the station’s chief astrophysicist, but as it was she’d given up collecting data ages ago, and now pottered about aimlessly in a desperate attempt to drown out the ticking of her life, slipping like so many grains of sand through her grasping fingers.

Suffering the silence no longer, she put on some music to fill the air around her. It would be another day of basic maintenance on the life support systems, followed by existential poetry. Until the music faded.

“Incoming transmission.”

“Don’t be silly,” she murmured. “Any transmission heading this way would get sucked in by that damned black hole.”

“Play incoming transmission?”

Cassandra halted, brushing a silver lock behind her ear. It was exactly this sort of interruption she’d longed for, and now feared. The moments slipped past. Her heart raced.

“Play incoming transmission?”

“…oh, fine, go ahead.”

Static filled the void she preferred to plaster with music, but eventually a voice struggled through.

“Cassandra! Cassandra…”

Her heart stopped, lodged in her throat. The voice belonged to a stranger. She’d never heard it before, but they knew her.

“Cassandra, I hope you’re listening. I’ll start with the most important part, in case I get cut off: I love you. With all my heart.”

The stranger was female. Cassandra wracked her brain, but could not think of anyone who would have such a deep connection to her. She never married, never loved anything but her work.

“I’ll never give up, I’ll never stop searching. You’re my everything.”

Cassandra felt herself relax, a tension she’d barely realized unknotting itself as she warmed to the genuine feeling in the woman’s voice. She stood frozen, drink forgotten in her trembling hands. She wouldn’t risk missing a single word, the first thing said to her in five years and the first thing ever said to her that moved her.

“I know you could be anywhere in time or space, or maybe you’re everywhere in time and space. I don’t know. But I know I still feel you beside me when I sleep at night, I know you’re somewhere waiting. I love you, and I’m coming for you, Cassandra. I’m coming.”

“End of transmission.”

Cassandra’s insides were tangled, emotions she didn’t realize she had swirling and constricting her. Above the din rose hope. Someone was looking for her. Someone who would devote their life to finding her. A shaking hand released its grip on the mug to reach up and brush away the foreign object that escaped from her eye and raced down her cheek.

“Computer,” she whispered. “where did this transmission come from?”

“Origin unknown.”

“At what point did you detect the transmission?”

“Within one astronomic unit.”

“What? There’s nothing that close by…”

Her eyes drifted to the window, watching the molten spiral spinning lethargically as it sucked the life from the nearby star. The appearance of the black hole had cut them off from any supplies or chance of returning home, but had also opened up the possibility of jumping across time and space. Several expeditions had departed for the singularity in the name of why not, she remained behind…just in case.

What if something finally escaped?

Cassandra spent the rest of the day playing the transmission over and over again. She fell in love with the voice, heart full of hope and head full of ideas about who this person could be. Each day she listened to the transmission. Each day could now be the day she was found.


Holly Hearn is a multi-genre fiction writer and budding poet. Her favourite genres are horror and sci-fi, and she enjoys writing flash fiction. She is also the founder of Itchen to Write, a group for Hampshire, UK writers. Follow her on Twitter @hearningcurve and read more of her work, including her book reviews, at ashandfeather.com

Side Effects May Occur

by KS Avard

Jensen had barely gotten his pants back on when she returned, a thick sheaf of papers in her hands. “Well, I have good news for you, Mr. Howard! I think we can resolve a few of your symptoms.”

Jensen felt his breath leave in an explosive gasp of relief. For weeks he had been suffering from the severest paranoia, barely able to sleep, eat, or breathe knowing that someone was out to get him.

He had noticed the cars following him, the parade of new faces that watched his every move while they pretended to go about their own faked routines. “So you can give me something for my insomnia? And my indigestion? And my involuntary asphyxia?” He waited for her nod. “What the hell are you waiting for then?” he cried.

“Well, it’s an experimental procedure and cannot be reversed if you don’t like the result.” said his doctor. “There is evidence that it’s occasionally toxic,” she replied, chewing her lip. “In fact, there are a whole list of possible side effects.”

“I don’t care!” he bellowed. “I just want to sleep!”

His doctor smiled angelically. “Well, I think we can manage that. I will need you to sign this form here and then turn around so I can administer the shot.”

Jensen scribbled his name furiously on the sheet filled with legalese, not reading the fine print but knowing that, at last, he would finally be able to sleep. “That it?” he asked, smiling in relief as she, too, smiled nodded again. “Now the injection?” he asked.

“Yes, sir! Just turn around and I’ll handle the rest.” He began to unbuckle his pants again, his hands fumbling with the zipper when she cooed, “That won’t be necessary.”

“No?” he asked. Turning to face the wall, he heard a drawer slide open, a click or two as the doctor prepared the needle for his injection. Finally able to begin to relax, he examined the wall, for the first time seeing the most peculiar flecks of red among the whiteness of the wallpaper. A lump formed in his throat as he felt a most un-needle-like sensation. “Exactly what’s in this shot?” he asked, wincing as deathly-cold metal was pressed to the nape of his neck. “Acepromazine? Droperidol?”

She chuckled, the sound hideous and ugly. “No, Mr. Howard,” she said, pulling the trigger.

“Just a little bit of lead.”


An aficionado of the anachronistic, a baron of the bizarre, KS Avard first studied
politics at Rutgers University before discovering the tenets of morality and upright living. From there, he pursued higher education before realizing that his way with words was worth way more than a simple wending of his way through life. Though he has yet to find mass media publishing representation, he scribbles and writes day in and out, new tales delivered daily sometimes, weekly on others, a backpack of books and filled notebooks his company at cafes and coffeehouses. Follow him on Twitter @KS_Avard

The Pilot

by Damon M. Garn

Jeryd climbed into the Captain’s seat for the first time.

“Aren’t you just the man,” Flinn said, admiring Jeryd’s newest medal. “Imperium Order of Loyalty.”

“That’s me,” confirmed Jeryd to his co-pilot. “Brave and loyal.” Loyalty came naturally to those serving the Sovereign family directly.

“Or a buttkisser,” said Flinn.

“Just start pre-flight. Her Highness will be here shortly.”

Outside Jeryd’s viewport, the shuttle’s crew chief waved for his attention and pointed toward the engines. With his right hand he flashed Jeryd the rebel signal for a meeting.

“Chief wants me outside,” he grumbled. “Keep working through the checklist.”

“Will do, boss.”

“That’s Captain to you, Flinn.”

“Will do, Captain boss.”

Jeryd laughed and left the shuttle. The two pilots weren’t friends but had already flown a few missions together. The starship had FTL engines and comfortable living spaces for the Sovereign Princess as she traveled among the planets on her father’s business.

Jeryd met the chief near the engines.

“Yes, Chief?” They kept the conversation as normal as possible, minimizing any chance they might be exposed.

“Just checking to ensure the flight is a go.”

It was natural that the chief would ask about Jeryd’s mission but his real question was whether Jeryd would complete the rebel mission to assassinate the Sovereign Princess.

“Yes,” Jeryd assured his most trusted rebel contact. “It will go as planned.”

“Good luck, my friend.” The rebellion had already provided Jeryd with a full identity change. He’d never see the Chief again.

“You too, Chief.” Jeryd leaned forward and whispered the rebel motto. “Freedom Forever.”

Jeryd had been recruited to the rebellion seven years ago as a young Imperium pilot. His skill had brought him to the High Command’s attention, just as the rebels had hoped. He now had his first command. He’d been allowed to bring his crew chief with him to manage the shuttle.

It was ironic that he’d been given the Princess’s assassination orders at the celebration for his induction to the Imperium Order of Loyalty. He cooly considered the intelligence win it would be for the Imperium for a pilot to expose a rebel assassination attempt. Jeryd could envision the accolades that would come his way.

Jeryd returned to the shuttle. He was both a trusted Imperium officer and a heretical rebel. And to think he was actually living three lives.

Flinn reported the pre-flight checklist was complete and they could depart whenever the Sovereign Princess arrived just as two Imperium Guards moved up the ramp and took their positions. Two more watched everyone suspiciously at the bottom of the ramp.

Minutes later, the Princess’s entourage arrived. She was talking to Consul Teland, her most trusted advisor. More guards and servants followed.

The Consul nodded to Jeryd, acknowledging the shuttle captain. The Sovereign Princess, of course, did not look at him. A mere pilot was not worth her attention.

That will soon change.

Once everyone was on board, Jeryd returned to the cockpit and strapped in.

“Did the Princess notice your shiny new medal?” asked Flinn.

“Of course not. Her Highness has other things on her mind.”

“Still, it would be nice if she’d bat her eyes at us sometimes,” Flinn muttered.

“Watch your tone, Lieutenant! She’s a member of the Sovereign family and due our respect and loyalty.”

“All right, all right. Just sayin’.”

The radio squawked. “We are ready to depart, Captain,” the Guard Commander reported.

“Acknowledged,” Jeryd replied.

Her eyes really are beautiful.

The FTL engines took them far from of the Core Planets and the Imperium Fleet. Jeryd glanced at the chronometer.

Five minutes until I change the galaxy, he thought coldly.

When his chronometer finally chirped, Jeryd moved. Pretending to stretch, he jabbed down hard into Flinn’s neck with the syringe he’d secreted in his flight suit. He gently but firmly held his hand over the co-pilot’s mouth and made himself watch Flinn as he died. Flinn’s eyes searched his, asking why, then flashing hatred as he realized Jeryd must be a rebel, then finally, fear.

Your death is worth it to me, Flinn.

Jeryd entered the commands the crew chief had loaded into the life support computer, releasing poisonous gas into the ship’s atmosphere. He disabled all lights then snapped a breather over his face.

Did it occur to the chief that sabotaging my mask would leave no witnesses to the assassination? He tried not to think about it.

After giving the gas time to work, he drew his laser and unlocked the cockpit door. The gas was already being removed by the atmospheric scrubbers. Moving into the living quarters, he began to find the bodies. Three guards were dead in the galley. The Commander’s body slumped near the door to the Sovereign Princess’s private room. The other guards and servants were sprawled over a table.

The Princess’s door snapped open, cracking the silence.

“Computer, lights,” the Princess ordered. The room’s lights illuminated the death Jeryd had indifferently wrought. She held a laser pistol in one hand and removed the breather that had protected her from the gas with the other. She looked at the dead bodies before staring hard at Jeryd for a long moment. Her eyes drifted to the medal he’d been given for his loyalty.

“Somehow, that medal doesn’t seem appropriate now,” she said ironically.

He tore the medal from his uniform and threw it down.

The Princess raised her pistol until it was level with Jeryd’s head. They never took their eyes off each other, looking across the immense chasm between Sovereign Princess and shuttle captain.

Without a word, she ruthlessly squeezed the trigger.

The blast sizzled passed Jeryd’s ear and burned a hole through Consul Teland’s forehead as he stepped behind Jeryd with a laser in his hand. She pitilessly watched his body collapse before meeting Jeryd’s eyes again.

They rushed together, kissing deeply for the first time in weeks.

“We’re finally alone,” she said pulling at him with psychotic passion.

“Yes,” he hissed, kissing her violently. “Free.”


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 dmgwrites.wordpress.com