The Visitors

by Dustin Pellegrini

The visitors came dressed for darkness.

Alfred watched from his bedroom window as they shuffled up the drive. If the moon hadn’t been so clouded over, he’d have sworn they were shadows.

Alfred and his mother lived alone out in the country, their nearest neighbors only swamps and trees. Their last visitor, the Dr., left only a few days before and they weren’t expecting anyone else. Yet here they came all the same.

They were getting closer.

Alfred saw now that each of them carried something, swung it as they walked. He picked out the head of a hammer, bigger than his own. The point of a pick, ragged from dirt and rocks. And there, in the faintest shard of moonlight, the glint of a shovel’s face.

He got up onto his step stool to follow them through the window. They were only a few steps from the front door now, he had to warn his mother.

DOCK

DOCK

Alfred pictured the shovel banging against the door. Could they pry it open?

DOCK

DOCK

He ran to his bedroom door, ready to shout for his mother, don’t let them in.

DOCK

DO-

Too late.

His mother let out a cry, wailing like he had never heard. He braced himself against his door, slowed his breath.

What could he do? There was no one to help, no one to call. Alfred slipped to the floor, tried to come up with a plan.

With his ear to the wood, he heard the tools crash downstairs. He heard the hammer drive nails that must have been longer than his fingers. Outside, he heard the pick and the shovel bite into fresh earth. And between every swing, his mother cried out with fresh howls of pain.

Seconds.

Minutes.

Alfred chewed through his lip and tried to shut out the sounds as his mother’s sobs grew weak.

When he could take no more, he ripped the door open and flung himself down the stairs, his eyes shut at the terror of finding his mother in pain.

The house was empty, but the front door stood open.

Alfred hurried outside and there his mother stood. There they all stood, forming a circle in the yard. The tools lay quiet on the grass and his mother shook as one of the visitors spoke under his breath.

Alfred approached, took his place next to his mother, and saw her pain.

There, in the fresh wooden box, in a freshly dug hole, he saw himself. His arms crossed, his eyes closed. Alfred watched his mother pass one last kiss from her lips to his, then took her hand as the men shut up the box and reached for their tools.


Dustin Pellegrini is a writer living in Chicago. He studied Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, has had his work read at Chicago’s Story Week Festival and currently works at a nonprofit. You can find more of his writing at dustinpellegrini.com

The Woods at Night

by Heather Adams

Oh – how terrible the woods at night!
How uneven the quality of the light
Where shapes are formed, and shadows grow –
The strange hearts of which soon beat, and glow.
How deep and rough the texture of that wood
To throw up forms where none, before, had stood.

Such creeping madness, a dark blue terror,
Near or far, what does it matter?
All who linger will know the dread
Of a wasted trail in sunlight tread.

For though these woods, you think, are tame,
You hear a hunter’s footsteps just the same.
And in those dusky moments when the day has gone –
And yet in ghostly echoes lingers on –
Each footstep’s fall is death’s hello:
Oh yes, you know that this is so.

The crickets’ call, the rodents’ scurry:
All tell you – yes – oh please – to hurry.
The owl’s harsh cry: a warning blow
That some strange beast no one should know
Is quickly closing in – it’s true –
Is even now, perhaps, behind you.

For when true night walks in, and deepens,
The gloam woods’ sounds may be mistaken
For whispers, calls, both shy and sudden
And danger lurks, at once, unbidden.

No soft blue from the full moon’s ray
Can hope to keep the wild at bay.
Now a world of shadow thrives,
And only the luckiest survives
That array of light, perceived with dread,
That reveals a night both black and red.


Heather Adams is a storyteller living in the admittedly sometimes creepy woods of central Pennsylvania.

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.

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

The Clearing

by G. R. McNeese

Darrius abhorred spring cleaning, despite the fact his dorm room was the most immaculate. It was more of the fact that during his Spring Break, his mother Ava set up an entire weekend to cleaning the house. This year, she gave him the task of cleaning the basement. Of all the rooms, Darrius hated the basement the most. He complained that it always smelled like someone died. Despite his grumbling, Ava smiled and handed him the cleaning tools. He marched downstairs, hiding the disdain on his face.

“Well,” said Darrius, “let’s get this over with.”

He turned on the lights and immediately went to the radio sitting on the window sill. He twisted the knob, searching for the station that was broadcasting the basketball tournament. It came out a little fuzzy, but was satisfactory for him. Dust rose from the linoleum floor as he swept. It entered his mouth and he coughed as though he swallowed a fly. He swept the dirt into the dustpan and deposited it into the trash can.

This went on for an hour. The basement was so muggy from the lights giving off heat. Even with the handkerchief wrapped around his head, Darrius wiped his forehead on multiple occasions. Ava came downstairs, admiring her son’s hard work. She carried a stack of boxes to the workbench. She then pulled totes from underneath the bench.

“Mind helping me with this stuff?”

Darrius released the broom and slid each of the totes away. He then noticed something he hadn’t before. A small wood door with a latch.

“Mom, what’s this?”

Ava kneeled down underneath the bench. They looked at each other clueless. Darrius grabbed a flashlight and opened the door. A strong stench overtook their noses. Darrius gagged.

“I think this is where the smell is coming from.”

He entered the crawl space. He waved his flashlight, but all that was there was mounds of insulation. He crawled further until he felt something soft. He backtracked and shined the light. He sifted through the mounds of fluff and became amazed at what was buried.
“Darrius, what’s in there?” Ava asked.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

Darrius pulled himself out with a black bag in tow.

“There’s our culprit.”

He slung the bag onto the open floor. They untied the bag and gasped in shock. The bag was full of decayed kittens. Ava covered her mouth and tears started to run down her cheeks. Ava ran up the stairs. Darrius turned off the radio just as the announcer reported the biggest upset of the first round; the Wildcats lost.


G. R. McNeese started writing in eighth grade. He originally went to college pursuing a teaching degree, but changed it to English with a Creative Writing concentration. He primarily writes Contemporary short stories, but lately he’s been trying new genres.