A Beautiful Flower

by Lionel Ray Green

Lily grabs Dexter’s groping right hand and twists it back until his wrist snaps like a dry twig.

“I am a lady, and I will be treated as one,” Lily says over Dexter’s stunned scream.
With tears streaming down his face, Dexter drops to his knees, gingerly holding the broken wrist to his chest.

“Lily … fl-fl-flower,” Dexter stutters through sobbing lips.

Lily wraps her hand around Dexter’s neck, picks him up under the chin, and tosses him over the couch where he smashes into a wall and drops facedown to the floor.

A framed black and white photograph of a naked woman in chains falls off an end table and lands on top of him.

Dexter tries to shake the cobwebs from his brain as the pain of his wrist sears through his cortex.

Lily stands over him.

“I am a lady, and I will be treated as one,” Lily repeats.

“Lily …beautiful … fl-flower,” Dexter mumbles again as he awkwardly pushes himself to his knees.

Lily punches Dexter square in the face, shattering the bridge of his nose and upper lip in an explosion of blood and mucus. He swallows at least one tooth.

Dexter crawls like a turtle with three legs toward the jacket hanging on the chair at his computer desk. He likes to play rough, but this is insane.

“Please,” Dexter begs.

Lily calmly steps toward Dexter.

“Lily is a beautiful flower,” Dexter blurts the barely comprehensible words through swollen and bloody lips.

Lily pauses and tilts her head to the right as if processing Dexter’s words. A wisp of smoke escapes from her left ear and dissipates in the air above her head.

“Thank you for your business,” Lily says.

Lily then walks to the front door, opens it, and exits without another word.

Dexter rolls on his back and thanks his god that the safe phrase worked.

Dexter reaches for the smartphone in his jacket pocket and slowly taps numbers after the vocal recognition application fails to discern his blubbering like Lily did.

The phone on the other end rings once before a friendly female voice answers.

“Robomance Escorts. How may I help you?”

Dexter spits out a tooth and says, “I want a refund.”


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His work has appeared in eleven anthologies and two magazines, including Alabama’s Emerging Writers; The Heart of a Devil; and In Creeps the Night. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose. Visit lionelraygreen.com to check out his blog.

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