A Ring for Lilly by Kimberly Bingheim

Kimberly Bingheim

A Ring for Lilly

His stomach turned, his knees were weak, as he moved closer to the front door. He began to think about her smile and the scent of her hair. His fingers wrapped around the metal handle and he pulled open the heavy door. This is it, he thought as he walked inside.
“Hi, how can I help you, young man?”
The woman standing behind the glass display gave a small grin with her crimson lips. Her hair was grey with streaks of white and pulled back into a smooth French twist. She wore a light blue pant suit with a silk blouse. Three separate bracelets adorned each wrist, matched to the multitude of gold diamond rings decorating her beautifully manicured fingers.
“I’m here to buy a ring. An engagement ring,” he said, his voice shaking. He could hardly believe the words were coming out of his own mouth.
“Oh, that’s wonderful. My name is Linda and I’ll be helping you out today,” she said as she held out her hand for him to shake. Her fingers were cold and clammy.
“How long have you known the lucky lady?”
“Two years.”
“How nice.”
She smiled, this time large enough to expose smudged lipstick that had somehow made its way onto her two front teeth.
“The engagement rings are right down here.”
The mass quantities of jewelry clinked together as she pointed towards a display to her far left.
As he walked towards the display he felt his heart beating again.
“What’s your girlfriend like?”
He thought for a moment, his mind began racing through every detail. Her hair smooth, black and wavy, bounced over her soft round shoulders. It reminded him of ocean waves moving over the smooth beige sand of a beach. He thought about his favorite day of the week, Sunday, when they would lie in bed the whole morning. She was usually dressed in nothing more than small pink bikini cut underwear and a tiny tank top. Her smile made her even more stunning as she rolled around in the sheets, laughing intensely at all his stupid jokes. He thought of her kiss, slow, soft, sensual, capped off with the faint taste of mango lingering on her tongue.
Not being able to explain his thoughts to Linda, he simply told her, “She loves to laugh and she loves the beach.”
“Okay, what about this one here?” Linda pulled out a modest diamond atop a smooth white gold band.
Taking the ring, he examined it. It was lovely, but he knew he could do better.
“Hmm…” He looked down at the collection of rings meticulously scanning every detail. Then he saw it.
“What about that one there?”
Linda slowly pulled out the ring and sat it on the glass. It was white gold with a large princess cut diamond. A row of diamonds moving from large to small lined each side.
“How much is it?” He was scared of the answer, but knew no matter what the price Lilly deserved more.
“The engagement ring alone is thirty-five hundred dollars.”
Twenty minutes later he left the store with a small white box, along with three thousand five hundred dollars of debt. Getting into his car, he let out a deep breath and smiled.
When his car turned onto his street, he saw Lilly’s green Nissan parked outside of the small two story townhouse they shared. He slowly made his way to the front door. His nerves began to set in, and he paused for a moment. His pulse was racing, his breathing labored.
Taking the ring out, he looked at it once more, scrutinizing every feature. It appeared perfect, but upon closer examination he noticed a smear on the underside of the ring. Using his t-shirt, he promptly wiped away the imperfection.
“Perfect,” he said replacing the ring in its box, and slowly slid it into his pocket.
You can do this, just act normal, he told himself. He peered inside the small window on the top of the door, but saw nothing. After opening the door, the sound of music trickling down from the second floor struck him instantly. Wanting to catch his Lilly dancing in front of the mirror, one of her favorite mid-morning rituals, he darted up the stairs.
The door was open a crack. Trying not to disturb her mid-dance, he silently moved towards the room while peering inside. That’s when he saw her. She was not dancing; on the contrary, she was lying on the bed stomach down, every part of her perfect beige skin exposed to the air. A cigarette lay between her lips. He moved his hand to open the door, but in that moment he heard a voice. His hand stopped short. The voice had come from inside the room.
“Thanks, babe,” he heard a man say from the other side of the door.
Feeling the anger rising through his core, he used every ounce of will he had to hold back from storming the room. His hand moved over top of his pant pocket, clutching the box inside.
The man on the other side of the door was wearing a pair of untied blue and white shorts. Moving into sight, the man walked to the bed and slapped Lilly’s soft, round behind. Her shoulders shrugged, her mouth formed a smile and she began to laugh.
Wiping his tears, he turned abruptly, and made his way down the stairs. As his stomach was sinking, his soul became flat, and his world empty. He set the white box on the table next to a little glass bowl containing left-over shriveled mango peels, and walked out the door.

Bandaids Fix Everything by Sarah McCullough

Sarah McCullough

Bandaids Fix Everything

Mommy seems sad today. She didn’t make my favorite waffles this morning. She just helped me get a bowl of Froot Loops and she forgot to pack my lunch box for school. She didn’t even blow me a kiss when I got on the bus. I was wishing all day that she would be happy again when I came back, but she was still sad. I gave her a hug and a kiss when she got me off the bus, but she was still sad. She didn’t ask how my day at school went, like she always does. I even helped her make dinner today, but she is still sad now. I am hoping that when Daddy gets back he can help Mommy feel happy again, because I don’t know how, but I know Daddy knows how.

Me and Mommy are just watching TV now. It’s six o’clock, so that means SpongeBob is about to come on. I like SpongeBob the best. I want to cuddle with Mommy, but she is not doing a very good job today. She is staring at her feet.

I hear the door open, so I run to Daddy and tell him hi. He is more happy than Mommy. He picks me up and gives me a big hug and asks me what I did today in school. I tell him, and then I whisper that Mommy is not in a good mood. I ask him if he can cheer her up because I can’t, and I just want to cuddle with her when we watch SpongeBob. He says he will try his hardest. I love Daddy.

I go back to sit on the couch again with Mommy. I love her too, that’s why I want Daddy to help her. I hop up onto the couch with her and I see that she is crying now. I wish she would not cry; she is starting to make me sad now. I ask Mommy what is wrong, but she says that she is okay. I know she is lying to me. She told me before that lying is bad, so I say, “Lying is bad, Mommy.” That makes her cry even harder. I tell her I’m sorry for making her cry and give her a big kiss on the cheek.

Daddy comes into the living room to help. He tells Mommy to stop crying in front of me. Mommy says that she wouldn’t be crying if Daddy didn’t cheat on her. They sound like they are going to fight. That shouldn’t happen. I wanted Daddy to make it better for Mommy. Why would he cheat, cheating is bad. They tell me that if I’m going to cheat when we play Candyland that we are not going to play Candyland anymore.

I don’t like it when Mommy and Daddy yell at each other. Sometimes I can hear them all the way from another room. I really don’t like it when they yell at each other in the same room as me, because it’s scary. Daddy uses the bad words. They are making me want to cry now. They are so loud. Daddy is just making it worse. Mommy can’t stop crying now. If Daddy can’t help Mommy feel happy again, no one can help. I am crying now, because no one can help Mommy feel better.

Mommy tells Daddy to stop fighting because he is making me cry now. Daddy tells Mommy that I wouldn’t be crying if she didn’t start. Mommy tells Daddy about his cheating again. Why did he have to cheat? He told me winning is not that important. He said that nobody likes to play with a cheater. How come he didn’t follow his rule?

Daddy is very angry that I am crying too. He grabs me and tells me to shut up. It hurts my feelings when he says shut up. I tell him that I’m sorry that I’m crying, I just can’t help it. He says that I better stop soon or he is going to be mad. But I thought he was already mad! He walks out into the kitchen, so I crawl into Mommy’s lap and ask her why is he being mean today. She says that he has done a terrible thing, and he is scared that he can’t live here anymore. Why would Daddy leave? They never kicked me out when I cheated at Candyland. Maybe Daddy cheated on a test, that’s the worst kind of cheating.

Daddy comes back into the living room and he is holding something. I think it is a gun. I learned about them from the policemen at school. I didn’t know Daddy was a policeman. I thought he worked in an office with a computer. Mommy tells Daddy to put the gun down. I am right, it’s a gun. Daddy points the gun at me and Mommy now. That’s not nice, the police are supposed to point guns at the bad guys. Me and Mommy are good guys. Mommy is begging for Daddy to put the gun down. I want him to do that too. Daddy says that he loves Caroline. Who is that? Mommy is still begging and then Daddy makes a loud bang with the policeman gun. Mommy is bleeding now. I have to go get her a bandaid.

The Scale by Rebecca Perkins

Rebecca Perkins

The Scale

The silence of your presence and the stillness of calm whisper to your dreams, asking of your presence in another vapid day. Clenched fists rub sleep’s remnants from your eyes while you stagger from the safety of warmth and heavy coverings. You recoil at the cold bathroom tile that touches your skin and make your way to the being of what will determine—worthless or worthy. Eyes averted from the mirror, your shaking hands grip the smoothness of the sink’s outer realm. Exhale, and step slowly into the judging of your essence. The numbers flicker back and forth, inching up and down, up, down, then finally down. You tremble, then finally open your eyes and stare at the garish red numbers displaying your fate – will you eat today or not? Despite its decline from yesterday, it is not enough. Your heart sinks, tears slip from tearing eyes, and you know deep down that it will never be.

That Old Oak Tree by Sheri Pryor

Sheri Pryor

That Old Oak Tree

Sitting underneath the oak tree on the swing, I look back to see you coming. I smile, and turn back around. I start kicking my legs, and looking down at them waiting for that sudden burst of energy into the air. Before I feel that touch of air under my feet, I feel an embrace of warmth and kindness from behind me, and it was you. You hug me around my waist and rest your head on my shoulder. I rest my head against yours and kiss it once. Afterwards, I feel that gust of wind, that burst of energy into the sky from my back. I’m one with the dusk of the evening, the sunset on the horizon hidden past the trees, and one with you at my side. The sun is finally going to rest while the moon awakes. I want to reach past the skyline, past the moon, past the stars. I realize I don’t need to expand, I have an unexplored universe, my desired future with you. I finally start to feel the decrease in the cool air hitting my legs, and I feel the tickle of grass on my feet with the glowing fireflies on the ground hidden from the world. You come to my side once I stop, and grab my hand. Hand in hand, we run into the endless country field of tall grass until we stop at a small tree. By now, it is already night, so the stars are shining bright as the moon watches over them. I walk to the small tree to see a blanket set up with sodas laying at the foot of the tree. I stop and look at it; a surge of warm happiness fills me. I smile and turn to you; you just give me a smile. You turn to me to say, “Surprise.” We hug and kiss as we lie there under the tree and watch the endless twilight sparkle.

World Tree by Kevin Hoover

Kevin Hoover

World Tree



The boy watched as Grandfather stoked the fire-pit dreamily, his old age and wisdom a wonder among men. He knew the wrinkled man was calling deep upon memory, preparing one of his many stories for telling. The boy waited impatiently, letting his gaze drift behind Grandfather, back and back, past the plains of cherried-wheat, beyond grey hills and shadowed ranges of snow-capped mountains. There imposing upon the pink dusk of the sky and leagues higher than the other mountaintops, rose the Great Mountain. The single, conical behemoth, though faded by distance, filled the majestic vista of the boy’s world, and his eyes went captive to it. The mountain’s colossal heights were veiled in eternal clouds, forever hidden. What the summit must look like, the boy could only wonder. None had ever known.

“Your face is fixed upon Ceivva, I see…” whispered Grandfather. “As it has always been, by all men.”

The boy continued to stare at the mountain. “Isn’t it beautiful, Grandfather?”

“That it is, child. That it is…” the old man’s voice sang softly, like hushed secrets. “And what would you ask it, boy, if it could answer you?” He continued to poke at the embers under the fire.

“What lies beyond the clouds, at its peak…”

And here a hint of a smile turned the corner of the old man’s lips. “Ahh,” returned Grandfather. “Then I shall tell you, for the mountain cannot.”

The boy looked to his Grandfather with astonishment. “You know?”

“I do at that, for despite what folk now say, men of ages past-many, many great ages past and nigh-forgotten, came down from its heights. They were our ancestors.”

“Tell me! Is it true Grandfather?” The boy sat across from him, eyes wide with the magic of possibility, the crackling fire spitting between them, and the Great Mountain beyond.

“Indeed,” said Grandfather, “And remember this most of all, boy. They were not so unlike us!” and his voice bespoke the truth of it. “It has been said that Ceivva has no summit, at least, not one that can be reached. But this is only partially true. It is also believed that the Great Mountain is our connection to the heavens. Do you know what ‘Ceivva’ means?  Hmm?”

The boy found it curious to think on the question, and realized that he did not.

Grandfather continued, and he carried his story in wisped, reverent tones…

* * *

…Though it is a mountain, ‘Ceivva’ means ‘World Tree.’ It has always carried this name, in our ancient times and in the times before time. As it is with you, boy, the first people of this world cast their adorning gaze upon the Great Mountain, and were captivated by its mysteries. Soon our every ancestor set their desires upon learning the secrets of Ceivva. It became their sole purpose—and a curse.

Every advancement, every progression, every momentous step of ancient man’s evolution through history, every lunge toward civilization was centered upon the Great Mountain. The fathers and mothers of our arcane heritage became obsessed by reaching its summit. Every piece of history now lost to us, good and bad, played out with that common goal in mind. Wars broke out among the fractured tribes as they claimed the vast slopes of the mountain as their own; still they climbed higher. Dangerous expeditions into its freezing heights were waged, all for the honor of being first to reach the top. Men and women died by the thousands along its unforgiving faces. Still, they looked upward toward Ceivva’s elusive summit.

Soon, delayed by the mountain’s unyielding rigors, attentions among men went to the design and building of many great and wondrous things, inventions beyond our understanding today. They used these creations at first to keep each other from scaling higher than themselves. But they soon found they could master the skies with their intellect, and were free to roam the winds like great birds.

Eventually, aided by the power of flight, they reached the very top of the mountain. What was found there was a curious thing, as enigmatic as the mountain itself. Upon the summit, a great tree grew forth, leagues upon leagues in circumference. Here then, was some truth to the Great Mountain’s name, Ceivva- The World Tree. How this coincidence might have occurred baffled our ancestors, but it brought forth, for a time, an era of peace and unison among them, for surely there was some divine work now in play. There was little doubt they were fated to reach the summit, and to ascend the Great Tree toward the heavens.

And so, with wheated-plains, lush forests, and grey hills of their origins long behind them, these first people pushed ever upward, seeking out their destiny. The air grew thin, and thin, and thinner still. Nevertheless, they continued to launch daring campaigns of exploration, climbing up the gargantuan surface of Ceivva, for they had surpassed the heights whose winds afforded them the gift of flight. Such heights had these people reach that the invisible force that holds us tight to the bosom of the world was less and less, until the only force still upon them held them to the tree itself. Looking back now, they saw the world for what it was and what it had always been—a perfect sphere. They began to think of Ceivva not as ‘ascending’ atop the world, but rather as ‘growing outward’ from it, reaching into the expanses of the starry beyond.

And here there was a great split among the first people, for so strange and foreign was this existence that many gave up their eons-birthright, letting go the quest to seek Ceivva’s ultimate end. Those many ancestors turned around, wanting the memories of the past, which told stories of fertile lands, rivers and forests, and fields of red-amber wheat, of kingdoms of animals now long forgotten. And so they returned to the firm stretches of the soiled world, and became  known as ‘The Grounded.’  Yet, many more committed themselves to their lust for discovery. They chose to continue venturing outward along Ceivva, always wondering at its extent what lies but a little farther, and so they became known as ‘The Seekers.’  They believed, in all their hearts, the legends that Ceivva would one day link them directly to the Divine.

The path of The Seekers was at first difficult, bereft of the fruits and substances afforded to The Grounded, but Ceivva’s skin yielded the way onward. Soon, her bark of vast valleys and dense foliage became ecosystems unto themselves. Through great toil and a plentiful life provided by this newfound paradise, the achievements of The Seekers eventually surpassed anything The Grounded had hoped to reach. Finally, The Seekers had mastered the flight of the heavens themselves, thus the meter to which their exploration along World Tree progressed had increased a hundred fold, and colonies by countless dozens sprung up ever outward.

The connections and conversing between The Seekers and The Grounded became less frequent and less still. That dialogue, which did reach The Seekers, spoke tales of hunger and strife among their old brethren. The sprawling eras of time bestowed upon The Grounded alternated between curses of disease, war, and famine. Word came of the desperate pleas for aid by The Grounded, begging The Seekers to share their good fortune with them. But The Seekers thought on their ancient kin as an arrogant, backward and foolish people. Sadly, they turned their backs on them, and looked instead toward the ends of Ceivva.

Resolved in leaving the ill fortunes of their cousins behind them, they advanced their designs of an idyllic life yet farther along Ceivva’s incalculable reaches. And idyllic their life was, for eons it would seem. They lived out their lives, each generation, like gods. But despite all this blessing, and all their relentless exploration, they lacked the one thing, which had always eluded them. Outward again, and again, and again, desperately trying to fill their need to know, to fathom where Ceivva might lead them, but she was unwilling to yield this to the minds of men, for men they still were, and soon paradise became a fleeting thing. They had progressed so far away from the world, and here along the infinite regions of World Tree, she began to bare fewer and fewer bountiful areas. The Seekers would push past an immense expanse of deadness, only to reach a quaint vale of struggling life; past countless leagues of inhospitable tree-land, only to find a pitiful spattering of near-dead life.

Whole colonies were lost to these dying regions. Likewise, the once fruitful settlements, which had come before them, were also in loss of their providence. A slow, withering impotence began to overtake the surface of the Great Tree, and the loss of life among The Seekers became an aberration of horrors.

Eventually, at such peril were The Seekers in, they made the unthinkable decision to turn back. So back they went, and back and back, clamoring down Ceivva’s colossal trunk, hoping to gain the firmament of the once-forgotten world beneath their feet before the last of them died out. They would rejoin their kin, and trade with them their secrets of knowledge in exchange for home and sustenance.

Finally, with so very few of them left, they reached again the land of their distant origins. Now, descending the slopes of the Great Mountain and passing through the barrier of constant clouds, they looked down upon the world, and what they saw caused a great sadness among them. Our ancient ancestors saw, at long last, the sums of their past. Or, perhaps, it was the future they glimpsed, and the sight of it nearly stole away their will to live… 

* * *

And here, Grandfather’s eyes glazed over, the light of the fire danced across his face, and a few stray tears went unchecked down his leathered cheeks.

“What did they see?” asked the boy. Grandfather sat, stalwart among his thoughts, his gaze lost upon the flames between them. He said nothing. For a long while, it seemed, the boy waited for more, but curiosity and impatience won out. He went around to the other side of the fire-pit, knelt before his Grandfather, and reached for his hand. “Grandfather, is that it?  Is that the end of the story?”

The old storyteller blinked through his tears, as if coming out of a long sleep, and turned to look at his grandson. Trapped in his thoughts, he realized the boy had asked him a question. His eyes asked the boy to repeat it.

“Is that the end of the story?”

Grandfather shook his head slowly. “Oh no…  Not the end,” he managed at barely a whisper. “Not the end at all.”

“Well, what did they see, beneath the clouds?” the boy asked.

Grandfather moved a hand up to rest it on the boy’s shoulder, and caught his eyes with his own. “The land was neglected. No—not neglected… Devastated! The land was devastated! The Seekers knew, without ever having seen the world for themselves that what lie before them was a vile, horrid rape and mutilation of the land. Hardly a tree remained standing upon the scorched surface. The fabled plains of cherried-wheat were gone. The grey hills were black and ravaged. The snow-capped mountains had lost their snow, standing bare like solemn witnesses. It was an unnatural plight, and they understood then that the wars and desperation of their once-brethren people had brought the soils of the world to the brink of death, and so too had caused the dying of Ceivva.

“But the great sadness and burden that our ancient ancestors, The Seekers, would forever onward carry with them is their part in it—their share of the blame, for they too caused the death of Ceivva. And their kin. And nearly the whole of the world. They who thought themselves like gods, and turned their back on The Grounded, leaving them to work with what was now seen before them.”

The boy and Grandfather remained silent for a time, locked in their thoughts and buried in their emotions.

Finally the boy spoke, “What did they do, The Seekers?”

Grandfather blinked back his slow, impending tears. “From thence… thence came a time of great struggle, and great hardship, when our ancient ancestors were forced to turn all their attentions to the re-nurturing of the world—to rekindle what had once been forgotten.” 

The boy looked on the landscape around them. His gaze pierced the evening shadows, swept across the hills and the wheat swaying slowly in the wind.

“Yes,” continued the old man. “After a time, a long time, they succeeded. In doing so, they lost much of the knowledge they had once gained, but they succeeded.

“Now it is time to return home I think, and to bed. I am growing very tired.”  Grandfather stood up, slowly, as old age would permit him, and began to make his way from the fire-pit, Ceivva fading in the twilight behind him.

The boy took one last glance at the snow-capped mountain ranges, and The Great Mountain rising above them all, then turned to help his Grandfather.

The old man yawned, then spoke again, as if in afterthought to all he’d said tonight. “Tomorrow, boy… tomorrow, you will tell me the story I have told you today.”

Trolls Are Hot by Chris George

Chris George

Trolls Are Hot

I knew he was the one the moment I laid eyes on him. I loved his silky hair, his chiseled abs, his big, soulful eyes, and his velvet toned voice. He sat alone at the lunch table across from me in school. I just had to talk to him.

“Hi!” I said.

“Hey,” he replied.

“My name’s Megan, and…and…ohmigosh I think you’re really cute.”

“Oh. My name’s Alvin. Alvin E’hoar.”

“I like your name! Is it Irish?”

“No, it’s Troll.”

I just couldn’t believe what this dreamboat was saying. “Troll?”

“Yes, I’m a troll. My whole family is.”

“You are not! You’re so silly Alvin!” I giggled at him and left.

“I’m being serious!” Alvin told me as I left.

Later that day, as I was walking home from school, I noticed something strange. Under the interstate overpass I go by every day, I saw furniture. Brand new sofas, a flat screen TV, bureaus, a dining table, beds, even a bathtub. It looked like a house, except everything happened to be outside. As I approached this curious place, I saw You-Know-Who again.

“Megan, is it? I told you I wasn’t lying. This is where my family lives.”

“Alvin, my boy, who’s your friend?” his father asked. “Come over here and introduce her to me. We’re just about to sit down for dinner.”

Alvin took me over to his parents and they graciously invited me for dinner.

“What’s your name, child?”

“Megan,” I replied.

“What a lovely name. I’m Gordon. I know, it’s hard to believe that we’re Trolls, but we’ve always looked just like humans. It’s just that your kind has always portrayed us as ugly in their stories. We’re decent folk, really.”

“Our family used to live under the bridge on Old Route 94,” explained Alvin.

“You mean the bridge over Little Hampton Creek?” I inquired.

“Yep,” chimed Gordon, “we used to charge toll for going over that bridge. That’s how we made a living. But when the interstate was built, people stopped driving on that road. So we moved here and tried to do the same thing. Lemme tell ya, it just ain’t the same. Trying to collect toll from people going 70 miles an hour is a mite bit tough unless you’re the Transportation Department.”

“So what do you do for a living now?”

“I work as a freelance web designer. No one suspects a thing, since Trolls look just like humans. There are certain habits I need to remember to keep in check, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.”

“That’s funny, because on the Internet, there are people called ‘trolls’ who post on websites to make people angry. Do you ever have to deal with them?”

“Only when I work for high profile clients. Occasionally I’ll do some work for the government, and a few hooligans will crash the site just as soon as I have it up. I really wish people would stop calling them ‘trolls’. It defames our people. But such is the state of affairs between us and humans.”

“Mr. E’hoar-“

“Please, call me Gordy.”

“Thanks, but, it’s getting late. My parents don’t know where I am and are probably worried by now. It was nice talking and eating with you, though.”

“Oh, no trouble, Missy. Here, take this,” Gordon handed me a book about Troll culture. “This has everything you’d ever care to know about trolls. And if you have any other questions, just drop me a line. Okay?”


I gave them a smile and started back home, but not before winking to Alvin. He just stammered at me. How cute.

That night, I read the book Alvin’s dad gave to me. It was the most engrossing thing I’ve ever read. All aspects of the Trolls were laid bare to me. Did you know that a Troll’s skin hardens in sunlight? They don’t even need sunscreen! That’s so hot. And there’s a reason why they collect tolls. The coins are like status symbols. The more coins, and the shiner the coins, mean the higher the status for the family. I wonder how many coins Alvin’s family has?

The next day at school, Chelsea, the resident mean girl, came up to me.

“Hey, I heard you went out with that Alvin kid,” she said while chewing gum. “That guy is mine. You’re too much of a dork for him!”

“Hey, shut up!” I shouted. “I did not go out with him! We aren’t ready for that yet.”

“Oh! Did you hear, girls? Megan’s ‘not ready for dating’! Oh, how precious!” Chelsea said maliciously. She and her posse began jeering.

It was then that Alvin walked by.

“Hey Megan,” he said in his customary aloof manner. “I really appreciate you coming to visit me yesterday. Are you friends with Chelsea?”

“As if!” I said.

“Hey Ally boy, why hang out with this loser. Come with me, I’ll show you a good time!”

“No thanks, Chelsea.”

“What did you say?”

“I don’t want to date anyone right now. What’s important is that I graduate from here so I can start providing for my family.”

My heart sank a little when I heard that. But I was confident I could change his mind. Chelsea, on the other hand….

“Fine! You’re such a slut anyway! Who needs you! Come on girls, let’s get outta here.”

And with that, she left.

“Did I hear you right, Alvin? You don’t want to date me?” I asked, my voice quivering ever so slightly.

“It’s not that I don’t want to date you specifically. It’s just that one day my Dad will no longer be able to care for himself, and he’ll need someone to look after him. If he went to a nursing home, they’d realize he’s a Troll sooner or later. There’s no telling what would happen then. So I need to study hard so I can get scholarships and earn enough to support him. Maybe one day, if I’m ever famous, I can show people Trolls aren’t bad at all. But that’s way in the future. I must keep my eyes ahead while focusing on now. Do you get it?”

“I think so…”

“You seem like a very nice girl. Maybe someday, something will happen between us. But for now, I’m happy just being friends with you.”

“Yeah, thanks for being a friend.”

“You’re welcome.”

Alvin then winked at me and left. I spent the rest of the day thinking about Alvin, how even if he is famous one day, we’ll still be friends. I dearly hope he keeps that promise. He’s too sexy for me to lose.

Untitled by Antoine Merriweather

Antoine Merriweather


Girlfriend friend friend of girl can I be that to you again you’re who I miss sexy four sexy four wheel driven friends I miss being your 5th wheel I never felt like a spare my brain ran a flat trying to run you down be my triple A tow me back into your lives I can survive the impound forgive this boyfriend for being a no friend but an ass in the end the “s” on this Superman chest stands for sorry and I am I need back in your super sexy soul sista circle because Charlie can’t fly without his angels girlfriend friend of girl can I be that to you again you’re who I miss.

Tolkien’s Fever by John Little

John Little


Tolkien’s Fever


A legion of days has marched past me thus far in this war. I have counted every day, with baited breath, hoping that one among the thousands would end my entrenchment in these murky, blood-filled pools. Unlike some of my fellows, I do not harbor any hatred towards the boys across the way, the Germans, for they suffer as we do. Those in control are dastardly creatures for sure, and deserve no less than a bullet to the brain or a bayonet to the heart, but I do sympathize with the men. The simple men who would rather plow their land and tend to their families than be bunkered down with the vermin and the parasites. Those are the things we share the most, a fondness for our homes and revulsion towards these filthy creatures. The rats seem large enough to give a terrier a good fight, that is, if one assumes a rat would fight fair. No, the rats are easy enough really, dreadfully afraid of noise and have at least some sense of self preservation. No, the real demons are the lice. I have not had the misfortune of dealing with the blood sucking beasts for more than the time it takes me to brush them away. Some men however have extoled the horrors at dealing with lice, and have even fallen ill to their incessant march on human flesh.

 The battle went well last night. A German dugout was captured and a few men, myself included, are being sent to inspect and determine its suitability for our troops. In crossing the war torn earth to the dugout, I saw numerous bodies littering the field. Most of these bodies were of departed German soldiers; this was not due to an overwhelming victory on our part. We were permitted to bring our dead back. The Germans had no such luxury for the dead cannot carry the dead.

 We reached the dugout, physically no worse for wear. After a close inspection we determined the place suitable for our troop’s occupation. As officers, our belongings were not long behind us. We decided to stay as a sign of good faith to the regular army men and bunkered down for the night. As I lay down and closed my eyes to rest, what felt like a wave of the lightest electricity washed over me. For a time I sat idle, believing the strange sensation to be a settling of the nerves that would soon pass. When the sensation did not cease and instead gave way to a series of thousands of pin pricks, my eyes flashed open. I sat in a sea of lice. I arose almost in panic and brushed most of the vermin off. None had penetrated my clothing. Of that, I was thankful. I visited our medic and asked if there wasn’t something he could give me to repel the creatures. He prescribed an ointment and gave me some pills to help me sleep. I returned to my bed roll and after applying the ointment liberally, and taking twice as many pills as I ought to have, I dozed off. Within moments the lice had renewed the attack and seemed only invigorated by the ointment.

I awoke to screaming. I rose quickly to see what caused the alarm and was struck dumb by what I saw. I had lost my dugout and was standing in a field in which war was breaking out as it never has on this earth. Men of the strangest assortment of sizes were clad in armor and wielding every sort of sharpened weapon imaginable. Swords and spears, daggers and axes were being wielded with such a deftness that does not often grace our modern society. In fact if it ever graced our civilization, past or present, I would be amazed. What seemed like legions of these men, ranging from average height to what surely must have been dwarves, and if one looked carefully a people of even smaller size, almost that of half a man, could be seen fighting for their lives. The creatures they fought were almost too horrible to imagine. With sickly green flesh, mangled teeth, and eyes fixed with madness, they lurched like a sea of venom against the men. Both men and creatures were falling at an equal rate. As one group would seem to gain a lead, the other would redouble its efforts and gain the field once again. Men falling to beasts and beasts falling to men, it went on for what seemed an eternity. One of the green, evil, fanged creatures saw me standing alone and seemingly defenseless. As he began his charge towards me, I went to my sidearm. To my horror it had vanished. I had so set myself as the onlooker of this terrible battle that I had not seen the mortal peril I was in. The beastie lumbered toward me with great strides, carrying what I could only describe as a scrap of wickedly sharp metal, and when he came close enough to strike he went for my throat. In the moment that I was to acquire my first and last taste of death I was saved by the tiniest of happenings. A fellow of no more than a meter or so in height appeared as if swept there by some unseen force to bury his blade into the bowels of the beast. After slaying the brute and promptly removing his sword he turned to me and gave me a look I will never forget. In his eyes were so many uncertain feelings, feelings of joy, hope, of pain and despair, of battles won and lost and friends found and fallen; it was the look of a man who has seen the truth of the world. I waited for a word, a statement, a scream, a roar, anything that would let me know who or what this little man creature was, but instead he did the most uncommon thing I have ever seen. He smiled, turned, and charged back into the fray to join his friends, all of which seemed unbelievable glad to see him. Before I could begin to contemplate this any further a great thundering began in the lines of the men, dwarves, and tiny man creatures.

Within moments, a great white light began to form on the side of the men. As it came together it formed into the shape of what I can only imagine God would look like: a being of immense age and knowledge yet living untouched by time. Joined by a small gathering of every kind of warrior on the side of the men it marched across the field as if to deal the final blow to the horde of grotesque creatures. I found myself wishing with all my might that this would be the case. As the figure was about to deal an earth shattering blow that surely would have changed the tides, a wisp of black appeared, then a flame, and then a shadow began to loom over the battlefield. As if from the dark hearts of the creatures themselves a being of fire and shadow emerged from the air and collided with the brilliant figure of the men. It roared, and raged, and bellowed fire and darkness across the field enveloping all those in its path. From within this darkness emerged a blinding light echoing from the form of the figure in white. The darkness receded and the two sides seemed to be holding their breath before the final plunge. The creature of fire and shadow roared, the white god stood shining brilliantly in the sun, and then the world crashed in around me.

I awoke, feverishly, to being shaken by my fellow officers. The lice, after their feast, had left me with an illness and an enduring fever. I had the vaguest recollection of what I had dreamed, but within minutes none of the details remained. No, that is not quite right, I did remember one thing. I could not get the image of those small men out of my mind. Why such a small people would be participating in what I vaguely remember to be an extremely important battle, I did not know. I began to ponder how a person of that stature would see the world and I must admit I have become rather obsessed with the idea, in the way that someone who is suffering amnesia obsesses over their memory. I just couldn’t seem to let it go.

The war is not nearly over but I do imagine that if and when I return home I will still have plenty to think about concerning these most unlikely adventurers.


Battle of the Memories by Jeremiah Sater

Jeremiah Sater


Battle of the Memories

Explosions rang out all around the man. Rifle in hand, he rushed across the battlefield, his closest friends and family beside him. A noticeable, but indescribable difference appeared between him and his companions. Multiple explosions impacted the ground around him, knocking him to the ground. Crawling forward, he stopped behind a small hill. His comrades dropped to the ground around him, each holding rifles and other assortment of weapons.

Peering over the hill, the enemy remained unseen. Only the explosions showed they remained in the distance. An elderly woman moved across the hill toward him. “Hold on. Don’t let go. You are so close.”

Standing up, he began to run again, his comrades close behind once again. The woman started coming closer, before an explosion hit the ground in front of her. Never stopping, the man continued to move forward as the smoke revealed the woman gone. Another explosion knocked the man off his feet again, but he managed to remain balanced to continue forward.

An elderly man ran forward, knocking him to the ground before another explosion blasted the earth behind them. “Keep your head up. Eyes forward at all times. Mind open, don’t forget. Don’t let go.”

Getting back to his feet, he began to run again. Stumbling, pain shot through his legs, but he ignored it. The words of the woman and the man resonated through his mind. He couldn’t let go, he couldn’t forget. Forward, he must go forward. As the old man continued behind him, an explosion originated from the ground, blasting him from existence.

His other friends and family began to spread out around him. Each wiped off the battlefield by random explosions. The man dropped to the ground again, holding his arms over his head, his body filled with pain. Looking ahead, a bright light reached his eyes. Struggling to his feet, he began to run as his legs went numb. Dropping to the ground again, he pulled himself forward by his arms as multiple explosions blasted the area around him. Most of his family and friends now lay dead or disappeared off the battlefield.

A young woman dropped to his side. Helping him to his feet, she pushed him forward. “Go! Don’t forget! Reach the light and hold on!”

The feeling returning to his legs, he propelled himself forward as the young woman disappeared in a cloud of fire. As he grew nearer to the light, an explosion blasted the ground behind him, propelling him into the ground in front of the light…

“Hello, my name is Dr. Stevenson. You are in a hospital. What is your name?”

He stared up at the man in the gleaming white clothes. “What? Who am I…?”

Always Them by Amanda Hart Miller

Amanda Hart Miller

Always Them

(Previously published in Apeiron Review)

Little girls can be stolen, especially a little girl with sad, heavy-lidded eyes and a too-small jacket, a girl who carries a stuffed unicorn in the crook of her arm and rubs it against her lips again and again. She waits all alone at a bus stop by a patch of winter-gray woods. The few houses on the street have cardboard taped to the windows and junk on the porches. To put a bus stop here, Johnny feels, someone must have been asleep at the wheel.

Johnny has been watching her now for 41 school days. He marks off the days in his notebook, which he then tucks away. Johnny’s head doesn’t work as well as it used to, so he can’t remember these things unless he writes them down. He writes other things about her, too:


Girlie has ribbons in her hair today but they fall out she keep putting them back in. Girlies hair don’t cover that bruze. Girlie got candy bar today. Girlie stares and stares at the moon this morning I want to be there too Girlie.

On his most daring of days, he trills a bird call and she turns around to see nothing because he’s behind the trunk of a big tree. He rests his cheek against the bark and listens to his heart scurrying back down his throat.

He wears trash bags and rides his bike along the main drag in what is a small town. People say it’s because his wife got burned up in a house fire and he went crazy. He’s written this down. He doesn’t remember that happening, but he does remember lying with Bea after love, her skin silky and scented like almonds and sex, don’t ever leave me but he doesn’t know where she is now. And sometimes he remembers the men under the overpass tying him up and lighting him on fire Ooh-wee… he’s lit up like a Christmas tree but usually this stays deeper inside him in someplace that can’t be remembered but eats him up just the same.

Girlie sometimes tries to trick him, he thinks. She brings chalk and draws pictures on the sidewalk, and she works on them so hard that she has to press her lips together tight so she can think, but suddenly she’ll look up quickly, at his tree. The mornings are getting darker, though. It will soon be the longest night of the year.

After the bus comes and takes Girlie away, he copies her chalk drawings into his notebook. She mostly draws hearts and flowers, and he likes to pretend she draws them for him. When he copies them into his notebook, they are for her.

On January 20th, the sky is much more gray than white. A van pulls up to the bus stop. When the man inside puts down the window and says something to Girlie, she stands up from her drawing and cocks her head. She takes three steps back from the van, and Johnny feels like he’s one of the tiny hairs on her skin—just as bristled and scared. She takes another step back and then looks toward Johnny. He forgets to hide because he falls into her eyes for years before she looks back to The BadMan, who is opening the van door until he, too, sees Johnny.

The man shakes his head and mutters something angry that Johnny can’t hear. The van purrs as it rolls away.

Girlie is smiling at Johnny, thin lips closed and dimples showing. Now there’s this thing linking them, hurtling him through a rabbit hole of jittery nerves so he comes out the other end pumped and fretting at the same time.

The bus comes then and Girlie gets on. He can see her through the window, through her clothes to her skin and even deeper, to her heart sending all that blood around, and even deeper than that, to what it all means. The world has always been just the three of them: Girlie and The BadMan and this block of flesh that is Johnny’s to place between them. With trembling hands, he pulls out his notebook.