R.J. Miller, “Lighthouse 43”

October’s Final Days, Honorable Mention, Fiction


The jingle of keys in the distance brought me back to the present. Lately I’ve had more and more moments where I’m pulled back to my past. Who could blame me? Being stuck in this cold, dark, wet hell hole would make anyone reminisce.

“Where did you go there, boy?” Mickey said.

Mickey was the tough old bastard in charge of Lighthouse 43. My current place of residence. He was a stout man, broad shouldered and strong. His hair and beard had gone grey a long time ago. He wore all black from his boots up to his peacoat and watch cap. His stormy grey eyes were fixed on me as he fingered a ring with old iron keys that hinted at untold secrets.

I hiked up my shoulders and turned up the collar on my coat. The bite of the wind-swept sea stung my face and ears.

“Back home. In Arizona.” I said.

Mickey let out a laugh, deep and full. I looked at him, the humor escaping me completely. I tucked my hands in my coat pockets so he wouldn’t see my clenched fists.

“You’re gonna have to put that aside, son. If you’re to make it here, forget your life back home. You’re an apprentice of the lighthouse now. Did you finish reading the manual yet?”

Truth be told, I hadn’t finished it. I spent the better part of the day going through the tome, but it was difficult and technical reading. I wasn’t exactly top of my class back home, but I wasn’t going to be sent back. As much as I wanted to be anywhere but here.

“No. But I’ve read a fair amount.” I said.

Mickey gave me a curt nod and turned back to the gate. He put in one of the iron keys and turned, the lock made a loud clang as the bolt slid closed. He removed his key and gave the gate a sharp tug. Satisfied, he headed back towards me.

“That’s more than I can say for my first day. I fell asleep trying to get through the damn thing.” He smiled back at me and gave me a quick pat on the shoulder. “This way” he called back over his shoulder as he walked past me on our way to the main building. I shook my head and followed. Apparently, it was time for the tour.

Lighthouse 43 was a bit of a complex. The main tower was three floors high and rhythmic white light shone from the top. The lighthouse was built on the edge of the sea; nothing was around for miles and miles.

I followed Mickey up the stairs, and we entered the first floor. When the door slammed closed behind me, I was swallowed up by silence. The absence of sound was jarring. The crashing waves were almost deafening just moments ago. Mickey was already up the stairs and to the second floor and I had to run to catch up. The third story was made of floor to ceiling windows, with a massive bulb overhead.

“Wow. This view must be amazing in the daytime.” I said.

Mickey nodded. “But it is the night that counts, son.”

“To the ships that count on us.” I said back.

Mickey gave me a look that made me swallow hard.

“This lighthouse does not stop ships from crashing into the shores. We defend the world from what is beyond.. in the Darkness.”

My blood turned cold and the flesh on my arms and neck crawled. “From what?” I stammered.

Just then, a large flash of white light erupted in the distance. Both of us turned towards the pinprick of light in the darkness. Then there was another. Followed by another.

“Are those ships?” I asked.

Mickey didn’t take his eyes off the horizon. He unbuttoned his coat and withdrew a large pistol from its depths. With his other hand, he pressed a large red button that I hadn’t noticed before. The lights inside the room suddenly turned red and the beacon of light we were standing in hummed.

“Not hardly.” Mickey said.

Suddenly, a pulse of blue light and heat shot out from the lamp overhead. The light turned dark blue and burned brightly in the distance before flickering out. The beacon shot out again and again, rotating slightly each time. The lighthouse was tracking whatever was out there.

“What is out…”

A loud crashing sound came from below and cut me off. Mickey gave me a stern look and we headed to the door and looked down.

“Cabinet over to the right.” Mickey said, tossing me his keys. “Quickly.”

I raced over to the cabinet, fingers fumbling with keys until I found the right one. I reached inside and pulled out the strangest shotgun I had ever seen. I racked the slide once and took up a position on the other side of Mickey. The pulsing canon had stopped and all that I could hear was my short, ragged breathing and the slow clicking of something coming up the stairwell. A black tentacle suddenly shot through the doorway and went through Mickey’s chest. He pointed his gun straight ahead and fired, over and over. The creature forced itself through the doorway, pushing Mickey back as it came through.

I raised my gun point plank and fired a single burst into the creature. The echo rang through the small room and both figures fell to the floor.  I rushed over to Mickey who spat up blood on the floor. He gripped my hand once and then he was gone.

I am now the keeper of the keys. If I survive the night, I will brave the darkness and hold fast. Let this journal entry stand witness if I fall. I can hear more knocking on the steel door below, and slow clicks coming from the stairwell.  

S. Tierney, “Grandpa”

October’s Final Days, Honorable Mention, Fiction


Every Halloween, Grandpa and me go trick-or-treating together.

This year I’m dressed as a necromancer, with black eyes and a big pretend nose and everything. The veil I’m wearing is my mum’s, the black one she wears for funerals and watching the horses; the gown is all ripped and hasn’t fit my sister since her accident, so she says I can have it; I borrowed the false nails from the cleaning lady at school (as long as I promise to give them back); and the skull, the one tucked under my arm, that’s Grandpa’s. (I wanted a cat, but we couldn’t catch one.)

Grandpa always dresses as a ghost. He jokes, “When you’re as old as I am, you don’t need a costume.” (He does really; it’s Granny’s bed sheet with two eyeholes ripped in the middle.) “If she isn’t lying on it, I might as well wear it.” Grandpa says the strangest things. But he says we’ll give all the residents a good fright tonight and get lots of treats. To help us see where we’re going, he’s brought a candle. The other ‘trickers’ on the streets prefer flashlights: lighter, brighter, and you don’t need to worry about tucking your sheet under your chin to stop it catching on fire. Also, when the weather’s gusty, a flashlight doesn’t blow out. But Grandpa is adamant:

Candles don’t need batteries! And no, they don’t blow out, not if you keep your teeth together.

Strange things…

At the end of our street there is a big house, with big windows and a big garden which goes all the way around. Mr. and Mrs. Bury live here, alone. Just like their house, they are both very big. “Which means they’ll have treats. Unless they’ve scoffed them all already, big buggers.

With Grandpa keeping watch from his eyeholes, we sneak up to the front door. I call through the letterbox, “Trick or treat!” Heavy footsteps, the door opens, and we’re greeted by lounge light, the aroma of baking, and the big Mrs. Bury.

“Good gracious! A witch? At this hour?” she gasps, clasping her hand to her heart. “Words escape me! And what could be glowing under that sheet? A lantern?”

“It’s a ghost. A ghoooost,” I say in my best ghost voice. As a rule, Grandpa doesn’t waste his breath on strangers. Even when he’s a ghost. “And I’m not a witch,” I correct Mrs. Bury, “I’m a necromancer.”

“Are you now? Then you won’t want any treats. Necromancers don’t like treats. It’s poison to them. Everyone knows that.”

I didn’t.

“Such a pity,” Mrs. Bury sighs, “I’ve gone and wasted the entire afternoon baking sweet goodies for nothing. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to throw them all–”

“No!” I shriek, lifting my veil and pretend nose. “It’s me, Jenny Hindley. From number thirty-three. Look!”

“Well, that changes things,” Mrs. Bury smiles, producing from behind her back a tray of steaming, golden-brown gingerbread men. “Go ahead, my dear, take as many as you like.”

I do. I really like gingerbread. “And so does my grandpa.”

“Then you must take some home for him. Wait there, I have a cookie jar you can borrow. It’s around here somewhere.”

“That’s okay, Mrs. Bury,” I say, pulling back the bed sheet and offering up Grandpa’s skull. “They’ll be safe in here.”

Mrs. Bury looks uncertain. “But there’s a candle in there, dear.”

“Oh, I’ll take it out.” I also extinguish the candle, just to be safe. Mrs. Bury still looks uncertain, even a little surprised, but, at my insistence, she begins filling the skull.

“When you next see your grandfather, be sure to ask him what he thinks of my gingerbread.”

“Why wait?”

I lift up the skull, and ask:

Do you like Mrs. Bury’s gingerbread, Grandpa?

Seeing that I’ve pressed Grandpa to my ear, as though he were a smelly old seashell, I explain to the very surprised Mrs. Bury, “He’s very old, and speaks very softly. He’ll only speak to me when no one’s– what’s that? Super delicious? Good and chewy, just the way you like it, so much so,” I turn to Mrs. Bury, “that Grandpa wants to take it all. Please.”

Mrs. Bury clutches her heart again; her big mouth is hanging open. Similarly, I open Grandpa’s jaw all the way until the bone makes a clicking sound, like the sound your finger makes when you pull it back too far. Grandpa doesn’t mind. “I’m used to it.” This doesn’t seem to reassure Mrs. Bury; even with my help she struggles to put all the little men into Grandpa’s mouth without dropping them, or knocking their little legs against Grandpa’s two remaining teeth. One of the teeth pops out and bounces down the path like a little rusty coin. When I comfort Grandpa with a kiss on his bullet hole, Mrs. Bury trembles uncontrollably.

Are you cold, big lady?

I reach inside Grandpa’s mouth, all the way in.

Perhaps a nice warm gingerbread man would–

“No, that’s alright, dear,” Mrs. Bury gulps, staring at me and Grandpa like she’s seen a ghost – like an actual ghost. “I’ll just go back inside. You run along, now. You and your…grandpa.”

“We will,” I call over my shoulder, skipping away down the path. “Say goodbye to Mrs. Bury, Grandpa.

Goodbye to Mrs. Bury, Grandpa,” he cackles, spitting gingerbread limbs all over her lawn. “Hey, don’t forget my tooth!

Mrs. Bury latches the door. The curtains behind her big windows snap together. Me and Grandpa hurry along to the next house: Mr. and Mrs. Bannister. Like Mr. and Mrs. Bury, they are also childless. But they make tofu in the shape of eyeballs, Grandpa’s favourite. “You’ll have to chew’em for me, though.

I can’t help but laugh.

 “Grandpa, you’re so strange.

Scott Tierney is an author of novels, short stories, the off-the-wall comic series, Pointless Conversations, and the off-the-crumpet super-hero series, Crumpet-Hands Man. He has also authored the novella, Kin.

Scott currently resides in the North West of England. Examples of his writings, and graphic design work, can be found at scotttierneycreative.com

Get ready to be spooked!!

We will be publishing the winners of our Halloween contest this week!

Wow, we got some great stuff! We received well over 100 submissions this year. Thanks to everyone who submitted. It was very hard to choose the winners!

Here’s the schedule by which we’ll be publishing/announcing the winners:

10/26: Our winner for art

10/27: Our two honorable mentions for fiction

10/28: Second runner-up winners, one for fiction and one for poetry

10/29: First runner-up winners, one for fiction and one for poetry

10/31: Winners, one for fiction and one for poetry

2022 Final Days of October contest is closed

Thanks for all the great contest submissions! Our 2022 Halloween contest is now closed. 

We will post information here soon about how and when we will reveal the winners!

Our reading period is currently OPEN for general submissions of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction for our Spring 2023 issue, but please realize that you likely won’t get a response until the beginning of 2023 unless it’s for our Halloween contest.

We will release our 2023 theme soon! You’re going to love it!

Hedge Apple Magazine at Conversations and Connections

We are pleased to announce that the Hedge Apple Magazine will be a participating magazine at Conversations and Connections on October 29th, 2022. Please join us at this fun, useful, friendly conference, either in-person in Pittsburgh or via the online track. There’s always a great atmosphere, and you’ll leave with lots of ideas and new ways of approaching your work.

We’ll see you at the speed dating table!

Calamity Jane by Mannie Gentile

Mannie Gentile is in their second semester of the Visual Arts program.  They are a retired Park Ranger who has returned to school to find existential joy…so far, so good.  They live in Boonsboro MD with their writer wife; who is a peach.

The Best of Intentions by Mannie Gentile

Mannie Gentile is in their second semester of the Visual Arts program.  They are a retired Park Ranger who has returned to school to find existential joy…so far, so good.  They live in Boonsboro MD with their writer wife; who is a peach.