Each day he chooses which view the dome’s artificial windows will show him. At the press of a button he can be in the middle of the desert, or overlooking a square in Paris, or surrounded by high-definition rainforest. Most often though, he chooses the marina. He likes to watch the sun ease up over the horizon as he sets to work each day. All that space. All that sea and sky.
It’s a tough gig, working at the bottom of the sea. As the deployment lengthens he finds himself longing for the surface. It’s not human company he misses so much as the chance to run somewhere that’s not a treadmill. The chance to be outside, with nothing above him but sky.
Some days it’s hard to bear. Some days he sits watching the marina for hours at a time, face inches from the glass, weeping freely. He slopes around the station, banging implements together, cursing underneath his breath. His daily reports become terse: ALL WELL. ALL WELL. BORED. ALL WELL.
One day he presses his face against the window so that there’s nothing else to see. It’s beautiful. If only he could break out through the window glass. Dive through into the sunlit blue water of the marina and swim towards those boats. He sits for hours, face cupped against screen. Watching. Hungry. Then he fetches the fire axe. He lines it up with the window. He’s been down here too long. He wants to sail.
Krishan Coupland is on the Creative Writing PhD programme at the University of East Anglia. His writing has appeared in Ambit, Aesthetica, Litro and Fractured West. He won the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2011, and in his spare time he runs and edits a literary magazine. His website is www.krishancoupland.co.uk.
It was ten minutes to closing time at the cell phone store and Gillespie struggled with what to do after work. He had narrowed his options down to either hanging himself or going to the grocery. Now he was stuck, since both seemed so appealing. On one hand, the notion of vegging out in front of the television with a Hungry Man dinner made him breathe deep and flutter his eyelids. On the other, death’s sweet release was permanent and contained no calories. He now had eight minutes to decide.
An old woman shuffled through the door and it banged against the two-wheeled grocery basket she pulled behind her. Her hair was platinum and held down with a polka-dotted kerchief. Gillespie smiled wanly at her, knowing he wouldn’t be leaving on time.
“Need some minutes!” The biddy hollered at him good-naturedly.
“Minutes we have.” He clicked his mouse. “What’s your number?”
“How would I know?” She thrust the phone at him. “I never call me.”
Gillespie took the phone. It was covered with something sticky. He punched up her number.
“How many minutes?”
“Ten bucks worth.” The bill came at him and he took it. It was sticky as well. He completed the transaction as quickly as he could, then turned back to the woman and froze.
The old lady held a banana, and it was pointed directly at his heart.
“Take it. They were on sale at Kroger. Strawberries and oranges, too.”
He took it and thanked her, and she and her cart banged out the door and down the sidewalk.
In his car fifteen minutes later, Gillespie peeled the banana and considered his options.
He hadn’t eaten a strawberry in twenty years, and today they were on sale.
by Robert L. Penick
Robert Penick’s work has appeared in over 100 different literary magazines, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, and China Grove. He lives in Louisville, KY, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon.
…they try all the avenues, all the dusty streets, all the leafy parks, the houses in the better parts of the town, but they’ll not get me, they’ll not find me, they don’t know, how to do, how to do what they try to do, they fail, they always fail, it is I who knows, I have a map you see, a map of the whole town, all its nooks and crannies, I know the formula, the places to go and how to get there, despite everything they will fail, oh I look forward to it, I rub my hands at the thought of it, it will be quick when the time comes, I really cannot wait, but they will try, they will try anything, mostly it will be their trying, not my succeeding, oh I know that, and they do too, they know it is pointless, it will fail, they will try though, they always do, or do not, I mean they always fail, they won’t find me no matter where they go, no matter what they do, through leafy parks and dusty streets and oily roads, of tar and sand and stone and crisp corners in the lines along the sky, through small idle windows in red brick, no, they won’t find me, no, I know, you see I can tell from here, I can see them, they cannot see me, only they think of me, hiding the words, it gets them thinking I know, I know all they can try, they try this as much as they like, I don’t mind, I am patient, it is they that are in the hurry, it is always, there is no end to it…
by Martin Keaveney
Martin Keaveney’s recent fiction includes ‘The Rainy Day’ in the anthology Small Lives (Poddle Publications), ‘Last Order’ in Crannog and ‘A New Freedom’ in Gold Dust magazine with work forthcoming in Agave Magazine. His flash fiction piece ‘Laugh’ will appear in Apocrypha and Abstractions magazine in March. He has a B.A. in English and Italian and an M.A. in English (Writing) from NUI, Galway, Ireland. He is currently a PhD candidate at NUIG, 2014-18 where he is researching the John McGahern archive and also writing a novel as part of the course.
Hot in the schoolhouse we study mathematics, geography. We are told many times that the maps teach history too. We learn of the African Union; we learn of the Empire of Mali, and are told that it was long ago. We learn of Portugal, and of the British in swathes of dull red. Sometimes the sea sweeps into the mangroves, and sometimes the forest bears fruit.
Stephanie, my pen friend, writes that she is entranced with the idea of the hippos, and asks me to send a picture. Hippos are hard to draw. Last summer I saw a fisherman too close to the water: he was torn in half, one part disappearing into the frothing pool and one part spat into the mud. Occasionally we make masks and pretend to be animals: cows, sharks and other harmless beasts. To like a hippo you must have to be very far away. In the mud and the water, I thought the colours of the half-swallowed man looked like the map in our schoolhouse: red, blue, brown.
I try to imagine where Stephanie learns geography; I try to see what a city would look like. Stephanie sends pictures with buildings like picked-clean whalebones thrown into the sky. Outside the schoolhouse, our mathematics rulers double as weapons, sometimes as spades. Later, in the evenings, I like to carve, carefully working at a new mask while the red sun falls into the sea.
by Phil Robinson-Self
Phil Self lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and considers the weather to be not as bad as people say. His fiction has featured in Flash Fiction Magazine, Paragraph Planet, The Pygmy Giant, Apocrypha and Abstractions, and elsewhere. On balance, he would probably like to be your friend.
We were dug in beside the intersection of two roads under the stars when we saw three guys running up to the intersection with packs on their backs. They started planting roadside bombs. We killed two and took the other prisoner. The prisoner screamed all the way into base in Arabic, “fuck you” the only thing clear in all that yelling. The Major says: ‘You killed fifteen and captured five.’ I say: “Sir, it was two and one.’ He says: ‘Private, you fight; we do the arithmetic.’ Every day I look at the medal they gave me for this arithmetic and I think: Turn into a pass to get me the fuck out of here.
by Kim Farleigh
Kim has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine. He takes risks to get the experience required for writing. 131 of his stories have been accepted by 82 different magazines.
Tonight, I read like John Coltrane played, unfurl my jazz voice, make scotch-and-soda eyes to the crowd, syncopate my way into the snap-finger backroom, into the dark corner where the slick-haired man with the paint brush mustache, thick-lensed eyeglasses, and loose lower lip presses his nose into the pages of La Nación, and when I open fire from my throat, he looks up, his face says mujer atrevida, brazen woman, and he laughs, so I belt out we remember everything, and the crowd nods, they’re behind me squarely here in the Recoleta district, and I give them what they want, continue with the new Gestapo, so arresting in their certitude, move to hidden sphere of infinity and the beast roars through the blood on his teeth, and the man sneers, raises his newspaper and displays the headline—that commotion over in Villa Crespo, perhaps the start of an uprising—and maybe that’s going on here too, as I continue with when the lizard brain commands and the tiger is coming for you, then an epitaph, the chocolate fingers of the dead, and my constant image of this last month flashes into the room—a cadre of men and women, dressed in rumpled white cotton, in the middle, my brother Aurelio, who blew jazz sax like an angry god, collapsed into ropes that tied him round his pole (because there are such venues for that sort of thing), his fingers smeared from his last meal—a final taste of chocolate, of life, slipped into his cell by a pitying guard, and we heard that Aurelio thrust his chest and stomach out just as the order to fire was given and his loosened buttons popped, spilling the manifesto from his shirt as he shouted muerte a los traidores, and the man in the back makes a sour face as I scream: you can cut all the flowers but you can’t keep spring from coming and from each crime are born bullets that will one day seek out where your heart lies, and there I end my work, with the good general slumped lifeless over the armrest of his chair and La Nación dangling between his fingers and the floor as the troopers herd in.
by Ronald Jackson
Ron Jackson writes stories, poems, and non-fiction. His work has appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, Firewords Quarterly, Iodine Poetry Journal, Kentucky Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and in anthologies and online venues. Recognitions include honorable mention in the Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition in 2012, third prize in Prime Number Magazine’s 2014 flash fiction competition, and honorable mention in the 2014 New Millennium Writings short-short fiction competition.