Feature: Contest Winners
The first time Marlys felt the baby move inside her, she fainted. A fan of sci-fi movies in her youth, she had seen too many aliens exploding from swollen bellies.
The second time she didn't faint, but a fierce panic invaded every cell of her body. Her chest tightened until she stood gasping for air on the downtown sidewalk, a salmon stranded on a rocky suburban river bank.
The doctor patted her hand, assuring her everything would go fine. But at the ultrasound, Marlys thought she spotted something—a vestigial tail?—before the technician hurriedly switched off the monitor.—Marnie Motulewicz
My Dad made a hole in the table with a nail and The Mystery lives in that hole. The Mystery comes out at night and it tries on my socks and whispers in corners. I do not like to see it in the house, so I close my eyes. Sometimes, The Mystery does things like make noises in the sink. I filled its hole with playdough but it did not keep The Mystery in its hole. The Mystery is very strong. The playdough was orange.—Courtney Angermeier
Peter's world is certain. He knows (for instance) the filth his name evokes among drunks. Peter knows guys named Doug will always marry the women Peter fails. He also knows guys named Chip will lead any relationship recovery march, until the next failure comes along. At work a Gary or a Linda will always outshine his efforts, just as girls named Chris will naturally crush him at any sport. He'll always find Chris attractive, but inevitably she'll be engaged to a jerk named Preston, who she'll eventually leave for a guy named Doug. All of this, Peter knows.—Aaron Lee
He Woke in a Swamp
Oddly, he was on his hands and knees, chin inserted at the fork of a large tree limb. His wrists were tied to stakes driven into the ground on either side of his tree-trapped head. As he moved his legs, he realized the same arrangement bound his knees.
Moldy odors roiled on the air currents, mirroring the slime-colored water's eddies. The only sounds were insects: whirring, darting, hovering; landing on his arms, legs, face. His skin puckered under their tiny clawed feet in an involuntary shudder.
"Not what the Tennessee travel guide listed," he thought.—Terri Jenkins-Brady
Once upon a time on a wooden bench an old woman used to sit and spit. She hated everything and everyone and showed it by spending all her time spitting at her own yard. After some years, she got bored of random spitting and began to focus her salival onslaught on a particular spot about an inch square in the bare dirt that surrounded her house. As you can imagine, she got pretty good at hitting the spot, having nothing else with which she wanted to occupy her time. One day a flower grew there. It changed her.—Courtney Angermeier
Outside, the coyotes are making that noise, like you don't know whether they're fucking or fighting. For once, there has been no sunset, just a fading gray. Jenna turns the ringer off on the phone so she won't be disturbed at 6 a.m. because nobody knows where she is in space or time. New Mexico is a place people have heard of, but can't point to on a map. Jenna remembers when she couldn't point to it either. Now her body is where her finger couldn't land. She opens the door, peers through the half-moon light, and howls.—Tania Casselle
Making dinner and DING-DONG! Only saps touching my doorbell are Skinny Steve and Fat-Ass Judy. DING-DONG!
Fucking Fat-Assed Judy! Walking to the door I'm thinking Judy would look good on a spit, luau-style, with an apple in her piehole.
"Judy, dear, what's wrong?" I ask sweetly.
"Steve went out for cigarettes last night and hasn't come back. You know how stringy he is. He could've been mugged—or worse!"
It takes 20 minutes of syrup talk for her to leave, but that's OK; the 20 extra minutes mean that Steve will be tender instead of stringy ...—Dino Franco
Nothing of note had happened at El Rincon since Mateo had driven through the plate glass window five weeks ago.
Lara loaded the dishwasher and prayed for rain. Even a little. If it rained, the tourists would come inside, red-faced from the exertion of shopping, and wait it out. They ate pie and drank coffee, sometimes beer, and peered into the depths of their crackling shopping bags.
The sky darkened, and it rained. Buckets. Mateo's truck roared in and ran over a tourist. They were going to have to get that boy's eyes checked.
Everyone else ate pie.—Kathleen Alcala
"Excuse me, are you Jonathan?"
In this dark bar, he doesn't look like the picture she saw on the "It's Just Cocktails" dating service website. He's much more handsome.
He thinks. When you come to a fork in the road ... envision a spoon.
"Yea. I'm Jonathan." Quickly, he takes her to another bar. They drink heavily, return to his place, get stoned.
Dawn. Naked. She rolls over. Marvels at his beauty. Her sigh wakes him.
"Good morning Jonathan."
He wonders. Should I be more honest? Believe in God?
He replies, "My name is Dirk."—Justin S. Tade
He was lying in the Frida room; she could smell the blood that was, by now, clotting. She wondered how long—an hour, twenty—until his body stiffened. She looked at her watch. 2:15 a.m.
Who to call? They were all dead to the world, except, perhaps, Jeffrey. He would be on a morning run in Hong Kong. But what could he do for her, for John? She really needed ...
A coyote howled. She lit a joint. The blood oranges on the kitchen table arranged themselves in a still life. She took out her paints.—Jenna Viscaya
Shifting, pivoting and altering its course, the dragonfly sped up so as to hit the windshield at 60 miles an hour.
His segmented body smeared angular bursting across the glass, the last thing he never saw.
It was at this time that his bug friends laughed and gave each other five.
Their money was on the car.—Tony Santiago
"Il faut soufrir être belle!" The pointy, tiny beauty school student spat at me as I screamed and bit her table while she ripped off another section of my leg hair, along with a hell of a lot of skin, judging from the pain. I watched tiny blood droplets spring from each pore as I cursed the hour I had seen the sign for a thirty-five franc wax. She finished at last and as I limped home I swore to remain, despite the surprising amount of ridicule I endured, furry as a dog for the rest of my days.—Deborah Mulberg
Thinking Today about Tomorrow's Museum of Yesterday
On a card by a case in an unvisited corner:
We don't know much about this male, other than that he died of old age around 2100 CE at an age between 120 and 150. Analysis indicates he ate copious peanut butter. The brown teeth indicate frequent consumption of a beverage called "coffee." There is really only one noteworthy attribute: his hand appears to have frozen in a gesture years before his death. We speculate the extended middle finger is a ritual greeting of his people. We salute him in return.—Mark Justice Hinton
Gods and Mortals
Harold, art department chair, went to the faculty art show with his wife Betty and his protégé Peter to see his mistress Amanda's painting Gods unveiled. Amanda hadn't let Harold see it.
"Your wig looks so natural!" Amanda told Betty, before telling Harold, "I know about Peter. Soon everyone will!"
When Amanda unveiled Gods, people gasped. Betty clutched her wig, and Peter's cheeks burned.
Gods showed Hera (unquestionably Betty) pulling out her hair. Behind her, Zeus (Harold) frolicked with a satyr (Peter).
An onlooker whispered, "If the police find Amanda's corpse later, they'll have three suspects."—Wilfrid R. Koponen
The quixotic queen whose fiery flamenco performances instigated her expulsion from the royal family was abducted from her stucco estate along with her mascot, Rialto. Allegedly, Poshkin, the royal painter, broke out of rationality and in a frenzy, wielding a caulking gun, carried La Reina and Rialto off, burying them up to their heads in the royal flower garden. Sometime later the wandering Royal Knight was traveling near the estate when he heard a dry cough. Galloping into a cloud of dust he readily unearthed the royal pair, then bade them farewell, red rose in hand.—Cathy Wysocki