Trembling Breeze by Erika Hearken.   I saw you here again…

Tears trembled down your face as the flowers withered in your clenched fist.  You asked me questions I just couldn’t answer; even if I had tried.  I watched as you took my silence in the wrong way.  You threw the flowers down at my feet; you turned away from me to storm off.  I chased you, but couldn’t catch you. 

You paused so suddenly I almost ran into you.  You had stopped to stare at the beautiful tiny child staring up into your questing eyes.  My heart clenched at the sight.  Did you see her?  Did you see her bright, brilliant blues gazing at you adoringly?  Could you hear her gurgling coos that begged for her father’s attention?

You inhaled deeply and slowly…

You opened your mouth and my heart stopped…

“Damn wind.”

I cried tears that were dry as I collapsed to the cold frost covered earth; through my tears I witnessed you leave here again.  Leaving us behind again in the grass and stone covered hills.  In our own silent, secret hiding place among the cool earth and emotionless winds…FP

The Return by LaNell Haydon.  It was like the sigh of a ghost.  It was a breath, a movement of a hand across your back when the door shut.  It had been like dying, it had been like falling, when you lay down on the bed. 

You are in a dark room trying to catch your breath.  But where?  You can't remember.  The air is thin, and you strain to see the faintest of light.  There is only darkness. 

You close your eyes and remember.  Remember the doctors moving like shadows in the room, contemplating with hands on chins, speaking to each other as if you weren't sitting right there.  Were they angels who had come to pull you from this nightmare in which your daughter was dead?  No, they were not. 

A thump hits hard against the door.    

You sit up. 

It hits again.  

You run to the door and open it.  A ball bounces out of the darkness and your daughter stands before you.  You reach out.  She takes your hand, and finally you remember.  You had fled the doctors and returned to the hotel where you had last been with her, where she had died in a fire. 

There is now another fire.  You started it just minutes ago.  The air gives way to flames.  You are entombed in a fiery coffin...with your daughter holding your hand...cannot breath ... burning...flames...ashes...you...and she...be...come...one.  FP

Deep Forest by Evangeline Crow.  Miles away, the cheery sun laughs and spreads light.  The curtains of rain have opened, and the forest floor is bright. Clothed in brown, I sit in the damp moss at the edge of a shadow and think.  Like the wind, my life seems to change in length and speed with every passing day. I hide my face underneath a brown hat. It seems as though nothing in my world is complete; I view it from only a half-shell and I’ve never seen beyond my mossy prison. I cannot move and only rain will set me
free. But will it ever come? 

My twin sits beside me, but all I can see of him is the point where his foot is becomes the moss. We do not speak; simply wait for the rain to touch our half-dark world.  What lies beyond the rain we do not know, only that it is where our existence began, and it may be where our individual existence may end.  But here in the forest there is no end.  It begins to rain with this thought. When the rain ends, I adjust my cap. For the first time, I see my forest and my sky, and my twin’s face.  He is still. So following his example, I give my light to the forest, and leave behind the empty shell of a brown clad figure one with the  moss of the forest floor.

But here in the forest there is no end.  FP

1985: What I Wanted by Misti Rainwater-Lites.  I wanted I wanted I wanted I needed I needed I needed. I did not have. I wanted long straight blond hair. I wanted plump round breasts. I wanted a boyfriend named Chris who played tennis and had excellent improvisation skills to fondle and kiss my breasts in his bedroom with his parents in Europe and the Thompson Twins on the radio. I wanted to be a cheerleader with three Swatches on each wrist. I wanted to sit at the cool table in the cafeteria and be in on all the jokes. I wanted a name that no one could make fun of, a safe name like Heather Smith or Michelle Jones. I wanted a closet filled with Guess? jeans and Esprit shirts. I wanted to look in the mirror and not see what I saw.  FP

Lullaby by Diana Ferguson.  The tingling in my arms wakes me; I am bound tightly in the fetal position, enmeshed in the coverings.  If the lack of blood flow had not woken me, my shivering would have.  I burrowed down into the thick comforter, but it was useless. Now that he’s gone, the comforter does nothing to abate the chill.

I must have fallen back asleep, for when I wake, he is there.  Soft, warm, breathing.  I move against him, his back aligning perfectly into the curve of my body.  Touching, connecting, our feet entwine.  I feel the heat emanating from him, slowly spreading over me, penetrating finally.  I begin to relax. His breathing becomes regular, heavy, and deep.  It’s a lullaby.  I press my face into his shoulder breathing deeply of his scent.  Calming.   As I inhale his presence, my mind wanders.  Words drift lazily by as I float into peaceful oblivion:  strength, peace, love, home.  FP

Damp Shoes by Dominic Knight.  It smelled of mold; damp shoes and soaked polyester jackets. To most it wasn’t a pleasant aroma. But it only took a few minutes of sitting in the enclosed space before it wasn’t there. In fact, it started to smell more like sour acid from the pages of his sketch book. The scent reminded him of pickles.

His mouth was open, tongue barely visible as his pencil slid across the page. He liked drawing in here; his closet away from the yelling of family, of school, of life. In here, he could focus on himself and think. This space was just what he needed after draining phone calls and long study sessions with him.

No matter how hard he tried, he always got caught staring. Whether it was at his lips, or the way his hair fell across his brow. A smirk would appear on his face, and that’s where it’d all start. He’d melt at the sight and yearn to be close to him; finally their skin would touch.

In the back of his mind, he knew he didn’t see him the same; that he was just a warm body. There was never that glint of affection in his eyes. It was pure needFP

Untitled bv Jamie Loftus.  “Hot, warm, and dark” is an ideal hiding spot for many people and perverts in this world, and Ron was no exception. Ever since his fifth birthday party, when he discovered that the closet in his bedroom was ideal crawl space to escape the immense gravitational of his great-aunt’s lips to his cheeks, it’d been his only place to seek uninterrupted solace. “Come back down, everyone’s waiting!” came the disembodied voice at the bottom of the stairs. “Don’t make your mother come up there!”

His breathing quickened-- would she really show? That had happened at his twelfth birthday party and she’d mistakenly assumed he’d been in there to masturbate, instead of avoiding the train wreck that was his family. “God can still see you in there!” she’d screamed in horror at the sight of her son curled up between family videos and rotting sandwiches.

“Goddamn,” the voice continued as stairs creaked, “I’ll come get you myself.” Ron could hear the voice’s slow ascent and huddled back, his own breathing louder than he could have imagined. 

As footsteps grew closer, the closet door flung open without Ron touching it, and a little boy tumbled out of the closet from the opposite side. “Don’t make me go back, Dad!” the boy shouted, pounding his fists. “Aunt Lacey is scary!”

The father’s eyes widened as they focused on the grown man in his closet. “Ron Dearing?” he asked in disbelief. “You sold us this house five years ago, you creepy bastard!”

Shit.  FP

Small Town Barney By Matt Rafferty. “Did you kick the back door of your house in?” The cop asked me again. He stood below me on the front porch stairs of a buddy’s house.

            “Honest to God, officer, it wasn’t me.” He was staring at my shoes; I was trying to breathe sideways, hoping the wind would carry away my whiskeyed breath.

             “What if I took you over there, in the back of my cruiser, and we compared your shoe to the foot print carved in that door? What size shoe do you wear Mr. Gerradey?”

            “Um, a fourteen. Now listen. I’m gonna tell you the honest truth. We got to arg-yun, and she threw me out ‘gain, and locked the doors! Then she opened the storm winder, and started yellin’ that I’d never see my dog ‘gain. Well, sir, roofin’ makes a man’s legs almighty stro-nk.  And hell be sure no damn Chinese locks gonna keep me from Rhoda.”

            “Mr. Gerradey, I appreciate your honesty. Now I just want you to answer one more question. Are you gonna fix that door tomorrow?”

            “Oh yessir. I’ll stay here at Big Haas’s and then tomorrow I’ll fix that door.”

            “Well that’d be fine.” Small ton cops. “Oh, and Mr. Gerradey, I got a wife, and I got a dog. I love my dog.”  FP

Secret Hiding Place by Aleia Sears I have always thought it strange and wonderous that feelings and moods can alter so drastically because of the difference in Day or Night or even the Seasons. We had just been hiking all day by a hidden waterfall that you could even crawl behind. It was wet, cold and incredibly slick but we had made love there for hours. Afterwards we had jumped in the frigid, swirling waters after daring each other for almost fifteen minutes. It had always been fun and comfortable around each other the way it is when you are first dating. We were now in his bed in the euphemistically titled "Garden Apartment" which was really a basement with a very small window to let light in. He was laying there awake with a Mona Lisa smile. I had never understood the appeal of that painting until now when I realized how intensely beautiful that mysterious smile is. The moonlight was only falling on the defined muscles of his chest and looked very much like a marble statue of some obscure Greek God. I laid my hand upon his chest and he turned to me and smiled a little fuller and in that complete silence I knew that his arms would always be my Secret Hiding Place. FP

Alone in the Desert  by Cath Barton.  Mahmoud pointed down the wadi. "You just go straight as you can. Saad will meet you at the turn."

I'd been that way before, but always with Bedouin who knew the invisible paths through this big-bouldered landscape. I trusted Mahmoud though. He wouldn’t put me in danger.

It was early, the sky was already clear blue but the valley bottom still in shadow. After a couple of hundred metres I turned and waved to Mahmoud. Soon he was out of sight. High on the hillside  women were gathering herbs for their goats. Being back in the desert felt good. It had been seven years and my life in England had not gone well during that time. Time to rediscover the essential.

I was about half way to my meeting-point with Saad when my senses pricked. I rounded a large boulder and nearly walked into them - a group of Egyptian military policemen. In my way and waving guns.

"Papers!" barked one of them.

I fumbled out my passport. The man gestured me to move back. "What you doing here? Where your guide?" 

The Egyptians were laughing at something. I couldn't understand what they were saying. Then one of them took out a cigarette lighter, clicked it and held it near to my passport.

"You want me to burn your papers?" I froze. "Or you want to come with me?" The second question was accompanied by a lascivious smirk.

The day had gone cold. Very cold.  FP

March by Katie McGuire.  Flashbulbs weren't her thing.  The realization came too late, after years of watching red carpet coverage and imagining herself there, practicing her winning smile in the mirror.  The smile still wasn’t a winner, but she was stuck on the red carpet now, like it or not. 

  It’s really more of a maroon.  All those years, thinking it was crimson.  Now, it just clashed with her gown.  That stung, especially since she’d designed the damn thing herself, right down to the fabric.

Her head swam when she stepped from the limousine the studio had been shocked to hear she’d been planning to go without.  “I’m a writer, not a celebrity,” she’d rationalized.  She could walk.  Take a cab.  Ride a bike?  They weren’t having it.

Maybe the tulle was too much; that was the problem, definitely.  That’s the nerves – all from the dress.  A valet steadied her on her jewel-encrusted feet, then she teetered forward on her own, nearly run down by Leo DiCaprio’s arriving limousine.

The crowd roared to life, some her fans, some crazy over the dress.  The photographers clicked away, shouting her name.  Ryan Seacrest was beaming at the top of the carpet, expecting her.  She towered over him in these heels, but knew she’d never match his confidence.

She inhaled.  She took another tiny step forward.  And then she sprinted down the carpet, cowering behind an enormous Oscar statuette until the reporters left her in peace.  FP

Drought by Lyndsay Johnson.  103°.  Fucking California.  We sat on opposing sides of the room- I was sprawled out on the sheets, while he was sitting in the chair next to the fan.  The bed was “too stuffy” for him.  Of course, right?  Something always had to be wrong.

We sat silently in the dark, the only light leaking in from the window made a silhouette of his head.  Stealthily, afraid that even the slightest exhale or twitch of a muscle would make the room even a single degree hotter, he lifted his 40 to his lips.  He melted in the leather chair, every so often peeling his skin from the surface.  The smell of sweat and beer was sickening.

“It’s a fucking sauna in here.”

Yeah, no shit.  Everyone within a 60 mile radius is feeling the same exact heat, but for him it’s unbearable.

“I swear, this house has no insulation.  I wanna swim but I can’t even get up to drive there.  I think a layer of my skin has fused to this chair.”

I didn’t have the energy to roll my eyes.  Time after time, I heard his complaints.  Sure, things might suck, but you have to deal, right?  It’s either that, or complain.  I’m no beacon of hope or anything, but he made me look like the patron saint of rainbows and unicorns.

It took everything within me to muster up a response.


It was too damn hot to argue.  FP

Playing Safe by Nicolette Wong.  She takes a last drag of my cigarette, her eyes squinting at the stranger who has travelled half the globe to walk down her street. As she relishes the last smoke ring, I turn to leave.

Are you sure you aren't coming with me?' she asks, passing me the cigarette butt stained with my saliva and her dark red lipstick. Against the lamp post she looks tall and rough in a faux fur coat, her skin the color of sand. Her eyes speak of an old soul I once met, a girl who crawled on my table like a wild cat.

I throw the cigarette butt into the bin.

‘You're going to be in good hands,' she says.

Does she have vodka bottles hissing on the windowsills too, when the wind blows through the afternoon shadows? I bet this one is too busy to notice anything beyond her bed and nightstand. She must work all day whenever she picks up a customer on the street. I'm not strong enough for that.

Past the entrance to my temporary home, I hear the whirling cry of a possum, out to kill.

‘Has Wesley been out for the day?' I ask my fiance.

‘No, he hasn't. It's not safe for a girl to wander around this neighborhood at night,' he says.

I grab our cat and put him on my lap. There are too many ways to be safe.  FP

Snowed In by Jane C. Chute.   "It roared across the landscape like a conquering warrior, cutting down all in its path."

Marcy hit 'Delete.' She looked down at her frozen, arthritic fingers, now burning with pain, and recalled the last words the newsman spoke before the power outage robbed her of her wireless lifeline to the world.

Roads impassable...up to two additional feet expected...lines down...stay indoors...

She blew on her hands to warm them; her breath, coming in short bursts now, sent smoky trails wafting through the frosty air. Her atrophied legs, cold at the best of times, had grown number as the day wore on.

She listened for signs of life outside the tiny, ice-encrusted basement window, but the only audible sound was the whirring of her motorized wheelchair. No birds; no people. Nothing. Five-foot drifts blocked all but a sliver of light from filtering in beneath the door.

Her lips cracked from thirst; she'd finished the last of the water hours ago, just before the pipes had frozen. The overcast grey sky grew dark as ink. The sun set, robbing her of light. Of warmth. Of hope.

She typed a single word on the keyboard, and watched as the battery died:

H E L P.   FP

2/28/2011 11:54:11 pm

Great story Jane! As I read, it's snowing outside so very appropriate.


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