IN A SMALL TOWN (CALLED AMERICA) by Christian Fennell

It’s getting worse, and Jake finished his beer, and together they listened to the rain on the tin roof of the drive-shed; the receptiveness of its falling; the comfort within its echoing.  Things are lookin up, said Jake.  Damn straight, said Jared.  I mean, now that things are great again, things are lookin up, and Jake stood and walked to the fridge and grabbed two more beers. He passed one to Jared and sat back down on the block of cracked white oak. He took a sip and looked at Jared. I went and saw the doc. Oh?  Said I’m…

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LIFE, AS OF NOW by Kamil Ahsan

The courtship practices of Shalimar Gardens spiked on Pakistan Day. His breath is raggedy. The trees brush the air with heart-shaped leaves, a reminder that the world is passing him by without noticing him sink—the cars that move too fast, the motorcycles that almost run him over, the people, oh all the people, so many people, everywhere everywhere everywhere… It’s nightfall. He’s never been to the Shalimar Gardens. He never needed to. Fate grabbed him by the collar and shook him before he had a chance to know what he expected. All around him is noise, very ordinary noise. He…

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THE FLIGHT OF LIU XIAN by Matt Zbrog

He stared out at the world through paneled glass. At his fingertips lay a suite of controls. Switches. Buttons. Joysticks. HUD. Chrome. Glass. Metal. All that blinking light. But Liu Xian focused on the world beyond, gazing out from the cockpit at a domed sky. He breathed in pressurized oxygen through a ribbed and rubberized tube. A voice in his right ear counted down. A voice in his left gave final instructions. And, for the last time in his life, Liu Xian did what he was told.  He fired up the twin jet engines. Cut tether with the launch deck….

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WHAT IT HAD IN ITS MOUTH by Arielle Burgdorf

What can make viewing it so memorable is the fact that as each day passes, the rock changes colour depending on the light and atmospheric conditions, and never remains the exact same permanent hue.   Red, the only color that stays with you. A massive red rock, rising out of a grassy field. Sun warming the stone, casting shadows in the crevices. The golden, reddish-brown fur of a wild dog peeking out from behind a bush. And the final red, rusty, dark splattered all over the white jumper. A baby, missing from the jumper. The same question, on yours and…

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THE COAT by Sheldon Birnie

“Hell yes,” Dave answered when his cousin Lisa asked if he’d like to see something weird. Dave followed Lisa off the deck and back to where the cars were parked as the sun was sinking in the west, cutting through the trees in brilliant bars of gold. Down by the lake, children shrieked and splashed in the late afternoon heat. He was sick of answering his family’s questions about his dumb job and why his girlfriend, Sandy, hadn’t made the trip out because they’d “sure like to meet her.” Something weird, whatever it was, was certainly a welcome change.   “Dave,”…

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LUCY by Paul Nevin

Lucy saw me first, so I didn’t have a chance to avoid her this time.  We were standing on opposite sides of the narrow road that ran along the beach, her by the sea and me in front of the shops. She had one hand at her hip, thumb up and forefinger pointed at me. ‘Hey Craig!’ she shouted, and when I looked over she pretended to shoot me with her finger and blow imaginary smoke from its tip. I clutched at my chest, which was the accepted response to this little in-joke of ours, while Lucy laughed and mimed…

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CRACKED by Nick Farriella

Someone who was once very famous, but not so much anymore, said, “Every whole person has ambitions, initiatives, goals,” about a boy who was very particular and wanted to press his lips to every square inch of his own body. This is not about said boy, but a different boy, a peculiar boy who had never read that story and whose goal was to crack every joint, every ligament, every air pocket and poppable piece of cartilage in his body. The boy was seven. The origins of this habit, to which he simply called “Cracking” were unknown to him, but…

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MURMURATION by Daniel Fraser

Chip Disco hated chips, and disco. He only ever danced alone. Chip worked the skeletons in the Blackpool Ghost House and had done for three years. Four rooms in, the skeletons crept out from a false cupboard that looked like it wasn’t part of the house at all. Everyone said it was the best bit.   The timing was everything; the timing was Chip’s special skill. Just when the customers thought they were safe, after fleeing from the slime pit and the array of plastic bats, Chip would catch them unawares. A camera hidden in a pumpkin took a picture of…

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THE PENCIL TEST by Grace Loh Prasad

I once dated a Famous Author—someone you might have heard of. He’d written half a dozen nonfiction books by the time I met him at a writers conference, and had recently published a surprise bestseller that was made into a movie. He’d lived and traveled all over the world as a journalist and was on the masthead of a venerable magazine.  The Famous Author was teaching a class on how to write and sell travel stories, which seemed like a good entry point for my first-person writing about Taiwan. After the conference I emailed him to introduce myself and mentioned…

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NEGAUNEE, MICHIGAN by Ron Riekki

I grew up in Negaunee. It’s a town you’ve never heard of. My ancestors are Saami. It’s an entire culture you’ve never heard of. My father was a sampler. It’s a job you’ve never heard of. He collected iron ore samples from the mines for testing. We live by a lot of mines you’ve never heard of—Empire, Tilden, Jackson. Upper Peninsula’s often misspelled Upper Penisula. I swear to God. Although God wouldn’t like me swearing about how the place I was born and raised is called a penisula by people who don’t use spellcheck. But this all happened before spellcheck….

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