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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WE THE PEOPLE by Nicholas Grider

    WE THE PEOPLE Hi there! Thank you for your patience as you adjust to our way of life. We are the people. We’re just like you, except our clothing is less wrinkled and our databases are better organized. We’re grateful you allowed us to ask you to welcome us in, and then kindly gave your consent to our decision to stay. LET’S JOIN HANDS IN THANKFULNESS We like it here. The reason we like it here is because this is where we are, which makes things a lot more convenient for everyone, especially us. That’s what we mean…

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ROUTINE by T.J. Larkey

My girlfriend works late hours, without any real breaks to eat, so it’s my duty to feed us when she gets home. I take this duty seriously. Not serious enough to learn how to cook, but serious enough. I sit in bed fully dressed, waiting. Then she calls me as soon as she’s off and tells me about her day while I drive to the nearest fast food place. It’s our routine. I like routine. It keeps me in line.  “You’re a boy that needs to be kept in line,” she tells me. “Yes,” I say. “I like routine.” I…

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PURSUED BY FURIES: THE LURE OF THE UNCANNY IN FICTION AND FILM by Kevin P. Keating

Madeline and Sophie Ryan are identical twins. They are eight years old. They exude a rugged masculinity and are built like their merchant marine father — thick, solid, broad shouldered, with eyes so dark and glassy they seem to be made from perfectly polished pieces of obsidian. Mass murderers of spiders, flies, moths, and the exceptionally brilliant brush-footed butterflies that sail above the surface of the family swimming pool, the girls constantly hunt for easy prey. They’re also accomplished mimics who delight in doing impersonations of adults, aping their vocabulary with unnerving precision in a single singsong voice and then…

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AL WAITS FOR RAIN by Jonah Howell

1 I haven’t worn glasses since I was sixteen, so I heard him before I could make out his features. “So you’re not coming?” Pacing back and forth at the corner of Ninth Street, he shoved the phone in his pocket without hanging up. Let the other guy do it. He walked into a pizza shop, a narrow hallway between Ninth and whatever street runs behind Ninth. I followed. Pizza seemed wise: Forecasts showed a storm, but I was still scheduled for a long landscaping shift. He stood in the doorway, a tall man, probably six-four but hunched to six-flat,…

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