Mindy Bowers downed her second Martian Sandstorm.
She’d just finished her set as “The Warbling Waif” at The Flophouse, one of the Martian Mining Company’s seedier bars. Across the table from her sat Mortimer Philpott Queensberry, whose slug-like lips were moving.
“People call me the Marquis,” he told Mindy. “Songbirds wish they could sing like you, my dear.”
Queensberry was on Mars hunting down useful scraps for his Garden of Orbital Delights, or G.O.D., a junk heap of a space station that he’d turned into a floating carnival. It orbited, reluctantly, above whatever remained of Earth. Martian colonists were so poor and desperate that Queensberry only needed a bit of smooth talk, or an occasional not-so-veiled threat, to get what he wanted.
“I work for the good of G.O.D.,” he told her.
“Wow,” she quipped. “Big job.”
“I’m classing up my little carnival,” said the Marquis. “Would you like to be the headliner at my new casino’s executive lounge?”
Mindy’s mind flashed back a decade. She was singing at a roadhouse outside of Raleigh to pay for opera lessons. Then that asshole at the Old Met in New New York called her a “Southern-fried disaster” after just one audition. The next day, a mining company recruiter promised steady work, and exotic adventures, on the edge of known space.
Queensberry’s offer sounded eerily similar. And yet...
“How long will it take to get back to your G.O.D.?” Mindy asked.
“Four or five years. You’ll be in stasis. Don’t worry!”
A few days later, as the cold crept over her in the stasis pod, the last things she saw were those slugs moving in slow motion beneath the Marquis’ untrimmed mustache again.
“Rest easy, my little songbird.”
There was no casino. No lounge. No singing gig.
Instead, Mindy Bowers was a new attraction in Queensberry’s “Cavalcade of Curiosities.”
As “Lorelei, Siren of the Midway,” she appeared on stage every night between “Fangs” and “The Jackhammer,” Martian miners who’d been also been lured onto the Marquis’ transport ship. All of them had undergone a series of “enhancements” during the journey. Fangs now boasted a mouthful of servo-controlled titanium teeth. The Jackhammer’s forearms were gone, replaced by two steel appendages topped with menacing chisel-heads.
It was Lorelei’s job, the Marquis said, to femininize this rich tableau.
Mindy woke from her four years in stasis to discover blue and gold feathers grafted onto her arms and upper torso. The Marquis’ engineers had bypassed her own voice box with a computerized one, which was connected wirelessly to a tablet the Marquis always carried with him. In other words, Queensberry controlled what came out of Mindy’s mouth in the same way he controlled what Fangs gnawed and what the Jackhammer crushed. All he had to do was push a few buttons.
Worse, the Marquis had no intention of letting Mindy sing. Instead, when Lorelei took the stage, he made her perform rare bird calls and songs.
Word quickly spread of the Marquis’ Martian Curiosities.
Lorelei wowed the crowds. Most had grown up on space stations or in hardscrabble mining colonies far from Earth. They’d never even seen a bird before, let alone heard one. Some rubes actually believed Queensberry’s contention that Lorelei herself might be the last emu in the galaxy.
“My beautiful Curiosities!” the Marquis said to his troupe after one performance. “They love you. And me.”
Mindy’s throat was on fire.
“Is this thing really powered by Strontium-90 batteries?” she asked Queensberry, who occasionally relinquished his control and let her speak normally.
“Yes, my nightingale. Certified by the Plutonian Radiation Safety Board.”
No one had heard from the Fusion Mining Company on Pluto for more than a decade.
“Listen, you fat fu…” she began. But the Marquis pushed a button, and her profanities transformed into the melody of the Cincinnati warbler.
The Marquis’ rule for fighting was simple—there were no rules. In the cage, no holds were barred and the use of all bodily enhancements was legal. And since the Marquis controlled everything with his tablet, every fight was rigged.
Unlike the construction of a pricey casino, Queensberry saw the fights as a more natural, more economical extension of G.O.D.’s core business, which was, as he put it, “bilking Space Corps grunts and ignorant miners out of their credits.” To cut costs, the Marquis repurposed his Curiosities. Fangs and the Jackhammer became Steel Jaw and Iron Fist. Their nightly clash, staged to ensure the betting public lost badly, always left the crowd wanting more.
Queensberry made Mindy the ring girl, or “fight progress manager” as he called it. Her skimpy outfit, which showed the poor quality of her feather implants, was bad enough. But the Marquis also installed new software in her voice box. He could now make her scream: “Let’s get ready to rumble!” before every match. She almost preferred imitating a Baltimore oriole in the Cavalcade, where, at the very least, she wasn’t caged.
Then, one night, she noticed that Queensberry’s vendors were selling small packets of birdseed to a drunken crowd already prone to throwing things at the cage. As she picked sunflower seeds from her hair later that evening, she said to Fangs and the Jackhammer: “Gentlemen, this shit circus needs new management.”
With one minute left in the third round, Fangs’ teeth were poised over the spot where flesh met metal on one of the Jackhammer’s arms. The menacing business end of the Jackhanmmer’s other arm was pressed against Fangs’ cheek. Bags of fake blood were hidden under the skin of both.
The fighters paused. The crowd roared.
The Marquis sat ringside, fingers hovering just above the tablet. Mindy, in a far corner of the cage, pretended to look away in horror.
Normally, at this point, Queensberry would pretend to press buttons, and the fight would enter the end game. The combatants would scream, roll around, and then one of the two—depending on the whims of the punters—would play dead. The crowd would be so wound up, it hardly noticed how clean the ring was at the end of the match. The Marquis was too cheap to spring for fake blood.
On cue, the Marquis tapped his tablet. Fangs and the Jackhammer shouted and writhed. The hidden sacks full of liquid burst, and both were soon covered in red.
Unused to such a sight, the Marquis thought he’d accidentally caused his prized Curiosities to destroy each other. He made for the cage door, carrying the tablet with him. Once inside, he set down the device and ran toward the prone bodies of his fighters.
The next thing he knew, the Marquis was pinned beneath one of the Jackhammer’s giant arms. Fangs had also miraculously recovered, his teeth now inches from Queensberry’s neck.
Mindy Bowers stood above all three, holding the tablet.
She cycled through bird calls until she found the one labeled “white bellbird,” widely considered the loudest avian mating call in the entire galaxy. She dialed her voice box’s volume up to its highest level. She kneeled and put her lips next to the Marquis’ ear. Those two wet slugs under his mustache started to quiver.
Then she pushed the button.
Fangs and the Jackhammer, who knew Mindy’s plan, were lucky enough to have earplugs. But the Marquis’ eardrums, along with all the grey matter in his skull, ruptured. Blood—real blood—oozed from his eyes, ears, and nose. Mindy could also smell foul things leaking from Queensberry’s other orifices.
The Marquis’ eyes started to glass over.
She whispered to him, in her real voice, “Don’t cage the songbird.”
Then another mating call split the Marquis’ skull in half.
Mindy didn’t smash the tablet. She wanted to, but she didn’t.
Instead, she methodically deleted the control programs. Fangs ended up with new dental implants, and the Jackhammer underwent a double arm transplant. Mindy had the voice box removed. “Got those feathers plucked too,” she joked.
When they felt fully human again, they dismantled the cage, and with it, the last vestiges of the Marquis’ G.O.D.
“Gentlemen,” Mindy said, “time for some new melodies.”
She realized that the bird calls and songs in the late Marquis’ database might actually be valuable. She contacted ornithologists, teachers, and avian enthusiasts in every corner of the galaxy. They agreed that Mindy had something special.
Over time, grant money flowed in and she turned Queensberry’s floating freak show into an avian research institute that she christened “The Bowery.”
Visitors to the station enjoyed walking among the hydroponic trees and vines while an ever-changing chorus of birds serenaded them from nearby teaching modules. Some visitors swore they heard another sound, too—a faint one coming from a closed section of the station, which, according to legend, had once housed a fighting cage. It sounded for all the world like a woman practicing opera scales. And the voice, they said, hit each note perfectly.
Clark Boyd lives and works in Haarlem, the one with the extra "a," in the Netherlands. In another life, he spent two decades reporting, writing, editing, and producing international news stories for the BBC and US public radio. He's currently at work on a book about windmills, cheese, or maybe both.
Although Odella couldn’t read the sign posted at the Market Square entry, her father could. “His Royal Majesty, King Aethelbert the Eighth, summons all and sundry to A Royal Fair, Norms and Wyrs, of whatever ilk, to attend a peaceful assemblage to celebrate the signing of the Armistice betwixt the two races signed one year ago on the morrow.”
Her father’s reading was very precise, and no wonder, since the King’s own tutors had taught him, after a Clerk of the King’s Court had discovered his propensity for fine weavings, He continued reading.
“There will be entertainments, including high wizardry, tumbling, mimes, puppetry, major and minor magics, as well as feasting.” He patted his round belly and smiled, then read on. “All are bid to attend under penalty of public flogging.” He scratched his chin at the last, mumbled. “Humph, he never changes...”
As one of the King’s own weavers, he and his four daughters ate well, though Odella, the youngest, could never put on weight.
Her mother had died bearing Odella, and she was always a sickly child, and ever so small for her age.
“But Papa,” she said, tugging on his waistcoat to get his attention. “You told me Mama said we should never trust the Norms.”
Papa nodded and slid his index finger alongside his nose. “And that holds as true today as it did in my childhood, when the Wyr and Norm War started.” He cast his gaze about furtively to see if anyone in the nearby market stalls appeared to be listening to his errant slip of the tongue. He crouched down to speak softly.
“And you, especially, should not trust the Norms, ‘Della. You barely have any WyrFriends as it is.” He clamped his mouth shut, belatedly realizing he’d once again lost control of his fallible tongue.
Odella didn’t mind. She was used to Papa’s ways and loved him dearly anyway for them. Still… “Is that because I’m a...”
“Shh,” Papa scolded her, giving her shoulder a shake. “You should never let anyone know.”
Odella’s eyes filled with tears at Papa’s harsh remonstrance.”Not even my husband someday?”
Papa smiled now. “You’ll decide that for yourself when you come of age, but for now, we keep it a secret, okay?”
Odella nodded, her unusually large, yellow eyes still brimming with tears. Papa hugged her to himself, pulled a kerchief from his waistcoat, and dabbed at the corners of her eyes.
“Hush now girl, and let’s dry those tears. We have something exciting to share with your sisters when we get home. Who know? Perhaps they might find themselves a husband at the fair, eh?”
“And me?” Odella said. “Will I find myself a husband?”
“Hopefully not for a very long time,” Papa said. His face looked worried.
Though it had rained nearly every morning for the past week, the day of the Fair dawned clear and warm.
Odella’s sisters chattered excitedly, dressed themselves in their brightest smock frocks, pinched their cheeks to add blush to their animated faces, and drove Odella’s father and her to distraction.
If Odella hadn’t been so excited by the Fair herself, she might have decided to stay home rather than get caught up in this energy.
Papa loaded up the best of the weavings the King hadn’t commissioned in his cart, hitched up old Horace, their mule, and the whole family rode into the village in style, Horace’s belabored brayings not withstanding.
The revelries had already begun when they arrived.
Papa, because of his high standing with the King, commandeered a market stall for his weavings.
Della’s sisters made their way to the entertainments where some of the local lads pitted themselves against one another in feats of strength, lifting heavy kegs and hurling them. There they admired the shirtless young men.
Odella was left to her own devices and she quickly found the puppet show, where the puppeteers were performing Knights and Dragons. She sat down on a carved wooden log with a boy of about her own age with overlarge yellow eyes like her own.
He smiled at her. “I’m Timmot. What’s your name?”
“Odella. My Papa’s the King’s Weaver. What’s yours?”
“My Papa’s a tinker. We travel a lot.”
“You’re like me, aren’t you?” Odella leaned in close and whispered. “A WyrOwl?”
Timmot nodded. “Yes. Papa says it has to be a secret, because the WyrOwls helped the Wyrs so much the King had to make the Peace. He doesn’t like them at all.”
Suddenly, both children lifted their heads as if listening.
“You feel that?” Timmot said.
This time, it was Odellas’s turn to nod. “Danger. In the direction of the King’s Wood.”
“We should wyr and check it out,” Timmot said.
Odella shook her head. “I’m not supposed to in daylight. The King’s soldiers might see me and report me to the King.”
“This is something bad. I know it. We’ve got to see what it is.”
Odella bit her cheek before nodding. “Okay, but hide first.”
The two children ducked behind a market stall and changed into WyrOwls and launched themselves into the air. If anyone noticed it, none remarked, perhaps believing them to be pigeons.
They circled the market square from above, then widened their search finally agreeing that the danger they felt did, indeed, emanate from the King’s Wood itself. They flew in that direction.
As they landed in one of the taller trees they could already hear the sound of men talking and the nickering of horses. The two of them hoped and flew from branch to branch ever lower until they could make out that the men were soldiers wearing the King’s own colors.
“It’s all a trap,” Odella hooted to her new friend.
He nodded. “We have to warn the WyrFolk.”
A few minutes later, Odella flew right into Papa’s stall and startled his Norm customers by changing right in front of them. “Soldiers in the King’s Wood, Papa. The Fair’s a trap.”
Papa nodded, turned red, and began to shout. “To me, WyrFolk! We are betrayed. To arms!” The Norms scattered. Those that had shops fronting the market square shuttered their windows and secured their doors, not wanting to have any part in the King’s revenge.
For the WyrFolk, the cry of, “To arms!” meant that instead of picking up pitchforks and clubs they changed into WyrWolves, WyrBears, and whatever other forms their creator had gifted them with. For Papa, that meant he turned into an enormous and deadly, hairy Wolf Spider.
Claw and tooth, hoof and poisonous fang were now ready.
When the King rode into the village at the head of his small mounted army, prepared to cut down Norm and Wyr alike in his thirst for revenge he didn’t arrive in surprise, but to confront a massed and fully alerted WyrForce.
Odella watched the King’s expression change from chagrin to angered embarrassment. Then, the King’s General, on a steed beside him, leaned in and whispered something which Norm ears wouldn’t have been able to hear, but WyrEars heard perfectly.
“Make our appearance here out to be a review or a parade your Majesty. We’re here to honor the Peace, by honoring the Norms and Wyrs alike.”
The King turned even redder in anger, but then slumped in his saddle, before nodding. The General nodded back and spoke loudly.
“We now take this time to march before Norm and Wyr to remember and celebrate our fallen. There is nothing to fear.”
It took a few minutes before the Norms gathered their courage and returned to the square to attend the review, and the WyrFolk paid their own homage to their fallen, remaining in WyrForm throughout the sham parade.
Odella thought the whole performance rather splendid.
I've been published a good bit. Most recently here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082PGPGK5. I tend to write weird fiction and some of my story titles reflect that. One such title, "With Possum You Get free Were-Fi" and "Bubba vs. the Werewolf", as well as "I Was A Teenage Were-possum. I've also had a story reviewed here: https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/stupefying-stories-22-emag-review/
Jed never had been a good boy, not in all the time she’d known him. It was part of his appeal. To the kids on the midway every night, desperate to dip themselves in the illicit neon-pooled pleasures of dark corners and cheap thrills, he was dirty, dangerous. They loved him for it. They could laugh about his missing eyetooth and scruffy, angular jaw, and say they bet he never even graduated high school… but they’d still buy weed and beer from him, and plenty were eager enough to lose a half hour and a virginity or two behind the whirling, grinding weight of the rides he operated. Jed sure could pull a good lever, after all.
“Evenin’, Kari,” he called, crossing the patchy grass to bum a smoke.
Sometimes, he did more than rides. He filled in for anyone sick or late, and never complained. He’d man the punk or flat joints, make sure the marks spent at least five bucks to win a dollar prize, and there was no one better to handle freak-outs over rooked games. Jed was skinny—long and tall, the kind of body held together with chew and tattoo ink—but he could lay down hell itself on any chest-pounding asshat with an attitude problem.
He’d even geek if you asked him.
Oh, not the old-time kind, tearing the heads off snakes and chickens with his teeth… you couldn’t do that anymore. The fair didn’t have a geek pit. But it had something close.
It started a year ago, back in Topeka. Bill, who ran the show—and whose cousins held the contracts for the rides and food stalls, in one big, nepotistic tangle—had been left short after Harlo the Clown got himself in trouble in a Walmart parking lot and couldn’t raise bail. Bill had Jed put on Harlo’s gear, but Jed wasn’t one for clowning. They’d come up with an act where he ran around, let the little kids throw wet sponges and pies… it had gone over big.
Then, when someone threw a penny, Jed didn’t flinch. He caught it, put it on his tongue, opened his mouth wide—little copper disc wet against yellow-fried teeth—and swallowed. The New Geek was born. Bill called him a genius, proving there was a first time for everything.
Carny people bleed pride, though, and there’s no artistry in opening up a vein and letting out the feral psychotic. There’s nothing special about a geek, people said. Geeks could be anyone, and usually were. Drifters, suckers, college boys slumming for a summer… and, most of all, alcoholics or junkies. The people too desperate to say no, who’d do anything for a fix, or the money to get one. Bring somebody that low, and who knew what you could drag out of them. It was dirty somehow; obscene in the way it ripped the guts out of the relationship between performer and audience.
The geek took away the safe distance that skill created and confronted the watcher with an ugly reality: they were staring into a crazed face that—there but for the breath of fortune—could be their own.
It got Jed shunned, and created the slimy, bone-deep unease that Kari felt as he squatted before her in the dirt hollow at her trailer’s stoop. They were parked up under trees, a silver-sided wagon circle, a world apart from the midway’s artifice.
“How’s the leg?”
She shrugged, aware of the hollow place beneath her skirt that still seemed to have shape and feeling. Two months since the accident. She’d never fly the high wire again, but Bill had let her stay on. She was Luna Fortuna now, swapping trapeze for Tarot cards. It was just a different kind of spangle.
“All right.” Kari pulled her sequined shawl tighter, and fumbled another coffin nail out of the pack. “Better, I guess.”
Jed smelled of ash, beer, and staleness, like the cab of his truck. Kari met his uneven eyes: one green, one brown, yet each flecked with the other. She wasn’t fool enough to think of them as the angel and the devil in him—you couldn’t separate that much good out of Jed, much less put a halo on it and call it clean.
“Well, that’s good.” The end of his cigarette flared red in the dusk, one bright eye against the coming dark. “Want me to walk you to your spot? I got time.”
It was a busy night. This year had been, even after that girl went missing in Emporia. No one talked about her anymore. She’d faded away, like the kid in Wakarusa last fall. Outrage had no permanency these days.
Kari spent her shift shilling for happiness, telling tales of lucky loves and brighter tomorrows. What was the harm in that? Except the cards wouldn’t shut up, and she could feel the wrongness in the air.
“That’s not what the nine of swords means,” announced the fifteen-year-old seated opposite, all ocean-blue hair, black septum clicker, and educated annoyance.
Kari blinked. The embroidered symbols on the purple tablecloth swam before her eyes.
“Huh? Sure it is. Look. Bad dreams are just dreams, and y’all can wake up and face the morning. It’ll be better.”
The kid snorted. “Are you kidding? Screw this!”
Kari didn’t watch them go. The card showed a figure, waking as if from a nightmare, haunted by blades. Its old name was Lord of Cruelty, and it was the third card she’d turned after the Tower and the Devil.
She grabbed her crutch, closed up the booth, and set off down the midway.
Pitching swirls of music and peals of half-sunken laughter drowned out the diesel gennies’ hum. Pink-and-blue lights sutured the sky, and Kari’s crutch bit into the cool, damp grass, jarring with every step.
She found him in back of the trailers, hidden by the silver walls of his bloodstained pit.
A boy sprawled on the dry grass, eyes wide and mouth gulping, elbows and knees flailing with desperate jerks as he tried to scramble away. His shirt was already cut, white cotton turned to bloody feathers.
“Jed, let him alone. It’s too soon since the last one.”
He glared up at her. Blood wet his fingers, his face a twisted scream of interrupted glee. Outrage burned in his eyes.
“It’s all they want,” he moaned. “Pain. Ain’t it?”
Kari shook her head. The air was thick-scented, the smell of ash, onions, fuel, and bodies woven into one distinctive perfume.
“Not like this. You know that.”
Jed gave a short, low cry, bent into a coil across the ground. A razorblade glittered in his palm. The geek’s job was to suffer, to swallow it all and smile through the shards. To wallow in the filth and let the others come up clean.
“It’s all it ever is,” he said, his voice curdled, fingers digging into the soft flesh of the boy’s belly, printing red half-moons in their wake. “All this, so’s you can go home and say, ‘well, hell, I may be broke, I may hate my life, but thank god I ain’t that. Not yet.’ Why’d you get everything, and we ain’t, huh? Why ain’t it fair?”
“Jed.” Kari stepped forward. “Come on. You know why. You got different meat.”
With a howl of frustration, he backed off and crawled across the grass toward her, body bent and head held crooked.
She raised his chin, stared into his uneven eyes. For a moment, she was teetering atop the wire again, the smell of chalk, sawdust, and sweat in her throat. She was flying, twisting, feeling the paroxysm of terror that came with knowing something was wrong but being powerless to change it.
He smiled. Then Kari was falling, diving down from a hundred storeys, right into the vast, wet ruin of his mouth. She could have screamed, tried to escape, run like a geeked bird with no air beneath its wings, but it wouldn’t have helped.
He sank his teeth into her arm, just above the wrist, finding the spot where the tendons softened and the skin smoothed. She split open, ran red like a ruptured pomegranate, blood dripping from her fingertips. Maybe flowers would grow where it fell.
She nodded at the boy. “Go on, now.”
He gaped at her, then scrambled to his feet, stumbling and wet-legged, and fled into the dark. Kari threaded her fingers into Jed’s dry, dusty hair, holding his hunger close. The geek needed to feed. He was always there, the loyal rage squeezed back behind silent lips. But someone had to take care of him, or the whole damn show would tumble down.
Kari tilted back her head and let him wrench her hand away. Somewhere, right at the edge of pain—past catharsis and out beyond the white-furled fuzz of awareness—she breathed out a sigh, and the red, red world turned dark.
Kezia Kynaston-Mitchell is an author and poet drawn to the strange. A writer of speculative fiction and horror-tinged sci-fi and fantasy, Kezia has a deep love of all things odd and off-kilter. They split their time between the Pocono Mountains and a farm in southwest England, where they can be found behind a keyboard and a furry pile of foster dogs. Kezia's other loves include horrible B-movies, vintage cameras, and the dream of unkillable houseplants. Kezia's work has been published by Inscape Magazine and Random House eKhaya, among others, and has appeared on radio and in mixed-media exhibitions.
Follow Kezia on Twitter - @KeziaKynaston - or check out keziakynastonmitchell.com for new releases, free reads and more.
At noon, the ringmaster and his cirkies forced their clowns into a large iron cage in the big top, snapping shut heavy padlocks to imprison the cowering men. The audience arrived hours later, packing the ringside seats, murmuring in eager anticipation of the show. When the full moon peaked, its light flooded the cage. The clowns begged for their freedom but their transformation had begun. They twisted and shrieked in agony as their bones cracked, their teeth elongated and sharpened and claws burst from their fingertips. The crowd clapped and cheered, baying for blood. Wolf howls drowned them out. Showtime.
Emma K. Leadley is a UK-based writer, creative geek, and devourer of words, images and ideas. She began writing both fiction and creative non-fiction as an outlet for her busy brain, and quickly realised scrawling words on a page is wired into her DNA. Visit her online at emmaleadley.co.uk or twitter @autoerraticism.
“Melarskey and Dunn - Two for the price of one!” Dunn called out while adjusting her timeworn fortune telling costume. “Melarskey tells of your future, and I tell of your future loves!”
A group of adults shoved a laughing woman towards the booth on the lighted midway. Dunn took the money offered and directed the woman to hold out both hands.
Melarskey took one, Dunn the other. Each told her what she wanted to hear.
When they projected their true form into the woman’s mind at the end, the resulting fear was flavored exquisitely, and Melarskey and Dunn each fed well.
Amanda Bergloff writes weird stories that have appeared in various anthologies, including Stories from the World of Tomorrow, Trembling with Fear, After the Happily Ever After and Uncommon Pet Tales. She has a passion for collecting vintage books, toys, and comics in her spare time. Twitter: @AmandaBerglof
Johnny looked up from the grotesque goat boy exhibit to see a carnie standing right in front of him. The carnie gave him a creepy smile.
“You liking the freakshow?”
Johnny was immediately creeped out by the man, “It’s…it’s really cool. You have a lot of attractions.”
The carnie chuckled, “We make sure we always have the biggest and best collection of freaks.” Jonathan backed up.
“Right…I should get going,” he said. He walked quickly to the entrance, but saw the entrance had been sealed. The carnie walked towards Johnny. He smiled.
“How would you like to be a freak?
Radar DeBoard lives in Wichita, Kansas and is currently a student of Wichita State University. He writes in his free time as he finds it relaxing and enjoyable. He has had multiple drabbles and short stories published in several different electronic magazines. His only goal with his writing is that someone enjoys his work enough to share it with others.
He scans the crowd, cursing to himself as he watches carnival-goers passing by his isolated game of skill.
It’d been a slow summer and he was worried.
“Is that the biggest prize you’ve got?” a young blonde asks, interrupting his thoughts. She’s pointing at the big fluffy bear hanging from the roof.
“No, ma’am. I have something bigger inside. Wanna see?” he smiles, looking around the near empty grounds.
“Sure!” she beams.
She giggles as she follows him inside the tent.
He’s quick with his knife as the nearby rollercoaster drowns out her screams.
He’s claimed his prize at last.
Belinda is passionate about stories and after years of procrastinating, has finally turned her hand to writing them, with a preference for supernatural/thriller themes; both often competing for her attention. She has had several stories published in a variety of publications, both online and in anthologies. Belinda lives in Australia with her family and has been known to enjoy the company of cats over people.
I am silent.
There is no need to be, not with the screams of the children and the raucous laughs of the adults drowning out other noise, but silent is how I have always been, so it is how I remain. Quiet. Unseen. Ruthless.
I dip into buckets of popcorn and cups of mulled wine, leaving behind traces of myself. I slip into the tigers' cages and undo the locks. I tug at an acrobat's ankle, and lodge in the throats of the fire breathers. I loosen bolts on a rollercoaster, and turn off the fire alarm.
I am death.
K.B. writes for various international anthologies, and her work features in dozens of collections about the mysterious, the magical and the macabre. Her own books of short fantasy novellas with twists, The Empty Sky and Out of the Nowhere, are available on paperback and Kindle now. Check out her website at www.kbelijah.com
After Amazon ran out of everything, we kept layers of curtains drawn, like cumulonimbus veils, and bolted chainlink over that. We whispered (even cuss words), wore slippers—noises attracted eaters. They were clowns—probably; they did paint their faces. Spicy odors preceded them, along with incantations that immobilized their prey (us). Wet cement was an effective barrier, but concrete mix had vanished from stores. The Big Deal, read a huge sign outside Menards, where we’d trekked to make sure. From inside a floor-model gazebo, a trumpet segued into “2,000 Light Years from Home,” then the flapping of enormous clown shoes.
F. J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. She has competed at National Poetry Slam as a member of the Madison, WI, Urban Spoken Word team. Her work appears irregularly in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov's SF, and elsewhere in the alphabet. Her dystopian collection of first-contact expedition reports, A Catalogue of the Further Suns, won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest and the 2018 SFPA Elgin Chapbook Award.