How Zombie Learned the Difference Between Obsession and Love by Colton Merris

I left bits of body and micro-letters on strips of skin at her wedding. Some strips draped the backs of seats like coats. One note: To the bride: Some things are better left buried; does your husband know what you carry? I left every little bit about her. The outdoor wedding gave the guests a view of kayakers slicing rifts into the river. Their oars cut the blue water like scalpels. Caterers guarded hors d’oeuvres: pigs in blankets, cucumbers rolled into thin tortillas, and cream cheese and sliced meats, all delicacies in soft coffins. Everywhere, always, guests said how good…

Cut Your Own by Scott Pedersen

Otto Graf, a stooped, straight-faced man of seventy-five, stood behind his house in the remote Ocooch Mountains. Wrapped in a gray wool coat, hand-knit scarlet scarf, and tattered tweed cap, he struggled to position the opening of an unwieldy bag of bird seed over a tube feeder held by his neighbor, Gene Kaplan. “Gene, hold it steady!” “Come on, Otto, just pour it already,” said Gene. Otto was about to unleash a torrent of tiny thistle seeds into the cylinder, when the air was ripped by a metallic shriek. Both men flinched. “Scheisse!” He spit out the word and paused…

Café Drago by Kate Maruyama

(photo credit: Jack Maruyama)   Whenever he couldn’t get out of bed with his six a.m. alarm, Milo reminded himself the bakers were already at work, and it’d be his ass if he didn’t get there and start setting up. He also told himself to stop being a pussy. By the time he arrived at Café Drago for a seven a.m. shift, the sun just coming up, the bakers were already in, having arrived at four. They were the kind of guys who worked their asses off and never complained. The kind of guys he’d like to live up to.…

Sprouted by Natalie Rogers

Mine sprouted right through the top of my head. Everyone told me I should feel lucky, there were worse places it could pop up. Imagine the belly button? Or that crease in between the pinky toe and the toe next to the pinky toe? I tried to see the deeper meaning in my sprouting spot, though after years of research by botanists, herbalists, pathologists, and dermatologists, no official cause as to why these plants emerge from the body parts they do had been determined. Why couldn’t it have taken a subtler route? Somewhere hidden, not drawing attention from the masses,…

Alpha by James Sie

burning The wind brings in the morning even sooner than the birds. It’s covered in smoke. One sniff— clean-moist-grass    dirt-tumbled-down-from-the-night-before peeling-eucalyptus    the-promise-of-heat —All the smells are smudged with ash. Fire. Not here, but close enough. There’s no direction it’s not. Enough reason for me to get back home, but I stand on the stone steps, motionless, as the darkness yields to shreds of new sky.  I wait, telling myself I’m not waiting.  The nests above on either side of the steps are quiet, and no signs of movement in those clustered below. That’s another reason I know it’s…

Over the Archipelagoes to You by Sarah E. Ruhlen

  These are the things Walt will eat: Mondays: Box macaroni and cheese, the macaroni shaped like Pac-Man and ghosts. Tuesdays: Personal-size frozen pizza. Mel cuts a thin wedge from the pizza and arranges the pepperoni so that it looks like an eye. Wednesdays: Frozen burritos. Mel cuts a circle out of a slice of orange cheese, cuts a wedge and an eye into the circle, and lays it on the pale skin of the burrito when it is hot from the microwave. Thursdays: Canned Pac-Man pasta in spaghetti sauce. Fridays: Round fish patties with a wedge cut out for…

The Airbnb Guest by Sevde Kaldiroglu

    Mana was happy that her Airbnb listing got booked the day she put it up. His name was Alex. He hadn’t asked any questions prior to booking, even about the location or amenities. It was surprising, given the many inquisitive guests she’d had in the past at her old apartment. Perhaps she’d done a better job with the listing photos this time. The moment the booking notification popped up on her phone, she started rushing through her online meeting with her manager. There was so much to do to get the place ready. Yes, yes, she nodded to…

A History of Heartache by Patrick Strickland

  When Ma starts in on me again, she’s splashing gas station cabernet into an old, cracked coffee mug, flipping the bottle top-down and filling it to the lip. The springs from the pullout couch dig into my ass, and I can’t get comfortable. Ma grabs the remote and hits mute. A guy on the tube sobs silently, his head in his hands. He lost someone he loves, I guess, but who hasn’t? I listen to noise claw all about the trailer—dishwasher whooshing, dryer thumping, strays scraping at the back door. Nothing’s out of the ordinary, not really, but it’s…

Lobsters by Dean Jamieson

  Here’s how it happened: They were all packed tight inside a tiny apartment. Lena, Milo, August and the others, all the girls in children’s shirts and all the guys in pants four sizes too big. They drank rum and Cokes first, sipping out of mugs, spilling brown liquid on the rug, laughing it up, “ha, ha.” Milo brought coke, more baby laxative than coke, but it was pretty good anyway. Lena saw ghosts in her peripheral and talked with feeling and eloquence about absolutely nothing. She liked Milo. He had an awkward kind of grace, like he knew how…

Burnt by Alison Bullock

  by Alison Bullock   When the silver-embossed envelope arrives in the mail, Eleanor’s husband Gerald is practically giddy. It’s from the chief of thoracic surgery over at the hospital where he works as a cardiologist. An invitation to a house-warming party. “This is it,” Gerald says, rising up on his toes. “It’s happening.” The invitation isn’t personal—everyone in the department has been invited, even the nurses, but this doesn’t register with Gerald, who keeps mentioning what an honor it is. “All of the other wives are going,” he tells her. Eleanor sighs in resignation. She hates parties. People always stare…