Read Them If You Dare

a Halloween Warning from Six Sentences



6S

Six Sentences invites you to read today's stories by Rod Drake, Adam J. Whitlatch, and Joseph Grant... if you dare...

UZS

by Rod Drake

I had to admit that, by and large, the zombies were good workers, reliable and uncomplaining, but a tad slow, being mindless, shambling and all, plus their personal hygiene and appearance left much to be desired, but after all, no American worker this day and age is perfect. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed their natural environment, the sugar cane fields, and scattered the voodoo priestesses, the zombies moved north, looking for, well not really a job, but a purpose. That’s where the company I work for came in; they added a mail, message and package delivery branch called the United Zombie Service, or UZS, for short. Since the zombies shuffled around all day anyway, were easy to direct, required no salary or benefits (being dead and all), it seemed a natural fit, as long as UZS stayed away from delivering medical organs for transplant and dissection (particularly B-R-A-I-N-S). The company appointed me the operations manager of UZS, given my many years of excellent service and my affinity, they believed, for the unique “lifestyle” of the zombies. It’s true that I have my own problems, but they are completely under control and don’t affect my day shift work at all (twice a month, when the moon is full, I do get pretty wild and hairy, and must run free and howl a bit).

6S

Rod Drake, author of Crime Birds, is the Official 6S Author of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Check out his longer stories in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward and MicroHorror.

Confessions of a Horror Writer

by Adam J. Whitlatch

People often ask why a person of such high intelligence and as cultured as I would lower myself to writing grisly horror stories about hordes of flesh-craving zombies, murderous husbands, and vengeful apparitions from beyond the grave. The answer is quite simple, my friend: your children read it. People also often ask why a Christian, such as myself, would taint my soul with stories of murdered trophy wives rising from shallow graves for a final night of ghoulish love-making (not to mention a bloody midnight snack), or tales of handsome vampires who bewitch young women in back alleys with their preternatural charms, coercing them into decadent deeds that neither drugs nor alcohol could normally induce. Again, the answer is simple, sir: it gives your lady impure thoughts. I see that my explanations are not enough for you, my friend, for the look on your face says you still do not understand... so I will leave you with this final explanation for why I write the things I do: if I don’t do it, then Laurell K. Hamilton or Stephen King will, and I have bills to pay. Now let me get back to my work, before I write a horror story about you.

6S

Adam J. Whitlatch, author of Honey Do, has penned numerous horror and science fiction short stories. This is Adam’s sixth 6S story, and definitely one of his favorites. He is currently seeking representation for his first novel "The Blood Raven: Retribution" while working on his second, "E.R.A. – Earth Realm Army." (If you think he’s good with only six sentences, you should see what he can do with seven or more.)

Naughty Nasty Mr. Ivers

by Joseph Grant

To be dead certain, you would not want to end up in Mr. Ivers’ care. Mr. Ivers was the local undertaker with a most peculiar predilection; he preferred his lovers without a pulse. Some say it was the result of a terribly broken heart when Mr. Ivers was an impressionable and fragile young man. In his debauched view, Mr. Ivers knew no woman could ever reject him again and he could have all the privacy in the world and not ever be disturbed. Along came a beautiful young woman who had died of mysterious causes and was relinquished to Mr. Ivers’ unusual care. As naughty, nasty Mr. Ivers practiced his profane form of lust, the undead woman’s eyes angrily opened.

6S

Joseph Grant, author of Keeping It Reel in L.A., is originally from New York City and currently resides in Los Angeles. His short stories have been published in over 50 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.

The "D" Word

by Tara Lazar

I can’t believe Andrew asked me what divorce meant, within earshot of his own father. Byron immediately grabbed the remote and started flipping channels, whizzing past basketball games, weather reports, and home improvement shows in an attempt to appear occupied. I saw small beads of greasy sweat start to collect on his thick, bulbous head and my stomach grew queasy. We were darn careful not to discuss anything about our imminent separation in front of Andrew, but somehow our arguments in the walk-in closet were overheard, maybe escaping through the air ducts — twisted, angry, resentful words floating through the house, coating everything in dismay like a blanket of dust. Andrew was simply eating his cookie, innocently licking the sticky vanilla filling out of his Oreo, paying as little attention to his question as Byron was. Byron and that fat head of his, blocking my view of the changing channels.

6S

Tara Lazar writes while her children are sleeping. If you see typos or capital letters where they don't belong, it means her children wouldn't nap; instead, they decided to bang on the keyboard. You can find her not-so-anonymously here.

Buttons

by Samantha Entwistle

The playground is always the great leveler. Thinking I looked well put together in the yard and ready for the world, I stood there while Claire ripped something off the front of my shirt. We all looked at it; I snatched it back and reapplied it to the gape between my buttons. "It’s tit tape, I got it off eBay," I explained. "Oh, I did wonder what it was..." commented Valé. "Well, you should have ordered extra buxom," Claire pointed out.

6S

Samantha Entwistle is up north.

the sweetest goodbye

by srchngformystry

this is what he's wanted, to be in a long term relationship, to not be lonely. i knew it the first time i met him, i knew it as i was leaving his bed the first time, i knew it when i went back to him. he wants to have children, to be married again, to be with one woman because he is a romantic. i believe that he is tired of being alone, though i think it's his nature to be so. i also believe, and i hate to say this, that he may not be capable of monogamy. this is a perception - not necessarily a prediction based on his past and on the present time, with me.

6S

srchngformystry, author of adjustments, hates goodbyes, but frequently partakes in them. to find out why, visit her here.

Apathy Prior

by Jeremy Brunger

I walked to the car, where my daughter had died. Without stupor, or risen vigor, or anger, or tears. Opening the door, I thought about the paint job, and the fresh layers. Many years, then the fresh layers... cool green; it had been red, darker than sienna. I'd driven around in that thing for four months before I asked my cousin to get the new job, while I was out of town on 4H business. I stopped finding new stains on the carpet a couple months ago, so the interior has been neglected; today, the market in Madrid is rubble, six more dead.

6S

Jeremy Brunger hopes he captured what he was trying to say well enough.

The Stream

by Dustin R. Packwood

Shedding armor, I slowly stumble towards the silently murmuring stream. I collapse in the soft moss on its banks and stab my shaking hands into the cold water. The blood reluctantly releases its hold on my skin and joins the flow of the water; crimson ribbons snake away from me. Thinking back to the battle, my mind tortures me with images of families - brothers, fathers, sons - cut down like wheat beneath the scythe. I catch my reflection on the ripples of the stream, and cannot help but notice the deadened, lost look in my eyes. With a shock, I realize that I know myself no longer.

6S

Dustin R. Packwood has spent all 24 years of his life wishing for a pet dragon. He continues to believe that the world would be a better place with wizards, magic, and kingdoms.

Rain Dance

by Christopher Cocca

It's hot as hell here in July and my air conditioner's broken and the passenger's window's jammed. 22 is closed and they say it's under construction. I say the whole fucking place is. I make it to my parents' house in shit time and punch it up the street as the sky around me flashes and the radio cracks just before the lighting and the thunder half a step after and you can smell it but there's no rain. Silver clouds rise like mountains and there's fire at the peaks, everything is charged like Tesla Coils but there's not enough of anything to break the heat or bring a change and I don't hear screams or horns or sirens and so I'm driving faster. I think about a drink and then again about rolling it, about things to cut the tension and I am like July before the rain, I think, danger and power and nowhere to go, hot as hell and almost broken.

6S

Christopher Cocca lives in Allentown, PA. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Elimae, Boston Literary Magazine, Geez Magazine, Brevity, and The Lantern (the literary journal of Ursinus College).

Lost Chance

by Pam Hawley McInnis

Usually, late-night bitchfests with Kathy in the 24-hour diner, where she could punctuate each lament with a sip of lukewarm coffee or a drag on her cigarette, made Gina feel better about being 36 years old, overweight, overworked, living alone with her cat and losing her battle against crow’s feet. A bit rough around the edges herself, Kathy could understand Gina’s frustrations with men who passed her up without a second glance because someone younger, firmer, fuller-lipped and smaller-waisted was almost always in the room. But tonight, the blue-eyed blonde-haired waitress whose cleavage threatened to spill over into Gina’s coffee with each refill just reminded her that she was losing ground against the competition with each passing year. As Gina sighed and used Kathy’s lighter to stoke up an other cigarette, a slight man with thinning hair and glasses walked by and caught her gaze, his hopeful half-smile fading as she quickly averted her eyes and focused on her coffee cup. He left the diner as Kathy erupted into girlish laughter and rambled on about the nerve such a scrawny, balding specimen must have to think he even stood a chance with the likes of Gina. They finished their coffee, stubbed out their half-smoked cigarettes, and headed into the darkness, each driving home with her radio blaring and cursing the fact that she’d be sleeping alone again.

6S

Pam Hawley McInnis lives, works, and writes in Baltimore. Some of her additional work can be found here.

Thief

by Justice

You stole all the romance from my soul, and left nothing but a scar. You take without remorse not willing to give a drop of compassion. You systematically robbed me of all positive thoughts and feelings, leaving my heart to wither into dust. You say it was me, all me, who made you do these things, never once glancing into the mirror of truth. If I was so bad throughout our years together, why would you treat me worse than what you say was unbearable for you? Yes... you are a thief, taking my life from me slowly, not capable of forgiveness, yet... I... can still love you!

6S

Justice, author of Irony, is an exasperated husband who, after 20 years, wishes his wife was still in love with him.

adjustments

by srchngformystry

it's a lot of negotiating, i've found, when i have a discussion with myself about where this life is headed. what stays, what goes, what needs to be pursued, what needs to be left behind. while it is wildly exciting thinking and dreaming of all the possibilities, it is also lonely. there's a sadness in that solo effort. and it is solo, isn't it, regardless of who is making the decision with me. after all, i'm the one who has to initiate the changes, figure out logistics, etc., even if i'm involved with someone, ultimately, the decision is internal... and it is mine.

6S

srchngformystry is still in negotiations. curiosity will lead you here.

Executive Decisions

by Simon Stratton

It was five-thirty on a Friday and time to go home, but I had to consider who I was going to promote this year. There was only one position and two people had applied. Jill, who was a competent employee, had walked dog poo through my house when I had held a social evening a few months ago. However, on the plus side, she had remarked positively on my light-hearted poster for the event. John, the other applicant, was easily the hardest working and proactive member of my team. Then again, he hadn't laughed at my witty comment in the office Christmas card, so... maybe I had missed something.

6S

Simon Stratton, author of The Breakup, attended Manchester University.

Scrubber

by Ian Rochford

This is your brush. Hold tight, it will squirm! Sit beneath this hole, and when The Politician pokes his arse through, you will rotate the brush thus... then back the other way. Apply spin if necessary. You will then anoint The Politician’s gleaming ring with this, the Good Oil. This will make it palatable to all those who need to kiss it, or listen to what it has to say.

6S

Ian Rochford, who entered our first contest with Shaping Atonement, is an unemployed Australian screenwriter (ostensibly of comedy) who recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing short stories. He is now plundering his fading memory for all the good ideas that came and went unrecorded, which probably accounts for the maddening inconsistency of his output.

It’s Just a Painful Mouth

by Billy Schear

She is a housekeeper from a foreign land, with skin as creamy and dark as a melted Milky Way. She used to work in the gift shop until her thoughtful supervisor decided it best that she toil where the guests couldn’t see. It’s all for the best, she could hardly speak English anyway. Now though, no matter what language she is speaking, only low garbled tones come out. Ever since that night at the bus stop when her lower jaw received a kiss from a loaded .22 she has been able to do little more than drool while listening to the echoing giggles of the maniac who gave her a new face. Her sister gave her a Sesame Street bib to wear at work so that her uniform will stay free of pus and spittle; no one feels sorry for her, no one even knows she exists, after all is said and done she’s just a fucking housekeeper.

6S

Billy Schear, 24, generally agrees that suicide is just a state of mind. He is currently a photo journalism student who is unlikely to graduate due to a complete lack of interest in self improvement.

October in the Springtime

by Elizabeth Rollo

She sensed it as soon as she walked in, but at first she shrugged it off, attributing it to something that had happened earlier in the day. It did not make sense as she had not seen him for over a year, and here she was in a place far removed from him. It was a late October in the springtime of their lives when they met and she did not really understand what had happened, or more specifically, what had not happened in the years since that day. The song changes on the juke box, she looks up and it is his eyes that she sees. He is there, has been there, the whole time as it was he who she had sensed from the moment she had walked in. As they come together from across the room, what may seem like idle talk to another is so much more, for it is two hearts finding each other once again.

6S

Elizabeth Rollo, author of The Most Peaceful Moment, lives in New Jersey. She has always loved October, whether in springtime or autumn.

Rope Tricks

by Diane Brady

Cactus Carl, the oldest cowboy at 84 years old, walks into the ring, his gait slow but determined, and with the help of Paul Spencer, the rodeo clown, mounts the first of two prized horses; carefully, with great focus, he stands tall and places one white boot on each bare back, for the horses are shoulder-to-shoulder, harnessed together. The old cowboy is especially dapper today in his white 10-gallon hat, matching red western shirt and pants, the white belt and large silver buckle tied around his narrow waist. Cactus Carl extends an arm, grabbing the rope from the clown, and then adjusts his stance before warming up with Around the World, the large hoop encircling him and this two prized rodeo horses; he lifts his arm upward with effort to tighten the hoop until only he is inside the rope circle. Adoring fans whistle and holler, clap and cheer, some shaking cow bells and shouting for another trick; Cactus Carl gives them Through the Door, first standing with both feet on one horse, then spinning the hoop vertically and finally stepping through until both feet are on the second horse. The crowd is loud, ecstatic, mesmerized by his skill, which prompts the old cowboy to perform his most difficult trick – Jump for Joy; a quick nod to the rodeo clown signals the count, while Cactus Carl, now standing with a foot on each bare back, begins to jump, the hoop passing around him and under him – one, two, three... eight, nine, ten... twenty. Finally, the oldest cowboy dismounts and walks slowly to the edge of the ring, his hand held high, waving the 10-gallon hat, face glistening with sweat, breath heavy, the crowd smiling and clapping; Cactus Carl removes a faded blue bandana from his shirt pocket and wipes his brow; “Great show tonight,” says Paul Spencer, the nursing home attendant, as he moves the two sturdy chairs back to the dinner table; “You are one smokin’ ol’ cowboy.”

6S

Diane Brady, author of Best Regards to Albert, lives in the land of cowboys - young and old - in Denver, Colorado.

Horizontal Vortex

by Quin Browne

I am awake, heart pounding, lost as to where I am, what the object is I am on, my mind frantic in its search among the flotsam and jetsam of letters and images and words contained there that mean... nothing. The sensation doubly frightening; not only do I flounder while I seek the word for this... this thing, this surge of blood and endorphins that brings me to full, shaking awareness, it's that I am cognizant enough to realize I would not understand the meaning of the word should I find it there among the others. It happens more and more these days; scattered words on my dresser... on the floor... in a box of photos of people whose faces that are as lost to me as the name of the thing that they are. In the middle of a conversation, I am struck dumb seeking... something that has letters and a meaning, and I can't remember it and I'm like this human... eight ball that if I wait long enough, it will pop to the top of my head and suddenly... suddenly... I shout it, relieved and exhausted from the search. Creating my own spoonerism language, laughing at myself as this becomes that, words switch places, sentences flip flop... self-deprecation a weapon in the battle I fight in the hope no one will notice my longer and longer pauses... that their words won't start to whisper around me, slipping and settling in my ears, adding to my own thoughts of fear. I wonder, while I look out the window at things that do not fit a category in my memory, feeling the letters touch the edges of my mind... seeing them with peripheral thought, I wonder... will the words remember me?

6S

Quin Browne, author of Laurence Olivier is My Lover, lives in New York City. She likes it there.

Novel Excerpt

by Shaindel Beers

When she was six-years-old, she'd left her doll out in the yard by mistake, and her father had run over it with the riding lawn mower. For weeks afterward, she would find tiny, flesh-colored bits of plastic, sometimes a shred of calico dress, a blue marble eye with lashes still attached, and would sob uncontrollably, those heart-wrenching sobs that children lose their breath to. She'd always wished she'd had a mother who had sympathized with her, who had held her when she cried, but her mother had firmly said, "If you can't take care of things, then you shouldn't have them," and turned back to the dishes. She wondered if her mother remembered saying that. Or regretted it. Or felt justified the day she had had to call and tell her that Saniya was gone -- that there was nothing that could have been done -- and had to admit that she was in the house answering the phone when the car had run over her daughter, crumpled the life out of her forever.

6S

Shaindel Beers, author of Old Country, had felt silly attempting to write a novel (even though the first four chapters had gotten her into grad school) - after all, she'd only had one short story published. But after this crazy year of 13 published poems, 5 short stories, and a book contract, she thinks she just might go back to it. This excerpt is (possibly?) from her novel in progress, "When Hearts Lie Fallow."

Peripheral Polyneuropathy and Me

by Arthur Daniels

Once, but now no longer, I was able to run, jog, and walk eight miles a day with my friend Larry (AKA Large Lawrence of Suburbia). Five years ago, after complaining of chronic foot pain, and after extensive electro-muscular nerve conductivity testing (EMG studies), the original diagnosis of simple shin-splints was changed to peripheral polyneuropathy. Since then, the very nature of this condition, which starts at the toes and fingers and works its way inward, randomly targeting and irreversibly demyleanating peripheral nerves along the way, has demonstrated itself to be a progressively disheartening self-fulling prophecy. The beast is literally eating me alive. My hands, arms, legs and thighs, are now a patch-work of areas either of total numbness or hyper sensitivity, so sensitive that should they come into contact with anything, even the most gentle caress from a loved one, the result is excruciating pain. I am afraid.

6S

Arthur Daniels, 58, married with two daughters and four grandchildren, has been everything from a zoo keeper to a sea cook on an oceanographic research vessel. He used to play a lot of Chopin, but since his left hand no longer cooperates, he now plays a lot more like Thelonious Monk: floppy left hand outlining the harmonic structure of the music. Despite his medical issues, he's just fine, and reinventing himself daily.

Taking Notice

by Rion

In the amount of time it takes to remember to breathe, the woman attained it. She was lucid. And walking in her quiet neighborhood, driving on the highway at 80mph examining the dirt beneath her fingernails, talking to a colleague – it was now impossible to lose the aliveness injected into each second. Possibility filled her like an alien Casanova pushing some weird sex achingly and thrillingly intimate into her every pore. All this she gained, dear seekers, at the minimal cost of paying attention. All this from rending the boundary between psychics and physics, removing the training wheels lashed to the wings of her soul.

6S

Rion (Amy Chesbro) is an Alaskan transplant to Michigan, with a technical job and a creative mind. Her website, Raincoat Flashers, beckons longingly to you. That’s it, watch my finger. Go. To. The. Site. You are getting very... sleepy...

Logjam

by Belinda Furby

Marlene stood in the far corner of the Dollar Store holding back tears she knew could burst free any moment like a logjam letting go. She focused hard on the shelves of toiletries, squeezing very tightly and systematically every muscle in her body, until she began to tremble and sweat with the effort. Focusing and tightening; this was how she held it together on days like this - days when she had to choose between buying toilet paper and toothpaste, between a can of tuna and a can of Coke. Toilet paper she could easily take from the restroom at school and stuff in her purse; the can of Coke was a luxury just for her. Tuna would be dinner for them both. There - decision made, dam stopped.

6S

Belinda Furby, who has stolen toilet paper from a public bathroom before, is thankful not to have to choose between tuna and Coke anymore. She is the author of First Kiss.

Origin of a Name

by Brian Steel

I love Ireland. My name is like that channel of water separating the coasts of England and the Emerald Isle. You see, my father is English; so English, in fact, that he refuses to drink coffee. But that is only half of me, and when I was born, the Irish, in the form of my mother, won a tiny victory over their historic foes to the East. She insisted on a Gaelic first name, and I became Brian; and thank god for that, because if the English had won yet another battle against the Irish, I would have been called Roy George Steel the Third. And that is why I love Ireland.

6S

Brian Steel has resided in numerous cities throughout the US and Canada, and now lives and writes in the weird wilds of Baltimore, Maryland. He really does love Ireland, and believes that Guinness is sacred.

Couch, Remote, Beer

by Tom Mahony

Friday evening I collapsed on the couch, cracked a beer, and fondled the remote. The week had been disastrous, next week looked even worse. But for now: couch, remote, beer. A pizza on the way. I sank into the supple fabric. Ah, yes.

6S

Tom Mahony, author of Weak Coffee, is a biological consultant in central California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has appeared in flashquake, VerbSap, Void Magazine, Flash Forward, Laughter Loaf, Long Story Short, and Surfer Magazine. He is currently circulating a novel for publication.

The Breakup

by Simon Stratton

A warm tub of Haagen-Dazs sat on the floor next to the sofa where she slept and a pile of used tissues huddled nearby like scared albino hampsters. I had made a mistake coming over. She was more upset about her boyfriend leaving than I had been expecting and the last thing she needed right now was her friends hitting on her. I pulled a blanket from a drawer and used it to cover her. I knew had to do the right thing. I would wait until tomorrow before sending the flowers and discrete packet of condoms.

6S

Simon Stratton, co-author of Accidents Happen, attended Manchester University.

Crime Birds

by Rod Drake

He sat there in the interrogation room, smug and snotty, as he casually smoked his thin brown French cigarette, believing we couldn’t pin the murder rap on him. But he was wrong, dead wrong. It’s true we didn’t have his fingerprints at the scene or the murder weapon, but we had something even better – an eyewitness. As I recounted his killing of rival gangland boss Cochran “Cock” Robin, detail by detail, our suspect began to pale visibly and broke into a sweat. When I revealed that we knew about his master archer ability and numerous awards won, and that Cock Robin’s heart was cleanly pierced by an arrow from a 100-foot distance, Sammy “the Sparrow” Flynn demanded to know, as we cuffed and read him his rights, how we figured out it was him, who had given him up. I took my own sweet time with the answer, leaning down on the table directly in front of his flushed face, snuffed out his smelly cigarette and replied coolly, “It was Paulie ‘the Stool Pigeon’ Carrier, who saw the whole thing from his statue perch, and you know how he hates you and loves to talk to the cops.”

6S

Rod Drake, author of Sanctuary, wonders if anyone remembers the old Nursery Rhyme: "Who killed Cock Robin? / I, said the Sparrow / with my bow and arrow / I killed Cock Robin." Check out his longer stories in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward and MicroHorror.

Mars and Venus

by Jenn Ashworth

It isn't like we're an old married couple, but over the past few years my boyfriend and me have worn each other down on the burning issues - how much money he spends on computer games, my smoking, his laundry, me watching porn in bed when he's trying to sleep, him refusing to talk on the phone to my mother. We've learned to negotiate. I was enjoying this stage in our relationship - not settled exactly - we still like doing sex and I'm not past missing him when he isn't around - but I was sure we didn't need to worry about the deal-breakers anymore. Then we had a bit of an incident, a sort of accident with a milk bottle, and it's set us back. We're arguing again: he thinks we should give ourselves up and I think we should hide the body and move to Wigan. We've decided to leave it where it is for the time being and give ourselves a week to talk and come to some kind of compromise.

6S

Jenn Ashworth, author of I Can't Stand Being Disappointed, was born in 1982 in Preston, Lancashire. "Mars and Venus" is taken from the first page of her new novel-in-progress. You can read more about Jenn, her writing (and her other novel) at her website.

An Atheist's Plea

by Bob Jacobs

I died in a car crash this morning after I fell asleep at the wheel, my own fault for staying up half the night writing. I hadn't a clue what to expect and found myself surrounded by a fuzzy white nothingness, so I waited for God knows how long until some old guy turned up. He asked my name, licked his thumb and flicked through a bunch of papers he carried on a clipboard. He said, "So tell me, Mr Atheist, what have you ever done to deserve an eternity in Heaven?" Now, I'm an ordinary guy, I've had an ordinary life, I've done nothing remarkable and I haven't been to church in years, so I smiled meekly and shrugged, at which point he grunted, turned and walked away. When he had almost disappeared from view I shouted, "Hey, wait a minute, I once had some stories posted on the Six Sentences site, that must count for something, right?"

6S

Bob Jacobs, who's been Looking After the Little Lady, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Dying

by caccy46

When three months pregnant, it took very little for my stomach to heave or my throat to constrict at smells that once delighted my senses; but this stench of disease would even sicken those whose worked with the dying. It was the smell of rotting tissue stinking, released through pores; it was shiny, thick goo oozing out her vagina from a malignant uterus. She lay with teeth exposed, blackened from liquid morphine that could not quiet the moans of her pain-wracked body. Her breath was very slow; and I counted them per minute, wanting to be there for the last one. As the school bus approached for his first day of school, my six year old cried for his beloved Nana. I put him in the car and drove as fast as I could to his classroom and raced home again, just in time for the nurse to meet me at the top of the stairs telling me I had missed her, she was gone.

6S

caccy46, author of Ashes to Ashes, is 60 years old, a mother of two, and has been married for 32 years.

The Visit

by Mr. Harlequin

I visited my Father today. It has been some time since my last visit as, over time, the demands of a frenetic lifestyle led to them becoming less and less frequent, filial duty replacing desire, obligation replacing need. Originally, I would talk of many things, asking for advice and guidance, receiving none, regaling him with stories of the latest exploits of his granddaughters, as if he could not see for himself how they grow and yet, over time, the content dwindled proportionate to the visits, the intervals longer and longer, the words no longer flowing. Today was different. Today, as so many times before, I began as the mature adult, long absolved of the need for parental navigation through the exigencies of adult reality, began with the same hollow synopsis of complex lives and personalities, began to speak without talking. Yet today, it was all stripped away from me, not layer by layer but at once, a magician’s reveal of my inner child and suddenly, I was not an adult fulfilling a social expectation or a student seeking tutorial guidance, but, with great wracking sobs, I was that child, needing the Daddy taken from him too soon.

6S

Mr. Harlequin, based in the UK, is the author of Turn Around When Possible.

Honey Do

by Adam J. Whitlatch

He smiles as he slathers extra mayo on his fried bologna and tomato sandwich, because he can have anything he wants for breakfast, damn it. His wife is out of town at a convention, and he is free to do whatever he wants. He struts through the kitchen in just his underwear, scratching himself with one hand and shoving the sandwich into his mouth in huge, dinosaur-sized bites with the other, just because he can. After finishing his sandwich he cranks the stereo, fills the sink with water, and begins the first task on the long list of chores she left for him: do the dishes, feed the dog, sort the laundry, mow the grass, take the kids to karate, vacuum the living room, mop the kitchen floor, clean the bathroom, take out the garbage, and finally at the bottom she scrawled, I love you, sweetheart. Why’d she leave him such a long list when he has the whole house to himself for the day? Because she can.

6S

Adam J. Whitlatch, author of Casey at the Bat, wrote this story while his wife was out of town for two days at a veterinary convention. He is the author of several science fiction and horror short stories and is currently hard at work on his second novel, "E.R.A. – Earth Realm Army." (So, if he only writes horror and science fiction, why did he write such a cute and humorous piece like "Honey Do?" Because he can.)

The Shower State

by Elizabeth Joyner

Walking over to her usual bench, she lit her cigarette and sat down. The highway fifty boat ramp, between Merritt Island and Orlando, proved to be a picturesque spot to pull over - relax. Air boats skimmed across the top of the water, spraying a mist that was relieving to the Florida heat. Cows grazed on islands not far in the distance, while alligators swam forebodingly in the water. Suddenly, the mist intensified and seemed to be coming from above. She looked up to see eerie dark grey clouds above her head, and as it started to downpour she thought, I have to get out of Florida.

6S

Elizabeth Joyner, author of Ill at Ease, is an English major. She lives in Orlando.

Looking After the Little Lady

by Bob Jacobs

My wife is shrinking. Yesterday she couldn't get up onto the sofa without a hand. This morning, the size of a banana, she jumped up and down on the pillow yelling at me to call a doctor. Right now she's in a Cornflakes box lined with cotton wool by the window, and she's not much bigger than a mouse. I'm trying to read the newspaper, but she keeps shrieking at me to do something in that squeaky little voice of hers. So, I fetch my coat, slip on some shoes and leave her a note saying that I'm off to get help, and on the way out I unlock the cat-flap so that she has some company while I'm gone.

6S

Bob Jacobs, who told us of The Man Who Held On To a Tree, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Ally, Alibi

by Chi Sherman

I have met a writer whose work I like better than my own. Distressed, I asked my father what I should do. (He is also a writer and would be, I figured, sympathetic to my woe-is-me plight.) “You met a writer who is better than you?” he asked incredulously. I held the frown on my face, but enjoyed the feeling of my heart beating just a little faster for his well-executed intonation. “Kill them,” he said.

6S

Chi Sherman is an Indianapolis-based writer who has authored and self-published three chapbooks of poetry and creative nonfiction ("amative," "beneath this skin," and "mosaic"), as well as a spoken-word CD, "wild / tendril." Her dreams of creative writing success and stardom are a given. She often fantasizes about owning a three-bedroom house in which the guest room is a pale-yet-deep shade of the lightest blue.

Keeping It Reel in L.A.

by Joseph Grant

They are, like, totally finished with the sun over here in Los Angeles; it's done, passe, in other words, it's not hot, dude. A walk into any tanning salon will prove this observation in a town where the actors stride around in their unnatural Cheetos shine. They don't do reality out here, they just make movies, a playwright friend once told me. If you want reality, go back to New York, the film producer barks and throws me and my script out of the office. I am once again outside on the giant set of suburban L.A. where they've gotten it all backwards; these people walking along the sidewalk are all the wrong-looking extras, they're too ordinary, their dialogues are unremarkable, apparently there's no script and the trees block the shot down the street, hell, even the earthquakes seem faked. With the door shut behind me, I am relieved to be home, having escaped the freeways, the gangs and the gloomy smog of this dream factory nightmare, finding my way and my truth in the light of the worlds that are composed along a crisp white page.

6S

Joseph Grant, author of It, is originally from New York City and currently resides in Los Angeles. His short stories have been published in over 50 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.

Distance

by Mel George

"...so when I got back from the Falklands, I found my wife had a ten year-old son with another man, having presumed I was dead; that was when I started drinking, would you believe. And, well, guess it just got worse, and I'd turn up to work drunk and lost my job and then I couldn't pay my rates – I went on the dole but I spent it most of it on drink of course. So one day the man from the gas board comes round and cuts me off, and then the bailiffs, and before you know it I'm out on me ear, sleeping in a doorway on an old cardboard box trying not to get stabbed in my sleep, eating in these soup kitchens and smoking the dog-ends I find on the ground. I had a wife, a career - now I make seventy-five pence in five hours begging and do that all day until I have enough to buy vodka, except you can't make enough money for it that way, so I ended up inside for nine months cos I did over some poor guy for cash just so that I could drink to forget this utterly pathetic life and hold off topping myself for one more day." Our hands touched as I passed him a polystyrene cup of soup, but I kept a safe distance behind my armour-plated smile. "Oh dear," I said cheerily, "still, you have to look on the bright side, eh?"

6S

Mel George, author of Synchronised Strangers, watches people secretly until they do something interesting enough to write down.

The Highway

by Augusto Corvalan

The road is long when you're looking back. The blood of wounded dreams seeps into the dark asphalt. You scream, but no one can hear you inside your gray Mercedes. You want to jump out, but you're going too fast, everything is a blur. The lights from the cars in the opposite lane beam right into your eyes. No matter how fast you drive, you never reach the horizon.

6S

Augusto Corvalan has been writing for many years now. You can see more of his work at Potluck Literary Magazine and Journal & Courier, and upcoming pieces at Flashshot, Andromeda Spaceways, AlienSkin Magazine, and AntipodeanSF.

First Kiss

by Belinda Furby

I arrived at Tioga Elementary School ready for Mrs. Zimmerman’s kindergarten class with a pink satin pillow and the frayed pink and baby blue afghan Mime crocheted for my first birthday; I also had the standard red and blue plastic sleeping mat, a bag full of the requisite school supplies, and the ever needful “healthy snack.” My long, straight brown hair was pulled into two tight “piggy-tails” on either side of my head with perfectly straight, just-trimmed bangs hanging across my forehead. After a morning of reciting our addresses, phone numbers, and parents’ occupations (Daddy – electrician, Momma – secretary), it was time for us, and more importantly, for Mrs. Z, to rest before moving on to our numbers and letters. The cutest boy in class (blond-haired, blue-eyed David Weir) followed me around the room as I found a spot for my mat and, placing his just next to mine, asked for a kiss. Of course, I, trained already to be a true Southern belle, was shocked and heartily denied him the privilege; with great dignity and hauteur I relocated my mat. But, after three more moves, I finally relented, because, well, I needed my rest after all; at this rate I was never going to get to sleep!

6S

Belinda Furby, who told us of The Night the Lights Went Out, is a mom, wife, and wanna-be writer.

Bagged

by Robert Aquino Dollesin

After I nearly strangled my twin brother Michael for lying to my girlfriend (for telling her he was me), our parents restricted me to the house for a month. Two days before my sentence ended Michael came in from the meadow, his fingers wrapped around the knot of a plastic bag with something snapping inside of it. He crossed the room, sat on the sofa beside me and held his catch in front of his face. I saw clearly the square mouth and hair-thin legs of the green grasshopper as it pounced against the bag’s clear surface again and again in an effort to escape. Michael flicked the bag with a finger, further exciting his victim, and then looked over at me and said, "That girlfriend of yours, Margaret Connelly, sure has a soft handful underneath her blouse." I clenched my fists and drew it back to clobber my brother, but Michael shot the plastic bag up between us, and said, "Careful... a lot can happen with Margaret during the next month."

6S

Robert Aquino Dollesin currently resides in Sacramento, California. He delves into fiction to break the monotony and demands of real life responsibilities.

Fog

by mgirl

Familiar words from a song drift up to my ears from the TV downstairs. Remember, remember. My mind is much more lucid now; the fog has lifted after all the years of multicolored prescriptions, with adjusted doses, depending on my mood and pain level. Going from a handful a day to a just a few, I make a contract with myself to deal with the pain. Now I can see the clearing through the brush, the air is so revitalizing, the singer’s name comes into my memory bank. Alvin Bishop, Fooled Around and Fell in Love, oh some songs are better left in the dark.

6S

mgirl, author of Lost Words, loves to read and write, is from Canada, is forty something and has just become a Grandma. Both of her children have moved out and she spends most of her time now reading, writing and in the garden.

The Slow Bleed

by Swell Classy Dame

She walked into the casino that night and the ice in my drink took a dive. I heard her call for it "long and strong" and I knew just what she meant. Sure, I'd be safer in an alley with a dead button and an angry torpedo squirtin' metal than cornered by that dame in a swanky get-up. But here I am. And the sucker who's been layin' out twenty-five bucks a day for me to catch his wife with her lover just walked in. Guess he won the hard way: his gum-shoe and the back door man came up snake eyes.

6S

Swell Classy Dame is a pseudonym for Cat Robson, a writer living in Santa Barbara, California. She's currently finishing a noir novel set in Hollywood during the blacklist of the late 1940's, and also sells vintage clothing. She has even been known to return now and then to the present day to pay the odd bill or visit friends.

The Man Who Held On To a Tree

by Bob Jacobs

I came across a man clinging to a tree by the side of the road - eyes shut, arms wrapped around the trunk, body pressed against the bark - and asked him what the matter was. "Gravity," he gasped, "it's stopping, can't you feel it?" I placed my arm gently around his shoulders and reassured him that gravity is constant so there was nothing to fear, until, comforted, he thanked me, shook my hand and set off down the road. That's when gravity stopped. I clung to the tree and watched him float away screaming. "I'm sorry," I whispered, and in a funny way I almost meant it.

6S

Bob Jacobs, author of My Side of the Bed, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Please Buckle Up!

by Alana Wilson

Standing here at this corner for the last three years has taught me quite a bit about people; I am not asking for money, a meal or a way to make some quick cash doing an odd job; my sign reads: Please Buckle Up! One thing I have learned, is that people will give to anyone who holds a sign; today, I have already made over thirty-six dollars and eaten a free meal – a Big Mac and a Coke, given from a truck driver on his way out of town. I also know that most people will do anything to keep from making eye contact with me: change stations on their radio, check for messages on their cell phone, or stare hypnotically at the red light. I have also learned about myself and my reason for being here. My mission here is self-centered; each day I stand here and dream that I see my son pull up to the light, read my sign and buckle his seat belt. It is possible, had he read my sign, he would have not been thrown fifteen yards from his Chevy truck into the intersection before school that April morning, but then, he probably would have been one of the many to change his radio mid-song to appear too preoccupied to read his message.

6S

Alana Wilson, in a crowd of authors, would be the one on her knees in reverence to all of the talent. Last year, she won an "honorable mention" in her college's writing contest. She once had a Brief Encounter with Anonymity.

The Swing

by Amanda Lattin

She hadn’t swung on a swing since she was nine with scabby knees under the pine tree back home – no, wait, there was that one deliriously naked night on a trapeze at a club in Nashville; she decides that doesn’t count because if it’s not outside, it’s just not the same. Now, she pumps her flexed pointed legs into the blue sky and sees only her pink toenails outlined by the evergreens and indigo; gravity pulls on the chains, and a rush of long silken hair floods her vision and the rush of wind in her ears sends her back in time. She is once again a little girl pumping her way into an imaginative trance outside of poverty. The swing is now almost vertical, and her stomach drops a little as she hangs her head back and watches her shadow glide across the ground – a perfect ballerina’s silhouette – caressed by light and the kisses her hair continues to give the moving air. She notices her girlish behavior and not so girlish breasts have created a spectacle for the three gentlemen eating lunch in the otherwise deserted park; then, the voice of her three year old son stops the momentum: "Momma, can I have another push? You go too high, you fall and hurt your head?"

6S

Amanda Lattin is originally from, yes, the "Redneck Riviera" of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. She is a high school chemistry teacher and is currently working on dual masters in aromatherapy and herbal medicine.

Tell Someone Who Cares, Please…

by Madam Z

My husband and I just returned from an unintended visit with a woman who was having a yard sale. We were her only customers and she started talking to us, telling us that she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer and is starting chemo next week. She's only 43, has smoked since she was 14, and was puffing away (through her tears) the whole time we were there. She told us that her mother is an adventurer who has kayaked all over the world, and her father, who had a sex change operation recently, at age 65, is going to be visiting her tomorrow and she’s worried because she doesn’t know whether she’s supposed to call him “Dad” or “Mom.” Her two kids, age 10 and 13, left her three weeks ago to go live with their father, who divorced her last year, and that is just the tip of her story iceberg. Tom and I skittered away from there like frightened mice, vowing to never go anywhere near that house again.

6S

Madam Z, author of Rocks of Ages, loves six and isn't afraid to admit it. Do yourself a favor and check out her blog.

Dickey Dew

by Barry Graham

One of my father’s friends never had a name so everyone called him Dickey Dew because he said that’s what everyone called him after he got his balls shot off in Vietnam. I used to sit on his lap while they played five card draw and he would pretend not to see me sipping from his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. My mother walked into the kitchen as I set the beer back down on the table, and I got scared and spilled it all over my lap and down my pant leg, and my father always laughed when people got scared. Some of the beer spilled on Dickey Dew’s pants, so he told me to play his hand while he tried to convince my mother to clean him up. I had four to a flush and a pair of tens, so I dumped one of the tens, missed my flush and watched my father rake in the pot. "You're a brave little sonofabitch," he said, but I knew I wasn't, it's just easier to fuck up when the cards you're holding don't belong to you.

6S

Barry Graham's writing has appeared (or will shortly) in the following publications in 2007: Storyglossia, Weathervane, Prick of the Spindle, Nimble Few, 50/50, Cellar Roots, Insolent Rudder, Dogzplot, and Tuesday Shorts. His short story collection "The National Virginity Pledge" will be released upon the world in 2008. Barry Graham is large, he contains multitudes.

Drunk

by Sean Ruane

Stumbling bus-wise, stretching obliquely; defracted through the bottom of a stolen beer glass, he swills the world, the moon, tripping over the dead-leaf-dropped minutes of past midnight, wearing the devil's creases in yesterday's pants; slowly, quietly, loudly, the world steadies itself against a building and stops. A swirling color wheel mocks him in every possible hue and slowly spins to a stop, revealing a crude shape peaking around the corners of a brilliant Technicolor laughter; the front of a bus emerges, beaming a bright horn and shining terrible sounds at his skull. Ahh, the amniotic safety of the bus; he writhes down the narrow aisle, head first, a breach birth in reverse, and falls into an empty seat. "Relax" says a cigarette ad. Good idea. Sleep.

6S

Sean Ruane lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children. He is a graduate student in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. His alter ego, Axel Finn, has a short story forthcoming in the Boston Literary Magazine.

The Hunt

by James Boyt

Patiently, he waited; his prey would happen by soon enough, and he would be ready. As he listened in the silence, he could hear his own pulse, his heart beating furiously as the blood raced around his body. His excitement continued to rise and he nearly stumbled from his hiding place. He had been bested too many times in his young life, and he wasn’t about to let it happen again. A rustle in the undergrowth, a sharp intake of breath; this time he would be victorious. He screamed as he leapt out, relished the shock on his sister’s face, laughed hysterically as she fell on her backside – “Tag, you’re it!”

6S

James Boyt is a 31-year-old IT worker, who firmly believes that, despite lack of ideas and motivation (not to mention talent), that bestselling novel is living inside him somewhere, if he can just find someone to write it for him.

To My Soon-To-Be Ex-Husband

by Loobell

Thank you for your explanation, I see you through different eyes; not the eyes of a lover, even a friend, I no longer feel comfort when I see you. When you said that I’d let myself go, not only did you cut me to the quick, but you told a blatant untruth to make yourself feel better about your infidelity. We should be growing old together and enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done, watching our precious children go off into the big wide world. I finally understand what you are, what you have always been and anguish has formed deep in my soul for my lost good years. Well now it’s my time, so let me ask you for a favour, you surely owe me one for my years of selfless dedication to you. Hold my towel - I’m taking a well earned dip in Lake Me.

6S

Loobell - harassed middle aged mother, badly lapsed blogger - is fed up with taking the blame.

Advice

by Shane Mehling

My father told me he saw Satan with skin the color of an abandoned barn tuning my guitar. While I was sleeping he saw demons with napkins made of ivory thread polishing its maple body. He told me about their icicle-shaped talons and how they chattered with each other, like their tongues had been cut from their mouths. They shrank into nothingness the second he gasped out of disbelief, but he saw their eyes and knew they'd be back. Years after I gave my guitar away to the neighbor kids I asked my father about that night and he grinned. Turns out he just really wanted me to play the drums.

6S

Shane Mehling lives in Seattle, which is actually not even in the top 40 rainiest cities. (Go ahead, look it up.)

A Visitation

by John Parke Davis

Christie told me she wanted a divorce on the second Sunday in December. The aliens landed the next day. They never said a word — no one knows if they could even talk — they just came and took what they needed and then they left. We stood on the roof of my building and watched the ships lifting off, flickering into the winter sky and disappearing like sparks popping out of a campfire. I put my arm around Christie and she pushed her face against my sweater and we cried. We had been alone for a long, long time, but now it was just too much to bear.

6S

John Parke Davis, by day, fights/defends crime/law and order (but not necessarily in that order) as an attorney. By night, he sleeps and dreams odd dreams. He and his brother give away fresh, hot stories at their website and they would love for you to visit. (They also have a blog.) John once showed us Another Side of the Park.

Flocking Together

by W. Kay Washko

I heard my sister giggling in the living room as I scrubbed the countertop with disinfectant. Dad was in the Critical Care Unit after vomiting blood two nights before, so we'd taken advantage of his absence and Mom's helplessness to give their house a good cleaning. We began to suspect Mom might have a serious hoarding problem when we came on stacks of magazines dating back to 1991 in the upstairs hall closet, and the suspicion was confirmed when I pulled multiple stashes of plastic grocery bags from between the canned goods in the lower kitchen cabinet. I poked my head into the living room to see what was so funny, and there was Leah, sitting on the living room floor, tears streaming down her face. "What the hell?" she choked out, nearly speechless with some kind of emotion, mirth or sadness, I couldn't say which. I pulled Leah close and we rocked together, laughing and crying at a bewildering bowl of feathers hidden on the book shelf behind the family Bible.

6S

W. Kay Washko, author of The Significance of Mud, continues the thankless task of writing stories and poetry to entertain and enlighten the general public. Her work has appeared previously in Philadelphia Stories, The Awakenings Review, Cat Oars Fiction Collections, and many internet publications. These days she is honing her poetry reading and guitar skills. Her goal is to change her name to something French and become a wandering troubadour.

It

by Joseph Grant

It watches you when you’re sleeping, just to be certain of each breath. It knows when you’ve been bad, good and nothing at all; It doesn’t care, It’s always there. It waits for you in the darkened recesses of your mind where your fears never cease. It doesn’t feed on anything but those fears of yours, so let It feast. You may pray, cast your holy water; hold tight your crucifix, your talisman, utter your incantations, but these won’t ever work against It. It will just come and get you when It’s good and ready.

6S

Joseph Grant, author of Coma 1967, is originally from New York City and currently resides in Los Angeles. His short stories have been published in over 50 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst. Upcoming pieces will soon be published in Literary Tonic. His work has also appeared in The New York Bar Guide (as a reviewer) and in various newspaper articles that have appeared in The Pasadena Star, Whittier News and the San Gabriel Tribune. "Indigo," a work of verse, was published by Alpha Beat Press, and he has recently completed his first novel.

Under the Devil's Club

by Kim Beck

Mosquitoes and black biting flies swarmed him, the fresh blood. Jeremiah swatted them away, smacking the thigh-high grass and plumed fireweed back from the trail. His blood felt vicious, hot and menacing. Rachel, his thieving girlfriend, pilfered the nuggets of the vein, took his raw, beautiful gold. He charged further through the forest, searching for a gleam reflected off the bright Alaska sun. At the end of the trail he smirked, standing before the unforgiving thicket, spiky spines protruding from towering stalks and mammoth leaves; no one would find her under the devil’s club.

6S

Kim Beck lives in Kenai, Alaska with her husband and two young children.

Casey at the Bat

by Adam J. Whitlatch

Casey grimaces as the sound of flesh against flesh and a woman’s whimpering seeps through the paper-thin walls of his low-rent Hell’s Kitchen apartment. She burned dinner again, so Mr. Mudd had to teach his wife a lesson, but it’s worse this time, much worse, because tonight one of the boys tried to stop him. The sound of a small body slamming into the other side of Casey’s bedroom wall is the straw that broke the camel’s back; who cares if mean, old Mr. Mudd is a cop? Casey Jones has had enough. He slings the battered old golf bag full of tricks and treats over his shoulder, pulls the scratched and chipped goalie mask over his face, and climbs nimbly out onto the fire escape. It’s game day in Muddville, and mighty Casey is at the bat.

6S

Adam J. Whitlatch, an avid TMNT fan, is a firm believer in vigilante justice, as displayed in his previous 6S, Turn Me On, Turn Me On, Mr. Dead Man. He lives with his wife and two children on a farm in southern Iowa where he continues to work on his new science fiction novel, "E.R.A. – Earth Realm Army," and several assorted short stories. A hockey mask hangs from his desk in his office, always within arm's reach.

Out! Damned Cat!

by Anita Hunt

I feel so guilty, so awful, my insides all mushy and blackened like a rotting potato. She stares at me, never blinking, burning down my defiant attempt to ignore her with her one red eye. My defenses weakening, I reach for the bag only to find it nearly weightless as I shake it, the empty silence confirming my worst fears - I will have to get up. Intimidation through torture begins as tiny white contrails of dry skin follow the path of her claws slowly scraping across my arm. I jump from my seat, towering over her, a menacing giant only to be ripped down to size as that red laser cuts me gutless. Her humbled servant, I return from the kitchen with a new bag, filling her bowl with tasty, tuna, crunchy tidbits.

6S

Anita Hunt, author of Tan Lines, is a high school art teacher, an artist, a mom, a grandma, and a Professor of Neat Stuff.

Alone Again

by Carolyn Carceo

Alone at work; a condition I know too well. I sit at a desk and answer the phones, respond to alarms, and greet the occasional visitor. A knock at the door. A visitor! I let him in; it's the bread delivery for the cafeteria. For two minutes, there is another person here, and I'm not so alone, but then he's gone.

6S

Carolyn Carceo, author of Beach Sounds and a lifetime Bay Stater, lives on Massachusetts' North Shore and works in Boston. She's the oldest of four, and a Mom to two catkids who don't understand the meaning of the word "no." (The scene above is typical of her work day.)

A Life Discarded

by Sarah Leigh

Her key clicked in the door, she called to him excitedly after their long separation; he responded from somewhere deep in the house that he would be right there. As she walked down the hall, she glimpsed something strange on the floor of his office through the open door; she turned into the room to see all the evidence of a life together: her perfume, her clothing, a pathetic bottle of contact solution, all shoved into cheap grocery bags by a man who had at times proven himself to be as careless with her feelings as he was now with her possessions. She sank to her knees and was overcome with sorrow at his cruelty, allowing her to find out that he was leaving her in this way, whether it was intentional or not, it didn't matter, the message was clear. He rounded the corner to find her sitting there, sobbing, and his face flashed with anger at her invasion of his office. The years that they had laughed, loved and shared toothpaste still did not allow this casual intrusion into his space, and the parallel to their now broken relationship was deafening. When it was all over, she threw everything in his trashcan on her way to the car; there was nothing left in those bags to want.

6S

Sarah Leigh is the author of The Slightly Disorganized Mind. She is not a writer by trade, merely by hobby. She enjoys the smell of freshly cut grass, strong coffee, and strangely, the smell of gasoline. She occasionally makes inappropriate romantic choices, but relies on her unrelenting sense of optimism to persevere.

Coma 1967

by Joseph Grant

The first time I died was when I was three. It was on a Good Friday and I had lapsed into a hypoglycemic coma right in front of my shaken family. I’m told it is somewhat of a rare thing to be comatose and remember anything, although I would survive this ordeal and come out of it on Easter Sunday, no worse for the wear; but even more uncommon, I would undergo the experience again three years later. The only thing I recall is not being awake and not being asleep, being unable to speak or move, kind of in between both worlds, being between the living and the dead. I’ve never told anyone this, but there is just one more thing I recall from that never waking nightmare. I recall being confused by hearing the friendly voices of family members encouraging me to awaken and come to them; the confusing part was because these were family members who had already died.

6S

Joseph Grant, author of That Certain September, is originally from New York City and currently resides in Los Angeles. His short stories have been published in over 50 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst. Upcoming pieces will soon be published in Literary Tonic. His work has also appeared in The New York Bar Guide (as a reviewer) and in various newspaper articles that have appeared in The Pasadena Star, Whittier News and the San Gabriel Tribune. "Indigo," a work of verse, was published by Alpha Beat Press, and he has recently completed his first novel.

The Night the Lights Went Out

by Belinda Furby

Friday night on the Strip in Vegas, the crush of people was unbelievable. Old Asian women in baseball caps tried to shove advertisements into our hands for escort services, topless shows, and pretty much anything else sexually imaginable as we walked down the sidewalks. Young couples looking like they had just stepped out of a Lands’ End catalog pushed around their babies and toddlers in strollers - did they get lost on their way to Disney or what? College kids wandered around pierced, tattooed, and smoking. Fancy women walked with fancy men. Never having been to Vegas before, feeling a little like country-come-to-town, Matt and I were taken by the glitz, the lights, and the energy of the Strip.

6S

Belinda Furby, author of RDU to Lexington, was in Las Vegas on June 11, 2004 when the lights were dimmed for three minutes to honor Ronald Reagan. The lights were dimmed for tributes six other times: in 2001 for the 9/11 victims, for George Burns (1996), for Rat Pack members Sammy Davis, Jr. (1990), Dean Martin (1995), and Frank Sinatra (1998), and for President John F. Kennedy (1961).

The Black Francis Flirtation Device

by Peter Wild

"Hey!" she barks. That usually gets their attention, whoever it is she has her eye on. She barks out "Hey!" and whoever it is stops in their tracks and the two of them look at each other for a moment (because there has to be a moment) and then she sort of sashays and she sings, "Been trying to meet you" - just like Black Francis sings at the start of that Pixies' song called Hey. The guy, whoever it is, always smiles, even if they don't know the song (although if they do know the song, if they smile a goofy smile and sing back must be a devil between us in time for the two of them to sing or whores in my head whores at my door whores in my bed together - that was a whole other kettle of fish, yessir). The Black Francis Flirtation Device had served her well for the better part of seven years. She was also fond of the Black Francis Dumping Device which involved her singing I got a broken face I got a I got a broken face uh-huh uh-huh uh-huh uh-huh uh-huh I got a broken face over and over and over again until the guy in question took the hint and fucked the hell off away from her.

6S

Peter Wild, author of No News is Good News, is the editor of The Flash & Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall. You can read more here.

Innocent Violence

by Jeff Alan

Michael is twelve years old and big for his age -- so big that some might call him a monster. His clothes are flecked with blood; it is not his blood. He feels no sympathy for his victims when sudden terror contorts their faces, no remorse when he leaves them twitching on the ground. He loves the brutality of it, the hot spike of adrenaline, the sense of getting away with something that is unacceptable and utterly incomprehensible in everyday life. Besides, he sees this kind of violence on television all the time, so how could it be wrong? Later, when the savagery is over and his mom asks, "Who wants ice cream?" he and his mates shout, "Me!" as they sit bumping shoulder pads in the back of the minivan.

6S

Jeff Alan is a self-described gypsy, having lived in more states than he can count on one hand. He presently resides in a small, quiet town in North Carolina. His work has appeared in MicroHorror, and will soon appear in Flashshot. Visit bonescribble, his online home.

Kendell

by Gricelda Piñon

You know how everyone wants one more moment with you? Well, I don't Kendell, I want that ONE moment, that specific month, week, day, hour, minute, second back. I want to be in that same state of mind, dream, thought that I was in. I want to have those conversations, whispers, laughs, and kisses again. I want to think that you're still a phone call away again. With this ONE moment back I can better accept your goodbye.

6S

Gricelda Piñon is 19 years old.

Silentium Est Aureum

by Anthony Teth

"Where have the hours gone?" I asked the darkness after placing my book down and rubbing my eyes. "To blissful oblivion," spoke the needle-toothed daemon crouched in the corner of my room. His leathery wings twitched reflexively as he grinned at me with a mottled, hairless, slate-grey, canine muzzle. I did not remember summoning him, nor did I specifically ask for his company, but his presence was oddly comforting, nonetheless. "We all find bliss in oblivion, it seems," was my answer. We spoke not a word to each other after that, but calmly allowed the silence to envelop us.

6S

Anthony Teth, author of Carnality, has recently moved from the blissful colonial neighborhoods of Providence, RI, to the plastic, palm-tree infested hell-hole known as Los Angeles. He oddly believes this to be a good idea.

Small White Pill

by Linda Simoni-Wastila

The gentle cooing of a mourning dove signals the dawn; I waken, hear the whir of highway traffic and, more distant, the lonesome wail of a train. The sky radiates a softer black, the ashen sheen it takes on just before the sun inches over the curve of the world. Somewhere, someone moans, and the night workers shush and rustle, prepare for the next group of caretakers. These are the only sounds; my mind is quiet; there is no noise, no morbid, florid thoughts, no whooshing or thrumming or humming, no lingering nightmares or images or memories. Normal? Is this what normal feels like?

6S

Linda Simoni-Wastila, by day, is an ivory-tower type who plays with big numbers and fancy statistics. When dusk falls, she powers up the other side of her brain and catharses words. Between revisions of "Brighter than Bright," a novel about love, insanity, and their improbable intersection, she blogs and strives to pen the perfect haiku.

Holy Water

by Drew Woodward

Dutch O’Brien, vampire, 167 years old, crossed himself as he exited the confessional booth he went to following every battle, because killing - no matter how evil the creature was or how much he deserved it - was still a sin in the eyes of God. As he neared the exit of the cathedral, a young priest crossed his path and somehow recognized Dutch for what he was; the priest pulled out a decanter of holy water and began dousing the undead Irishman in the blessed sacrement. Raising an eyebrow, Dutch looked at the priest and said, "Ye know ye’re gettin’ me jacket wet?" Once the priest realized that his holy relic had no effect, he began to back away from Dutch in fear, gibbering about why doesn’t it work? "Yer holy water, crosses, communion wafers, and prayers only work if ye have faith, and the one ye’re attackin’ has a heart ruled by Lucifer himself," Dutch calmly replied as he walked past the young priest. Before exiting the church, Dutch turned and smied as the priest began to regain his composure: "Yer faith is strong Padre," Dutch said, "so be at peace and know that me and ye are on the same side."

6S

Drew Woodward, a writer of supernatural fiction and short stories on military history, lives in northern Kentucky with his wife.

C*** and C*****

by Bob Jacobs

I never heard my mother say c***. She would say bloody, or bugger, or sod, but never c***. She died of c***** when she was fifty-three, and in her final days she withered and faded and looked a hundred and forty. I'm convinced that somehow the two words are related, that c*** and c***** were in cahoots and that her death from c***** was some kind of revenge. This morning I heard my ten-year-old daughter call her younger brother a c*** while they were playing in the garden. She looked up after she said it, our eyes met and she knew that I'd heard her, but I turned away, smiled, and said nothing.

6S

Bob Jacobs, author of Eating Tomorrow's Dinner Today, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

No News is Good News

by Peter Wild

There's a story on the news about Kurds from a mountain village in Northern Iraq who are fleeing their homes after four days of intermittent shelling by Iranian forces. The story cuts to a shakey-cam, with security officials swarming like bees about the former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif as he lands in Islamabad; someone in the studio says it's thought he'll be deported to Saudi Arabia where he'll stand trial on corruption charges. Elsewhere in the world, the news guy says, police in Israel have uncovered a group of neo-Nazis, comprised of illegal Russian immigrants aged between 18 and 21, responsible for painting swastikas on the walls of synagogues. I tune out as a young woman explains how, subsequent to the deaths of 30 people following the explosion of a van packed with dynamite in the coastguard barrack of Dellys, east of Algiers, and the deaths of a further 22 people when a man detonated a bomb in a crowd of people waiting to meet President Abdelazaziz Bouteflika in Batna, there are growing fears that jihadi militants affiliated to Al-Qaida are opening a new frontline in the Maghreb. My head starts to pound as positive steps taken by the Hezbollah-led opposition and the incumbent Western-supported Lebanese Government of Fuad Siniora are undermined in the wake of an announcement concerning the replacement for President Emile Lahoud, with anti-Syrian Christian leaders accusing Hezbollah of playing a very dangerous game. There is a good reason why I rarely watch anything other than SpongeBob SquarePants.

6S

Peter Wild, author of Silence is Golden, is the editor of The Flash & Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall. You can read more here.

Beach Sounds

by Carolyn Carceo

I sit on dry gray rocks, and I listen. Gulls, running on the sand or circling in the air, talk in screams, sounding like they're insulting each other. What is it they say? The waves, white-capped, fast, roar as they crash on the rocks near me. Some splash up, trying to get me wet. Noisy, chatty, chaotic, untranslatable -- the sounds of the ocean.

6S

Carolyn Carceo lives on Massachusetts' North Shore and works in Boston. She's the oldest of four, and a Mom to two catkids.

Witches End

by Robert Clay

Mrs. Milliband was old, older than anyone we knew, and she lived in a big Munster-like house with a sprawling garden, filled with strange twisted trees and wild-eyed cats that prowled this mini Serengeti in the middle of our urban landscape. We were just kids, so of course, Mrs. Milliband was a witch, and we imagined her dark boarded rooms as being filled with cobwebs, bubbling pots of terrible brews, and shelves, lots of shelves, crammed with jars wherein unspeakable glistening things floated in murky oily fluids. So one day, we crept onto her grounds, terrified and fascinated, to rub the grime off a window and peer inside in search of horror, and we found it. No pots or jars, no cobwebs to speak of, just letters, dozens of them scattered on tables and chairs, with one still clutched in her dead withered hand where she lay on the floor, jaw slack, still open but unseeing eyes glistening wet, as if they had been crying forever. We learned later that the letters had been written long ago in some distant muddy trench by a young soldier, before he was consumed by war, leaving his new wife alone, to read, and spend a lifetime dying of a broken heart. After that, I never believed in witches again.

6S

Robert Clay, author of Testosteronium, is a Seafarer now stranded on land. He lives in Cornwall in the UK.

Tanning

by Peggy McFarland

The sun caresses my back. I lay stomach down on my towel, hoping to become the beautiful shade of brown flaunted in Ban de Soleil ads. I breathe deeply the scent of the beach -- part salt, part water, part coconut, part something I call "outside." My breathing blends with the rhythm of the surf. The waves hum a lullaby, the warm breeze strokes my skin -- I am lulled to sleep. Sensuous dreams float above consciousness and below, merging into a handsome bronzed man, skillful hands, insistent lips, until... a cold bucketful of water splashed my back, accompanied by the discordant laughter of two soon-to-be-grounded-for-life sons and one he's-not-getting-any-until-after-his-next-birthday husband.

6S

Peggy McFarland, author of The Actress, loves writing six sentences and is still working on writing many, many sentences all in a row.

Lucky

by Teresa Tumminello Brader

Though business was understandably slow with the area recovering, Jane worked out of her new husband’s house. She struggled to remember that Dave’s address now belonged to her too. She shook off lingering memories from years of living with just her children in a rented Mid-City shotgun. Jane felt as if that old, elevated dwelling were her one true home. It ended up with four feet of canal water inside. She drove by and saw the brown waterline.

6S

Teresa Tumminello Brader, author of Let's Play Two, was born in New Orleans and lives in the area still. Her stories have appeared in Rumble, The Flask Review, Brink and Hobart. She’s been nominated for a 2007 Best of the Net.

Love

by Stella Boston

And then, even though he hadn't planned on staying, he asked if he could and crawled into bed next to me. It's the first time, in quite a long time, that he's slept in my bed all night. I forgot how I get so excited to wake up and find him, arms wrapped around me, that I never fall entirely back to sleep. I contort myself into all sorts of strange positions, so that I can sleep as close to him as possible. Even when we sleep facing each other, we hold hands. And in the morning, I'll wake up and we'll be completely tangled in each other, the sheets will be wound up in some unfathomable way, and I can't bring myself to move, or even breathe too deeply lest I wake him.

6S

Stella Boston is an amateur writer and blogger from Florida who thinks that inspiration strikes in the most random of places.

Confounded

by Jack Paton

Until now I had neither belief nor disbelief in anything supernatural - but I am completely confounded with strange events that took place today. Whilst browsing my local bookstore, thumbing through a leather bound History of Scotland, a man approached in the narrow book lane. "Excuse me fine sir," he said with a tip of his hat - to which I merely nodded, stepped aside, and we exchanged cursory nods - as you would do if the other person is known vaguely from the past without enough familiarity to warrant a conversation. It wasn't until later when I was at home perusing the aforementioned book that I once again dwelt upon the face I saw, and I am all but convinced it was a certain Harry Gray. He and I had a brief acquaintance, some ten years earlier, and in the face of such a meeting - doppelgangers exist, or there may be some actuality in the supernatural. For until retirement last month, I was the hangman at Portland jail, and one Harry Gray was a murdering swine who swung until dead from my gallows.

6S

Jack Paton sometimes writes, sometimes doesn't; it depends on how good life is at the time. Click here for his sarcastic outlook.

RDU to Lexington

by Belinda Furby

Callie was flying United Air and began making her way through the parking garage, following the signs to Terminal A. Bypassing the moving sidewalks, she walked efficiently, red suitcase trailing behind, bag slung over her shoulder, juggling a bit as she reached the escalator. She had made every effort to pack light – not an easy thing for her to do; her greatest weaknesses were panties and books. Callie believed one could never have too many of either when away from home, but she had managed to keep the count for both down to ten – each. Callie made her way to the end of the short line at the ticket counter, dropped her duffle bag, and flipped her phone open to check the time – 6:13am – perfect. She hated the self check-in kiosks, banging around on a keyboard, swiping your credit card… today especially she needed a real flesh-and-blood person to say her name.

6S

Belinda Furby, author of Halfway Unzipped and owner of a red suitcase, is a mom, wife, and engineer in North Carolina. She has a weeranian named Sadie and is thinking about getting a fish.

Synchronised Strangers

by Mel George

When I joined the queue, it already contained two pensioners, a woman in a sari, a teenager thumbing out a text message, a young Chinese guy, another teenager in a cap scuffing the dog-ends on the pavement, a man in glasses reading a book, and a young mother cursing at her screaming child in its buggy. We all looked at the timetable. Our mutual starting point and destination did not occur to us, and we glanced suspiciously at one another and never spoke, like people from foreign worlds with nothing in common. We all looked at our watches. The bus drove by without stopping. We all rolled our eyes, tutted, and ignored each other until the next bus came.

6S

Mel George writes in coffee shops and in the margins of more important things she should be reading.

Making Sand Castles

by Timothy P. Remp

The sand feels warm and moist. I let it dribble through my fingers onto the top of my sand castle. Well, tall sand cone is a better description of the piled mud. I wanted to impress my son with my sculpting abilities, but the reality of it lacks the precision I can imagine. With my mind's eye, I can see large walls defying the oncoming waves of the sea... I can see tiny windows and great doors crafted with care... I can see my son's huge grin, proud of what his father can deftly create... I see, I see... dribbled sand, the crushing sea. I see my son; funny, he's smiling.

6S

Timothy P. Remp lives in New Hampshire and works in Boston. He's been married 16 years, now with two kids, two cats. He's currently wondering what becoming a GREAT uncle will be like. He informed his niece not to call him "Great Uncle Tim" (unless she drops the "uncle" first).

Can the Lisa Clap Her Hands?

by David Drake

The audience sat silent for the young woman with the red rimmed eyes. The director stood off camera with his arms hanging at his sides like sweet sausages in an Italian deli. "Did this Lisa not realize that when the man in the blue ferret suit was extinguished with any of the alloted weaponry (swords, guns, arrows, poison), she must clap? She was purchased for this very purpose, in fact this entire audience had been attained through his-majesty's personal distributor of the lobotomized. This smacks of set-up." He looked over as the costumed body was dragged from center stage and thought "I too am a blue ferret."

6S

David Drake is a twenty-one year old published writer and sheet metal worker in Poughkeepsie, New York. After a year of window-cleaning in Dublin, Ireland, he moved back to New York a married man with his lovely wife Gabby. They have since started a small digital photography studio out of their apartment in the hope that David can one day leave the sheet metal factory and finish off his first novella. You can see his photography at here.

Purple Weave

by Eric Spitznagel

My brother-in-law found a purple weave in the bushes outside his house. He lives in Oakland and claims such things aren't uncommon - the streets of his neighborhood are littered with random pieces of clothing, as if the locals start undressing the moment they leave work and are naked by the time they get home - but to an outsider like myself, a discarded weave might as well be a flying saucer. I stand on his front lawn for most of the morning and stare at it, poking at the brightly-colored wig with a stick, wondering how it came to end up there, and if the original owner has been searching for it or if she (I assume it's a she) feels naked without it. Several months later, the purple weave is still there, unclaimed by the commuters who pass my brother-in-law's house every day, as if they've decided the weave belongs to the bush now. She (I assume it's a she) looks strangely beautiful in her ridiculous toupee, and unlike the rest of the sad, neglected foliage on her block, she seems positively vibrant. I call her Shaniqua - "Hello, Shaniqua, how are you doing today?" - and maybe I'm crazy, but I think she likes her new name.

6S

Eric Spitznagel is a regular contributor to magazines like Playboy and The Believer. He's also the author of six books, the most recent being Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter. His blog is called Vonnegut's Asshole, which is kinda ironic, as he infrequently writes about either assholes or Kurt Vonnegut. He's more afraid of you than you are of him.

Silence is Golden

by Peter Wild

Alice and Bryan were sitting on the seafront, out front of a cafe, two coffees on the table between them growing cold as they silently watched their grandchildren race up and down the beach laughing and screaming, splashing each other as they dug in the wet sand for pebbles and shells. It wasn't an awkward silence. The two of them had been married for the better part of 33 years. Silence was the grain in their wood. In many ways, if you stripped away the layers of pain (his hands and his knee, her back and her eyesight), if you sought to leaven the daily grind of just moving about, staying upright, keeping active, if you attempted to compensate for the hard years and the struggles the two of them had waded through, the problems with their children, the inevitable letting go, all of the disappointments, it was arguable that silence was one of the things that kept them warm at night. Certainly, as the days grew colder and the nights drew in like a battery of unwelcome house-guests, silence was the greater of several lesser comforts the two of them still cherished.

6S

Peter Wild, author of The Girl Without a Beret, is the editor of The Flash & Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall. You can read more here.