Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Rumpelstiltskin Sips His Cappuccino at the Crown Café

and waits. He’s trimmed his long beard and fingers her necklace, ready to return it after all these years. He’ll spend hours listening and patting her ringed hands as she rages about the King’s latest affair. She’ll vow to leave him, again, and he’ll nod supportively. He’s finally learned patience, to tame his riddling tongue, to let her spin her woes into his bedroom gold.

* * *

The Banshee

At first, all Addy could hear was her own wheezy breath and the hush-hushing of stalks rubbed together by the wind. Yellow-tipped reeds, Queen Anne’s Lace and Goldenrod swayed several inches above her head, and there she waited, crouched low with the crickets.

She was the youngest of five and tired of it. She couldn’t walk to her friend Rosalie’s house alone. She couldn’t stay up past eight o’clock, though sunlight burst around the edges of her window shade. And she hadn’t yet reached the 48” mark on the door frame when Daddy measured her that morning, which meant no ride on The Banshee, the fastest roller coaster with the curviest curves. The one that made her teenage brother throw up on his new sneakers and then grin so wide she could see his wisdom teeth cutting through his gums. The one that made everyone – everyone – scream.

She teetered on her heels, knowing they should be on their way to the amusement park by now, and after a few stifled sneezes and almost losing her balance, she carefully stretched out on her back and settled in to watch the sky. She faintly heard her brothers calling but didn’t answer. This was her version of running away. She knew kids who’d packed a suitcase and started walking, leaving their version of breadcrumbs behind them: a favorite toy in the grass, a baseball cap on the sidewalk. Not only didn’t they get very far, but the adults smirked in that knowing “isn’t that cute” way. Addy left no such breadcrumbs. She wanted her family to sweat, to understand that carousels and pokey train rides were unbearable. When Daddy was making his special bologna-cheese-and-sweet pickle sandwiches for the trip, Mom was packing and repacking the car, and her brothers were holed up in their rooms with their ear buds and laptops, she ran for the field.

She didn’t have a plan beyond getting there. She knew they wouldn’t look for her in the field, at least not at first, since she was allergic to ragweed. Highly allergic, the doctor had said, and they squeezed drops of medicine under her tongue every night to help with the itching and wheezing. Surrounded by hundreds of long, skinny flower heads, though, her eyes were watering and her throat was dry and scratchy in the short time she’d been there. Hives bloomed on her arms and legs. I’m tough, she thought. I’ll ride that coaster, and I won’t scream. As her eyes began to flutter closed, she had to fight to keep them open. The ragweed stalks became rows of people in their Banshee seats, rushing the sky.

Addy! Addy! Her mother’s frantic call drifted by like a cloud, spiraling one way then another, disappearing into all that unyielding blue.


Marybeth Rua-Larsen lives in Massachusetts but is a kissing-cousin Rhode Islander. When she’s not writing, she’s flying kites with her kids in Newport, hitting the town beach and steaming up a Portuguese-style clam boil. Recent work has appeared in The Raintown Review, Monkeybicycle, Crannog, The New Verse News, and Antiphon. Last year, she won in the Poetry category for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition in Galway, Ireland.

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

A TWO FOOT HOLE IS NOT ENOUGH

For months we’ve been pecking at the loveless ground, weaving spirited straw, collecting small branches that can be thatched together. I can’t remember another time when my telescoping neck hurt more like the thumb of a clumsy man with a hammer, or when my beak seemed so traveler dulled and distant. But there, by the idly patriotic back door, we have our four by four pit: the cool dark earth of it chiseled into right angles; its thatch roof sufficient to hide the declivity, but not to sustain a man’s weight.

Long nights, with the weakest amongst us posted as the lookout, we scratched and pecked and tossed the reluctant earth out of a carelessly propped open, and mercifully wide, airway. The intense hole grew luxuriantly and each day we covered it with the bare thatch lid we were smart enough to weave first and hide weeks under the straw left to sour in the corner of the coop. Those, who then wove, now dig; and our common effort unites us into what will soon be one sustained flock, one group that will strut right together and shift to strut left together and halt glacier-still to stare up with angry eyes together at suddenly impressionable predators.

Each morning the cloth-polished boy comes out of the massive structure that roosts dimly just strategic yards away from our abode: a fabulous construction reserved, our imaginary aerial reconnaissance tells us, merely for the unburdened three members of the lone robber family which daily assaults us. Each fuming morning he makes his way, lilting like a scarecrow in a thunderstorm, down to our warren to harvest the productivity of our misogynous laying.

This morning his usual front door entry he will find perniciously blocked, a woven straw latch sealing it closed from the inside. He will pull two, three, maybe four unsulphured times against the entrance in his blind attention to routine, and then remember the antique back door: that unclaimed back door that has stood unwelcomed but richly available to any understood time; that cross barred flat of wood with its own strange hinges and a latch that would be, for such a single-larceny willed boy, a mere fairy tale lift.

Around the coop in the high grass, his pants sickening with the dew, he will slither, and with a broad unsuspecting arm open the seldom used door into a dark that is always thicker at the far end of anything. A dark that smells of small sounds, that offers the humidity of avian sex. Certainly, he will step directly forward, on his ill determined way to the nearest node ready for plunder, worried more with his reaching than with his stepping; and at the first crack of the thatch we will stand and let out the bugling sound of a grindingly contentious triumph.

Down the boy will go. Down he will go before he can reach one egg, before his expectations of plunder can be played out once again in our confinement. His will be the joy of breaking, of the snapping of bone, and we will be upon him like the fates of less common actors.

With these sounds of our commonly held successful commission of a treasured murder, my beak will snap back into its comfortable place and my neck will feel as though awakened from the block and placed back in its course as my lazy roadway between body and brain. All the scored aches of our months of effort will atomize and leave me like the dreams of foxes leaving in the cavalry of morning. In my hardening heart I will think of the scattering evil of chicken feed. And I believe I will tell my horrified poults long, long, gray-skied years hence, that this is something I could not have done alone.

* * *

THE RED EGG

The religion of the Red Egg has been with us for as long as our civilization has hoarded memory. In all our species and subspecies, our fulfilled females bring forth blue or blue speckled eggs, straying inelegantly with the occasional nearly white ovum. Each egg is marginally different from any other famously welcomed egg: but the boundaries are clear, the color combinations limited to the same preciously few common hues. No one — no matter how bizarre the pre-sex diet, no matter how strange and specific the means of fertilization, no matter how irregular the parentage nor special the dates of copulation and delivery — no one has been able to produce a red egg.

In the early years our society was enlivened by the thoughts of what would come of the seemingly foretold Red Egg. Perhaps it would deliver a nestling who could fly from the moment of cracking splendidly out of the broad billed shell. Or maybe out would come a preambleless citizen who would grow unrigidly into the greatest songstress of our, or any, time. Perhaps a nestling would emerge with a public plumage that could never be created by a mere recombination of pickabout feathers, or by a corner street-level commercial shop, or through an electronic fantasy rendering board. The nestling might have a beak that could crack the finest food sources, those that, until the fledge, would have been unknown to us: a field of sustenance that would take us octaves above where we had been at that fabled birth, and enspiral our society with new regions of workday spiritual success.

Schools of philosophy were planted around the entangling phalanges of speculation. Those who held similar beliefs about what the Red Egg would bring all joyously flocked together, roiled themselves in the cavernous glory that would come into being if they were correct. And, over time, they began to think that they had to be unwaveringly correct – each separate school sure of its own bootstrap science, the method it used to make meticulous matter out of the homely unsure, to hammer and nail establish a certainty where before only sodden speculation lay waiting for the uninitiated. We were proud of our schools: flocks pitted against one another, carrying the gospel of what the Red Egg would crack into, what the signs and results would be, how our sorrows and long migrations would fade and some wanton new order harvest our irrefutable cores as though that glorious gatherer might be a banned predator, escaped.

These musings, like dreams of the mythological unchanging season, did not last. A flock must nudge itself out of comfortable adolescence. Looking only to the magic of outcomes, to the gift at the end of the Pollyanna, leaves no room for development, progress, industrialization, the modern. Our forefathers had a progressive foundation to establish, an avian order to create. Expecting a nestling to come and shoulder our sorrows, fill all of our individual and aggregate needs, is looking only in the horizontal. By our very design we are a species that is both vertical and horizontal. Ours was not the fundamental future of anticipation alone.

A few generations along, we stopped worrying what the Red Egg would produce, what luminous being would come from it, and began to worry how the Red Egg would appear: who would be the engine of its arrival? Such a stupendous event in the history of as broad and varied a species as we have become would naturally devolve of strapped exalted rigging. Would the Red Egg be deposited by the lowliest of Olomong; or would it be delivered of the most serene union of idle officials from the Red-Ferin? Would the parentage be common, or as spectacular as only being at one end of the economic scale, or the other, can be?

Admittedly, some few still pondered the spine harvesting restructuring of our natural physics that would come of the rearing of the nestling from the Red Egg; but, for most of us, the coming of the Red Egg itself became the center of our yearning, the lanyard of our self definition. New couples would wish to be distinguished in their first laying with the Red Egg; at the announcement of season, those past fertility would visit first nesters and perform quasi-religious rituals designed to encourage the arrival of the Red Egg. Each sect and subspecies would have its own sacredness, do its own dances, hold its own glistening throat cache of warbling. After a while, no one believed these machinations would have any effort on calling forth the overdue Red Egg; but the wallowing parties themselves were cherished as a time of community, an opportunity to precisely overindulge, a reason for squandering our excess production.

Not everyone participates. There are those who have given up hope, or whose belief perhaps was never nailed entirely shut, who ignore the militarism of our collective hope and anticipated joy. No one can account for the lack of certainty in some of us; the defect defines the true depth of the perfection of others. These soulless squab squat on their nests, joyous certainly at the extension of family, but not imbued with the stabilizing ebullience of anticipating the Red Egg. For them, no Red Egg is coming. No grand meeting of the profane and the divine is going to issue from their rock certain union. There is in their hearts no hope that this most ordinary of occurrences will actually be redolently more than the ordinary result of the common, individualized expression of species members routinely making replacements for themselves. To them, out will pop the product of so much gestation, to be kept warm until the end of further gestation: at which point a merciless copy of one of them will peck its way sullenly out into a world that already has a place for it, and an order of events that it must match itself to: with more or less clueless individual joy, measure itself wing cropped against.

And those of us who convivially party and stagger happily about, praising the Red Egg and imagining that this couple we now celebrate, or the one we celebrate next, or the one the most distinguished of Red-Ferin serenely serenade from more expensive perches, or the one the most base of Olomong savagely enthrone, will, with a shriek and a push and the wide eyes of a necromancer’s handmaiden, thrust into our collective expectations the Red Egg: well, a little at the edge of our revelry, we worry. We worry that two nests over, or a continent away, some unbelieving clutch of feathers and desire, mating in season only by the barest glint of the calendar, perched in the cheapest of bedding and feathered still in nodding adolescent fuzz, will roll forward off angle and tilt laughably in typical pain, and spit out one luminous Red Egg. A smooth coven of private joy perfectly red and perfectly disharmonious in its oval shroud of the heartbeat within. And then we would have to find it, and hide it, or grind the accusing shell back to an atomizing gray, then perilously peck the unblessed parents to oblivion; and the next morning we would need to look to all classes and species as though nothing in the least, in our world of hope and need and happiness, had less than evenly happened. More celebration, more hope, more reason to wait evermore.


Ken Poyner is appearing in 2012/2013 in Eclectica, Cream City Review, Dark Sky, Menacing Hedge, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Illumen, Cafe Irreal, and several other places. Most of the rest of the year he will be following his wife about watching her try to break her own world power lifting records. He and his wife live with five rescue cats and one combative fish in the lower right hand corner of Virginia.

News Item #4

Dear Writers and Readers,

Happy Autumnal Equinox! The second issue of Rose Red Review is now live.

Also, it is my great pleasure to announce my 2012 nominations for the Best of the Net:

In Fiction:

Two Pieces [Manga Girls Need Love!} by Kyle Hemmings

In Poetry:

Dead Ophelia Society by Allie Marini Batts
Hide by F.J. Bergmann
Eurydice in the Morning by Valentina Cano
At Luxor by Amber Decker
The Mermaid Loses Her Voice by Jeannine Hall Gailey
CRIMSON ENDS by Jennifer Givhan

Congratulations to everyone for being awesomely talented!

Of note: I also plan to nominate six pieces from the first two issues for the Pushcart Prize. I will announce these nominations once the Winter 2012 issue goes live!

Warm Regards,
Larissa Nash

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

The Monster in the Woods
Lisa Beebe

A monster lived in the deepest part of the woods. Sometimes people who hadn’t heard the stories would take the path through the woods and happen upon the monster. The monster didn’t understand people, so whenever it saw a person, it would move in for a better look. When people saw the monster coming toward them, they’d run away as fast as they could, and make excuses to avoid setting foot in those woods ever again.

One day a young woman walked into the woods, looking for a particular kind of berry that her grandmother used to pick for her. When she got to the deepest, shadiest part, she heard a noise. She saw something move, but the woods were so dark, she couldn’t tell what it was. A few minutes later, in a clearing, she found the berries she remembered from childhood. She took a small paper bag out of her pocket and picked berries until the bag was full.

Just as she filled the bag, she heard a rustling noise nearby, and in the light from the clearing, she thought it looked like a bear. “Don’t come near me, if you’re a bear!” she called out, unsure if bears understood English. “I’m trained in all the deathly arts!” That wasn’t quite true. In fact, she wasn’t even sure what the deathly arts might be, and she wasn’t trained in any. She just hoped her loud threat would scare the bear away.

But of course, there wasn’t a bear in the woods. It was the monster. The monster wasn’t used to people sticking around this long, and it was curious about the young woman, so it moved closer to the clearing. When the young woman saw it, she dropped her bag of berries in surprise and stared at the monster. Then she looked at the bag of berries by her feet. A few had fallen out when the bag fell, and they looked so delicious that she decided to be brave. She bent her knees and reached down to gather the loose berries and put them back in the bag.

As she picked up the last berry, she considered popping it into her mouth, but instead, she held it out toward the monster. “It’s a berry,” she said. “They’re really good, but you probably know that already if you live around here.” As the monster moved closer, eyeing the berry, she wondered if it understood her.

She said, “I haven’t had these berries since I was little, when my grandma used to come into the woods and pick them for me, but this morning, they were all I could think about.” She stopped speaking and handed the berry to the monster, which was now within arm’s reach.

The monster held the berry and looked at it. The woman took another berry out of the bag and put it in her mouth. The berry tasted just the way she remembered, but after all the years, it seemed even fresher and juicier. “Oh, they’re so good,” she said, smiling at the monster. “A little sour at first, but so good.”

The monster ate the berry and squawked at the sour flavor. Then the monster smiled.

“They’re good, right?” the girl asked. She gave the monster another berry, and sat down in the clearing. It was a beautiful afternoon and she wasn’t in a rush to get home. She patted the ground next to her and the monster sat down, too.

“I’ll share,” she said, “I mean, it’d be rude of me to run off with so many ripe ones, since you like them, too.”

They sat in the clearing, eating berries one by one. They made funny faces and weird noises whenever they hit an especially sour one.

Eventually, the bag was empty, and their bellies were full. The monster lay on its side in a ray of sunlight.

“You look soft,” the girl said. “Can I pet you?”

She held out her hand toward the monster and it didn’t shy away, so she patted it with gentle strokes. The monster made a noise that sounded happy, so she gave it a few more little pets.

“I think I’ll head home soon, but I’d like to come back sometime,” she told the monster.

She sang a little song that she had learned from her grandma, and she pet the monster until it fell asleep. Then the girl folded up the empty paper bag and put it in her pocket. She stood up, stretched her arms, and walked back the way she’d come.

The monster slept on, and for the first time ever, it slept the deep sleep of the loved.


Lisa Beebe lives in Los Angeles with a one-eyed dog named Stitch. She is working on her first YA novel.

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Rothbart’s Swan
Ashley Parker Owens

Once upon a time, when the bitter cold wind froze the edges of the lake, luck fell into Rothbart’s mouth like a ripe cherry. A young maiden became his prized possession. Of all the peculiar possibilities, she was a swan during the day, and returned to her original maiden form at night. Folklore told that only a blood-line prince could break the wicked brilliant spell.

In the morning, when her skin returned to white down and feathers, leaden bracelets on her ankles ground her so she wouldn’t tire herself by flight. She was a queen dressed in white, feathers adorning her sweeping angel wings, long neck like a stretched out model. Her torso resembled Marilyn Monroe’s white dress blown wide around her hips. She freely spent her days on the lake, pure-white plumage against the snow. Ice on her wings glistened in the sun; each white feather outlined by an azure blue shadow.

At dusk when she became human, he met her with a feather robe to cover her nakedness. As a human, her white tender skin was smooth, her arms graceful and skinny as a swan’s neck. Feather boas adorned her wrists until she was safe and secure. At night, the sheen of her sweat on alabaster skin turned orangey from the fire. His mind trembled with glory; ownership filled his desires.

Each time he violated the swan, he licked her neck, salty with tears from the lake. He would remove a feather, rip it right from her hide. If she was in human form, he had to hide his discontent with only a single hair as a souvenir.

She cried in the beginning, pale little thing. After a few months, she just stared blankly like a broken doll, at last content in the security he provided.

They were so satisfied then. The changes at dusk and dawn satiated them.

When the prince discovered her location and came to save her, he never made it through the woods, choosing instead to bleed out in the snow.


Ashley Parker Owens lives in the hills of Kentucky, where the gnomes are. She has lived in San Francisco in an ashram, and in Chicago where she helped with the Second Underground Press Conference and was the editor of Global Mail. After the successful publication of Gnome Harvest by Double Dragon Publishing, Ashley is currently writing the next novels in the series.

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Pisces Dreamers

I was dreaming of you — your eyes refulgent in the morning sun, shimmered silver: breathless. But I couldn’t breathe. I saw you dreaming of me by the lake — I was a fish. My scales burnished copper even in gauzy mist, but my heart, hooked with shiny lures, lay on the dock, splayed open.

* * *

A Small House on the Beach

The enchantress waved her wand and the porch unzipped from the railing, tossing planks into the sky, but they returned to the ground as a shower of matchsticks. Walls and roof shimmied in the blurry sun, and began to shrink—the whole house squeezed to a single room—a pantry full of food, and sofas, TVs and beds. And all the glass that popped out of frames, morphed to a mound of shiny sand. She, with the daintiness of a princess, scooped up the quartz dust and placed it in my hand. I was silent, though my mouth gaped; my eyes still fixed on what was my home. And she said to me, “Be careful what you wish for.”


John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in literary and speculative fiction venues, such as Vermillion Literary Project, Conclave, New Mirage Journal, The Pedestal, Star*Line, Paper Crow, Enchanted Conversation, and many others. He is the poetry editor for the literary fantasy magazine, Silver Blade, an adjunct professor of physics in east Tennessee, and serves as a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. Visit his blog, The Art of Poetry: http://jcmannone.wordpress.com.

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

The Mist
John C. Mannone

from the Book of Beginnings

Chapter 1.
1. Now two suns hung in the pale blue skies. Purple grass glistened in soft winds filled with songs of chirping crickets and white-winged birds. 2. Ever since she came to him, they walked in the cool of the night and slept under a cloak of stars. 3. Each dawn he held the warmth of her body, her hair sweetened the moist air with scents of yellow jonquils. He kissed her until the music faded into the mist. 4. The mist, stretched into the forest. There, the trees, dark violet, with every shape of leaf, yielded many kinds of succulent fruit. 5. They always gave thanks. But remembered they were not to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree in the middle of the forest — the one whose leaves quaked with every shade of red. Not even touch it.

Chapter 2.
1. She said, “Let us forage deeper into the forest. The fruit is bigger.” 2. Peach and plum, figs and pear filled their baskets. But the scent of honeysuckle, of ambrosia, seeped from the center of the forest. 3. There it stood like no other tree, and its fruit glittered. 4. She brushed against a branch, its shiny copper leaves shimmered in waves writhing up and down the length of the tree. A liquid-transparent image slithered on the ground before transforming. 5. “How is it that I see a handsome prince,” she said, “and you, beautiful maiden? And it speaks to us about the secrets of the universe as if we are gods.” 6. They were compelled to move towards it. But the mist in the forest stirred his memory: You will surely die! 7. He stopped and placed her hand in his. They kissed while wrapped in the warm mist, oblivious to the shrieks from the magical being, to the sound of the tree bursting into flames from the mist. 8. Ash remained for just a moment before it was swept away by a soothing breeze.


John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in literary and speculative fiction venues, such as Vermillion Literary Project, Conclave, New Mirage Journal, The Pedestal, Star*Line, Paper Crow, Enchanted Conversation, and many others. He is the poetry editor for the literary fantasy magazine, Silver Blade, an adjunct professor of physics in east Tennessee, and serves as a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. Visit his blog, The Art of Poetry: http://jcmannone.wordpress.com.

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Here Be Toothsome Wolves
Brooke Wonders

Sometimes they’d arrive in a house of straw blown in from the harvest, or they’d appear deep within the mirror-maze halls of an ice castle. Other times a prince-turned-pauper gone a-hunting them would stumble over a rusted iron cauldron and out they’d pop, one two three, and then they’d ask him three riddles and grant his heart’s wish. Or they’d make him a devil’s bargain and steal his soul. Or they’d sleep with him—one after another, maiden, matron, crone—and if they were pleased they’d grant him a palace of his choosing, and if displeased turn him into a hind or a swan or a wolf. None of the wyrding woods’ many denizens could pinpoint their exact location, but prince and pauper alike knew when it was time to risk seeking the Fates: when toil and trouble had recently doubled.

#

Little Red was having wolf problems. A man in a gray wool suit stood on her stoop, his snout pointy, sunlight glinting off his teeth.

“Little girl, I’m your grandmother’s mortgage officer. Is she at home?”

“She’s ill abed.”

The wolfman snapped open his sheepskin briefcase and presented her with a stack of forms.

“Please tell your gram that her eviction is scheduled for this afternoon. I’ll return later, with the rest of my pack.” The little man flashed her a predatory grin, shut his briefcase, and loped away on all fours down the yellow brick road.

Little Red wasted no time, rifling through paperwork, poring over the fine print. Everything was unfortunately in order.

Little Red stuck her nose into Gram’s sickroom where the old woman huddled under a pile of bedclothes. “Wolf at the door again, wanting to eat us up. He has documentation saying we’re behind on our payments.” Red inhaled through her nostrils, bracing herself for a fight. “We have to ask the Fates for help.”

Gram’s eyes peered over the comforter, lids narrowed to lupine slits. “Do we now.” They didn’t talk about that, not ever. The wolves had come before, when Red was truly little, age six or so. Her mam had kissed Red on the forehead, then gone off to visit the Fates. She must’ve found them, or so Gram said, because the wolves left them alone after that, all through Little Red’s growing up—til now. “When they’re as like to cook us into stew as help us?”

“We don’t have a choice.”

“Ah, but we do, bright apple. I’ve a better plan. We’ll make a run for it. Pick us a basket while I make myself presentable.” Gram disappeared under her blankets once more, leaving a bewildered Red to clasp her long red cloak about her shoulders and head out into the wintery blue daylight.

A lunchbox tree graced their yard, with lunches of every size and color hanging heavy on its limbs. It flowered in every season, kept them fed even when times grew lean. Little Red pulled the ripest box down from the tree, sniffing to guess its contents: lemon tart, perhaps? An orange, certainly. Possibly a Swiss cheese sandwich. Wolves slept under the stars, ate meat every night. What did they want with her Gram’s cozy house, with its tree that bore cheese sandwich and lemon tart? The situation was manifestly unfair.

Red brought the box inside. With reverence, she took her mam’s axe down from above the mantle and tied the lunchbox to its handle, belting the axe across her back and sliding its sharp blade under the folds of her red hood. But when she went to fetch Gram, the old woman had scarcely moved. She’d merely turned sideways, skinny legs hanging over the edge of the bed, knobby knees peeking from beneath a pink flowered nightie.

“Gram, it’s time to go.”

“Patience, child.” Gram murmured under her breath, her eyes unfocused. “Should’ve done this years ago, might have saved your mam…” Recrimination lapsed into incantation: “Whimsy, whitewash, wicker, and bile; blue-tongued witches and blackest fire…”

Two round holes dilated open in the carpeted floor, holes that bored straight through to the dirt below, holes that had never been there before. “My, what strange holes those are,” said Red.

“All the better to make our escape,” said Gram, and Red wondered if Gram planned to shrink them both tiny enough to jump down the miniature rabbitholes. But instead, Gram’s legs began to stretch, getting skinnier and knobbier-kneed as they elongated.

“My, what long legs you have,” said Red.

“All the better to outrun a wolf pack,” said Gram. Her feet disappeared through the holes, and she pushed off the blankets and stood, growing ever taller, until her palms pressed up against the ceiling. Her white hair tufted all a-whichways, but a witchy mischief lit her grin, an expression Red hadn’t seen in years, not since Mam had disappeared. Wiry cords of muscle bulged along Gram’s spindly arms.

“My, what strong arms you have,” said Red.

“All the better to carry us to the Fates,” said Gram, and with a wrenching sound of metal uprooted from cement, the house came free of its foundation. Gram began to run, lifting the house up and away on skinny chicken-legs.

Red went to the back window and looked out. From the darkness of the woods came five, ten, twenty furred bodies running low to the ground. They still wore gray felt suits, and the file folders they clutched grew muddy as they loped along, silent shadows chasing the running house.

“They’re catching us up,” Red cried.

Gram picked up speed and the house listed dangerously, rattling Red from room to room; she narrowly avoided cutting herself on her mother’s axe blade. Gram’s chicken legs kept on trucking but her wax-white skin had gone crimson with effort and the breath rattled in the cage of her chest so bad Red thought she’d drop dead right there.

“Gram, it’s too heavy for you.”

“Can’t…set down…”

Gram dropped the house with an oof, dust sifting down from the eaves, then collapsed, knees folding up to her chest.

“Too old and too tired, granddaughter mine.”

“Get up. We have to leave it!” Red dragged her grandmother’s skeletal frame upstanding, and just in time: there came a knock at the door.

“Ma’am, open up. You have stolen property in your possession; we’re going to need you to…”

Red didn’t hear the rest of the wolf’s speech; she and Gram staggered out the back door and fled into the woods, wolves at their heels.

Up ahead loomed an enormous black hollowtree. On every limb hung a warning: Do Not Climb, Turn Back Now, Will Grind Your Bones to Make Our Bread. Red almost missed the small sign tacked to a knot. It read The Fates, but the F had a slash though it, and beneath it curved a sinuous red S. High above them, its beams twisting round in the frigid wind that battered at the hollowtree’s crown, perched a listing, lurching treehouse.

“Up there, must be,” said Gram.

Red gave Gram a leg up, then snagged a low-hanging branch herself. They hupped high into the tree, one two three. The wolves stopped up short, howling and yipping: “A lien on your home!” “Interest rates at historic lows!” “Consider refinancing!” They shook their fists full of paperwork at the treetop, but they couldn’t climb with so many files in their hands.

“What’s that reek?” Gram asked, wrinkling her wrinkled nose.

The hollowtree had, in life, been a lunchbox tree, and rotten lunchboxes clung to every twig. Red stifled a gag, pulled a mold-furred box free from its branch, and upended its contents onto the wolves below. Yowls of dismay filtered up on the breeze. She flung rotting lunchbox meats down on the wolves until they skulked off, though their golden eyes still peered from the underbrush.

Red let out a whoop of victory, and Gram managed a wan smile. They kept climbing, stopping often to let Gram catch her breath, until they came to a trapdoor set into the base of the treehouse. Red helped Gram hoist herself up and through, then followed herself.

The treehouse was cozy and warm; a blue-tongued fire licked sparks from the hearth. Surrounding Red and Gram on three sides, three women worked busily away, tending to…nothing. Or at least nothing Little Red could see. The youngest woman was enormously obese. Her chubby fingers pulled fistfuls of air from all around her; the maiden shoveled nothing down her throat like she could never be full of it.

The eldest looked like Gram if Gram stood at death’s edge. The crone tottered around the tiny room, slowly decomposing—an arm would fall off or an eye would loosen in its socket and roll away. The old woman kept picking up forgotten parts and reaffixing them, sewing them back on with an invisible needle. A long seam wound its way along her breastbone, her head connected to her neck by a thread.

The matron kept busiest of all, though her teeth clacked with cold and she shivered even in the fire’s warmth. Her frantic, darting movements reminded Red of her own mam’s panicked flurry as she flew about the kitchen trying to get dinner on the table after a long day chopping wood. But though she stared, Little Red couldn’t make hide or tail of the shapes the middle-aged woman inscribed on empty air.

“She’s baking,” Gram whispered, and sure enough she was: the matron rolled out air like dough, crimped the edges in an invisible circle, popped the pie or cake or loaf into the fireplace as if it were an oven. She hunched over to bask in the heat, then pulled out whatever had been cooking there before. But her shivers came back in earnest as she crossed the room to hand nonexistent baked goods over to the youngest, who stuffed empty space into her mouth before belching loudly.

“What brings you to visit the Sates?” asked the eldest.

“I think we’ve come to the wrong place,” hazarded Little Red.

“Oh no, you’re exactly where you should be.” The matron gave her a maternal smile without ever once pausing in the metric beat of her air-cookery. “We’ve upgraded. I’m Lack, this here is Clot, and the old one over there is Atrophy.” Clot belly-laughed, Atrophy hissed, and Lack leaned back, cocking her head. “So, what’ll it be? What do you need of us three?”

“We want to know what we should do about a pack of wolves been prowling around our house. You helped my mam back in the day, and we thought you might help us.”

“We’ll be wanting our gifts first,” said Lack. “A polite guest always brings a present for her hostesses, and this is our treehouse fine. Etiquette, my cardinal-bright girl.” Lack rubbed her hands together eagerly. “What’ve you brought to tickle our fancies?”

Gram had nothing but her nightgown. It was up to Red.

“I have food.” Little Red handed the untouched lunchbox over to Clot, who tucked in, oblivious to the distinction between fictitious food and real.

“And I have my red cape.” Red undid the clasp of her beloved cloak and shimmied free of it. Lack tested the red fabric between roughened fingertips, then swung the heavy material over her back. Little Red watched Lack’s shivers calm. The matron-Sate wrapped herself up tight as houses, fire casting flickering shadows down her narrow face. She appeared so like Mam, Red had to look away.

“And I have this axe. My mam left it for me before she disappeared.” Little Red pulled the axe free from where it hung like a hunchback across her narrow shoulders. She handed it to Atrophy, who lurched a bit under its weight.

“Little girl, this is not the gift I desire, and it’s not the gift that will convince us to call off our wolves, neither,” hissed Atrophy.

“But I’ve given you all I have!” said Red, outraged.

Atrophy produced a quill and a yellowed sheet of paper, edges cracked with age. “Not quite. Sign on the dotted line.” Little Red could see, above the blank for her name, the narrow loops of her mother’s handwriting, and above that, Gram’s. Red squeezed shut her eyes and signed.

Atrophy’s lips curled in a rictus, revealing a row of cracked and blackened teeth. Gram shot Red one terrified glance as Atrophy hefted the heavy blade, and then in one sharp stroke the Sate cut clean through Gram’s neck, snickety-snick. Gram’s head rolled along the slanted floor until it stopped up at Lack’s feet; the matron scooped it up.

Red had no time to cry out or speak or think. They’d killed Gram—perhaps to cook her into stew—rather than help, and it was Red’s fool idea had started it all. She knelt beside Gram’s body, patted the withered hands to smooth their wrinkles, stroked the gore-covered, pink-flowered nightie, and began to sob.

“No use blubbering, girlie. Do you want your Gram back or not?” Atrophy asked, all business.

“Catch,” said Lack, tossing Red the corpse-head. Red almost dropped it, blood spattering her hands and disappearing into the folds of her red dress.

With delicate seamstress’s fingers, Atrophy loosened the thread keeping her own head attached; it came free with a tug, her rejected visage landing facedown on the floor.

“What’re you waiting for?” Clot said between mouthfuls of lemon tart.

Atrophy’s headless body held out a hand. Pinched between thumb and forefinger, the Sate’s sinewy thread, which Red took up, though she scarce could see the needle through tears. Lack held the seam steady while Red, stitch by stitch, sewed Gram’s head onto Atrophy’s neck.

“That’s better,” said atrophied Gram, cracking her neck, her wrists, all ten fingers.

“Gram? Is that you?” Little Red didn’t trust the Sates for a split minute. “Can we go home now?”

“Yes and no, child. I’m a Sate now, and that ‘home’ you think is yours? Belongs to me and my sisters.” The old woman’s cracked and blackened smile was all Atrophy and no Gram.

“No! This wasn’t in the contract.”

“We promised nothing. You came begging.” Atrophy raised her chin high and howled, and the other two Sates joined in, calling their pack. Red stared in dismay as an endless cascade of wolves erupted from the treeline; as one, they dropped the paperwork clutched in their fists and began to scale the hollowtree, nails scything deep into bark as they climbed to meet their mothers. As they breached the windowsill and began to flood the tiny room with their muffled barks and shuffling paws, Clot unhinged her jaw and commenced shoveling wolves into her mouth, tail over claw, the squeak and crunch of gristle and bone grinding through the treehouse.

Lack slid over to Red, patting her shoulder in consolation. “Never you mind, dearie. Everyone signs eventually.”

Little Red felt her face begin to stretch, snout elongating to monstrous length, the backs of her hands tufting with fur. When she opened her mouth wide to scream, her tongue caught the sharp edges of a mouthful of glittering teeth.


Brooke Wonders writes weird fiction that thinks it’s true and memoir that thinks it’s fabulism. Her work has appeared in (or is forthcoming from) Monkeybicycle, Daily Science Fiction and Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction, and she blogs at girlwonders.wordpress.com. No grandmothers were harmed in the writing of this piece.

Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Cadence
Melina Papadopoulos

There are birdsongs that I could arrange along thick musical staffs, were I capable of such a thing. I do not sit at a grand piano or strum on a Spanish guitar. I do not save my breath for a clarinet, at least not anymore. I failed even the recorder its glory, an instrument as melodious as a cockatoo’s screech. Instead, I stand armed with the trills of robins, the coos of mourning doves, the distinct cries stolen from remote rainforests and wetlands for my aviary of Audubon plush waterfowl to recite. Such voices belong in the language of treble clefs, half notes, whole notes, but I am becoming fluent only in bird, blind to the gestures of music. Sometimes I wish the foreign symbols on sheet music were coarsely raised so that I could treat them like braille, but for now I stick with my field guides and binoculars. I make not a sound, and still there is a harmony to just listening and looking on.

I regularly remind myself that my writing process lacks cadence. I have no metronome for my words to march to, and even if I had, they would probably scatter at even a scare of lost motivation. I arrange stylistic fanfares, turn humble burials into lengthy funeral processions, and urge ordinary sunsets to be endless skies in some afterlife. Once I wrote a poem to a friend, speaking confidently into each stanza, but my voice echoed in its mightiness and then faded out. In poetry, it is supposed to be okay to remain silent because I can pantomime my way through every moment and emotion with just the right word choice. But what if I jump when I should dance? What if I go boasting when I should be mourning?

There is a birdcall or song for everything, each one composed to use instinct as a kind of musical stave. When it is time to call in a mate’s heart, the goldfinch knows just the melody to play. Baby robins lament their hunger to their faraway mother. Migrating Canada Geese honk to one another of their progress, even within their own organized v. Then there are the masters of pantomime: the quail with an impatient swish of its tail feather, the penguin wandering anxiously from shore to nest, and the frightened pigeon with feathers ruffling on its back. The golden-collared manakin flirts through songless dance, agile and precise, and the desired mate knows just how to respond—with a timid hop forward for a better look, or a flash of the wings, away.

Eventually, I hope to challenge my memory to bird silhouettes, learn how to tell the weightlessness of a house sparrow’s shadow from that of a house finch. Maybe then I can teach myself that a chickadee’s stature is a chickadee’s stature, not a cardinal’s or a bald eagle’s, so that I can write about it as such.


Melina Papadopoulos is currently an undergraduate college student from Northeastern Ohio and has six lovely birds. Her work has appeared in Apt Online, Chocorua Review, Bluestem Magazine, among others. As obvious as it may be, she is an aspiring ornithologist.

About the Contributors


Whither
Zeina Makky

Robert Annis is in the MFA program at the University of South Florida. He has studied under Jay Hopler, Katherine Riegel, Jennifer Clarvoe, and James Kimbrell. His work has appeared in Ubernothing Literary Magazine and Thread.

Lisa Beebe lives in Los Angeles with a one-eyed dog named Stitch. She is working on her first YA novel.

Gail Braune Comorat, a founding member of Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, has been published in Delmarva Review, The Broadkill Review, damselfly press, Delaware Beach Life, Gargoyle, and Apple Valley Review. She received a 2011 fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts as an emerging writer in poetry, and was the winner of the 2012 Artsmith Literary Award for her poem “Summer of Ladybugs.”

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet, and scholar. His chapbooks, The Flayed Man and Symptoms Positive and Negative, are available. He is working on a collection for Diminuendo Press. Another has been accepted by Hippocampus Press. He is the editor of Melaleuca.

Diane Farone, a lifelong fan of fairy tales and other truth-rendering fiction, has been happy to turn her writing efforts from academic publications in the publish or perish world of academia to writing for fun in her retirement. Ever the student, she has been studying creative writing through the Writers Studio.

Rory Fleming is a writer of stories and poems, particularly of a magical realist bent. He has work forthcoming or published in The Speculative Edge, Yesteryear Fiction, and Apocrypha and Abstractions, among others.

Victor Florence is a Tampa based poet.
He graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in English.

Amarie Fox is currently earning her BA in English Literature. She does not have many accolades or accomplishments to mention, because for the most part she spends far too much time painting watercolor portraits of strangers, caring for her four cats, and tendering to a rather pathetic looking flower garden.

Angie Ruth Garcia moved to Boston in 2004 in search of love, culture and music. After an interesting childhood in Florida, she escaped to find herself trapped in the wonders of Boston. Vowing every year to move, she found herself unable to turn away from the love that Boston gave her. In the midst of confusion, she decided to compromise and stay in Boston Metro until its inspiration discontinued.
She lives in Medford with a Kat and a dog.

Nathaniel Hansen’s poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Bluestem, Picayune, Bryant Literary Review, Slurve, The Evansville Review, and South Dakota Review, among others. His is also the founder and editor of the online literary quarterly, The Blue Bear Review (bluebearreview.wordpress.com).

Sage Kalmus is a 40-year-old gay male freelance writer living off-the-grid in the foothills of western Maine. He self-published his first novel, Free Will Flux (FreeWillFlux.com), a work of metaphysical fiction, and he is currently working on his second novel. He believes we are all interconnected.

Kimberly Karalius is an MFA student at the University of South Florida. Her work has been published in journals such as The Medulla Review, Cygnus, Hogglepot, and Pure Francis. Even though she’s old enough to be considered an adult, she still watches cartoons.

Sally Rosen Kindred’s first full-length poetry book is No Eden (Mayapple Press, 2011). She has received fellowships for poetry writing from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her poems have appeared in Quarterly West, The Journal, Strange Horizons, The Moment of Change, and on Verse Daily. For more information, please see sallyrosenkindred.com.

Jennifer Lynn Krohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she currently lives with her husband. She earned her MFA from the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English and CNM. Jennifer has published work in The Saranac Review, Adobe Walls, RED OCHRE LiT, Prick of the Spindle, and In the Garden of the Crow.

Zeina Makky is an award-winning newspaper designer who also likes to take photographs in her spare time.

John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in literary and speculative fiction venues, such as Vermillion Literary Project, Conclave, New Mirage Journal, The Pedestal, Star*Line, Paper Crow, Enchanted Conversation, and many others. He is the poetry editor for the literary fantasy magazine, Silver Blade, an adjunct professor of physics in east Tennessee, and serves as a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. Visit his blog, The Art of Poetry: http://jcmannone.wordpress.com.

Susan Meyers earned an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the University of Arizona, and she has lived and taught in Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Currently, she teaches creative writing at Seattle University. Her work has appeared in journals such as CALYX, Dogwood, Cerise Press, and The Minnesota Review, and she has been the recipient of several awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship.

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock, and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty-five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, and Line Drives. His chapbook, Three Visitors, will be published by Negative Capability Press later this year, and his novels, The Magic War and Knight Prisoner, will be published in the coming months. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster. Currently he’s seeking gainful employment since poets are born and not paid.

Jim Murdoch is a Scottish writer. His poetry has appeared in small press journals and online since the 1970s. A full collection of his poems entitled This Is Not About What You Think was published in 2010. He is also the author of three novels and is currently working on a collection of short stories which should appear early in 2013. He’s rarely not writing and when not producing fiction is working on articles for his long-running blog The Truth About Lies: jim-murdoch.blogspot.co.uk

Ashley Parker Owens lives in the hills of Kentucky, where the gnomes are. She has lived in San Francisco in an ashram, and in Chicago where she helped with the Second Underground Press Conference and was the editor of Global Mail. After the successful publication of Gnome Harvest by Double Dragon Publishing, Ashley is currently writing the next novels in the series.

Melina Papadopoulos is currently an undergraduate college student from Northeastern Ohio and has six lovely birds. Her work has appeared in Apt Online, Chocorua Review, Bluestem Magazine, among others. As obvious as it may be, she is an aspiring ornithologist.

Ken Poyner is appearing in 2012/2013 in Eclectica, Cream City Review, Dark Sky, Menacing Hedge, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Illumen, Cafe Irreal, and several other places. Most of the rest of the year he will be following his wife about watching her try to break her own world power lifting records. He and his wife live with five rescue cats and one combative fish in the lower right hand corner of Virginia.

Marybeth Rua-Larsen lives in Massachusetts but is a kissing-cousin Rhode Islander. When she’s not writing, she’s flying kites with her kids in Newport, hitting the town beach and steaming up a Portuguese-style clam boil. Recent work has appeared in The Raintown Review, Monkeybicycle, Crannog, The New Verse News, and Antiphon. Last year, she won in the Poetry category for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition in Galway, Ireland.

Jay Rubin teaches writing at The College of Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area and publishes Alehouse, an all-poetry literary journal, at alehousepress.com. He holds an MFA in Poetry from New England College and lives in San Francisco with his son and Norwich terrier.

Genevieve Salazar is currently earning her MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University and is an (over)zealous reader, writer and lover of anything and everything that moves and breathes magic and words.

Within the past year, Carla Sarett’s short stories have appeared in The Linnet’s Wing, Subtle Fiction, Eric’s Hysterics, Scissors and Spackle, The Greensilk Journal, Ear Hustler, Absinthe Revival, The River Poet’s Journal, Loch Raven Review, Danse Macabre and The Medulla Review, among others. Carla is a Ph.D. whose careers include academia, TV, film and market research.

Lydia Ship’s stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Short Fiction, Barrow Street, Denver Quarterly, New Delta Review (2012 Matt Clark Prize in Fiction Winner), Pleiades, The Portland Review, Sonora Review, and others. I am the new managing editor of The Chattahoochee Review.

Ta (stage name Taja) is a sometime writer, constant feline worshiper, unconventional belly dancer & aspiring bon vivant.

Ta exists in an incredibly beautiful area in western canada where she lives with one quiet, clever boy and two lazy felines. She is a high summer spirit with a wild appreciation for autumn and an affinity for everybody. She burns a lot of candles, talks in spirals and deeply loves the rain. Visit her: undreaming.net

Michael Warrick currently teaches at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China. He is from Cornwall in the south-west of England, and studied French literature at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and Translation studies at Surrey University before embarking on an English language teaching career. He has worked mainly in the UK, France, Italy and China.

Brooke Wonders writes weird fiction that thinks it’s true and memoir that thinks it’s fabulism. Her work has appeared in (or is forthcoming from) Monkeybicycle, Daily Science Fiction and Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction, and she blogs at girlwonders.wordpress.com. No grandmothers were harmed in the writing of this piece.