Sunday 16 June 2024

2024 FlashFlood: The Complete List

In case you missed any of the pieces we appeared during the 2024 FlashFlood, here's an index to everything.  Sadly, the 'Blog Archive' list maxes out at 100 titles per day, so use this as your guide to the complete 2024 Flood....

Happy Reading!


 2024 FlashFlood



Saturday 15 June 2024

'Waterbabble' by Francine Witte

Swim of people in the supermarket. Faces fishing towards me, all eyes and gaping talkmouths. Their shimmery bodies squiggling through the aisles. Cereal, soap powder, fruit. Florescent lights above us, a bloop of broken sunlight, wavy and far off like a dream. And there’s me, my life spilled into liquid since you left me. I dig snatches of food off the shelves, the way lost guppies might dart towards a sea crag. Funny though, I don’t need food, or even want it since you left me with no hunger and a hook dangling out of my lip. Together, you and I were landbeautiful, You said words like forever and trust me. I heard you. I heard you. And then one day you saw the horizon. Let’s touch it together, you said. I went sudden mermaid. Lost my walklegs, my arms were like fins. My hair streamed out like fireflames. And then in a water breath, you were gone. Saw someone other and floated away. And now I circle the supermarket, with its cans, and bottles, and paper goods. It’s all the water of once love now and I float and I float and I float.


Francine Witte’s flash fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals. Most recently, her stories have been in Best Small Fictions and Flash Fiction America. Her latest flash fiction book is Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) Her upcoming collection of poetry, Some Distant Pin of Light is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. She lives in NYC. Visit her website

'Small Mythologies from a Late Summer Garden' by Jenny Wong

The forecasters predicted horizons to be sunny and clear.  But overhead, a seafaring god worries about his capsizing yacht. Thus begins a day of minor curses.  
Pails of rain bail out the sky.  Silver drops find all the holes in a leaky tin shed. Poppy buds refuse to bloom, hold bursts of red in their hard green fists.  The air smells of wet leaf and drowned matches (burning forests lurk in the east and not even a downpour like this can wash away their threatening scent).  The bushes do what they can.  They droop in their soggy green garments, performing small exorcisms over gasping worms who twitch in their thin gelatin bodies.  

Meanwhile, the chili peppers ignore the troubles brought on by heaven. Instead, they bury their roots into dense clay dirt, reach towards warm southward places. They have already locked the memory of the sun’s heat in their flesh, set their spice levels to 10,000 on the Scoville scale.  

And now, all that is left for them to do is let their skins ripen like fire
and dream of a sky
that holds
no more gods.


Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. Her favorite places to wander are Tokyo alleys, Singapore hawker centers, and Parisian cemeteries. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best of the Net Anthology, Best Small Fiction Awards, and The Forward Prizes for Best Single Poem (Written). She resides in Canada near the Rocky Mountains. Find her on Twitter(X) @jenwithwords.

'What to Do if Gravity Lessens' by Bethany Jarmul



Bethany Jarmul is an Appalachian writer and poet. She’s the author of two chapbooks and one poetry collection. Her work has been published in many magazines including Rattle, Brevity, Salamander, and One Art. Her writing was selected for Best Spiritual Literature 2023 and Best Small Fictions 2024, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Wigleaf Top 50. Connect with her at or on social media: @BethanyJarmul.

Editor's note: due to formatting, this piece is presented as an image. If it doesn't look nice in your browser, you can view it as an image here and as a pdf here.

Debut Flash: 'Rise' Bryan Schluntz

I felt the dawn full of color on my neck as I woke in Ani’s bed. Wonted questions arrived while I gently gazed out at her neighbor’s caerulean wall. The aroma, like opportunity, of strong coffee drew me toward the kitchen. She looked up at me while gracefully rocking the jazva in and out of the flame. Our mornings swelled with possibility; this was new. Ani passed my cup with a half-smile and used her finger to etch a few words in grinds she’d spilled on the counter. I took a long, full sip and believed, in all of it.


Bryan Schluntz is a writer and lover of flash fiction. He studied English at the University of Vermont, in the US. He now resides in Mendham, New Jersey with his wife, two sons, and a dog named Ritter.

'Lights Out' by Abby Manzella

The lights have been out for two days. I’m sure that in other houses candles are burning and dusty attic-ed board games retrieved now that our electronics are dark. I’m sure that others expect that power will soon return, just like they mistakenly thought their money would reappear last month after the two largest banks’ coffers digitally went “poof.” I suspect these responses, but I don’t actually know what my neighbors are thinking because I’m on my own. No one has stopped by to check on me, but I haven’t checked on anyone else either.

I’m focused on food. The freezer food won’t last long. Anyway, I’ve been cooking hot dogs on the outdoor grill—I have been eating a lot of hot dogs—and thinking about “mouth feel.” Not taste so much as feeling. How do the burnt bits of charcoal feel on the roof of my mouth? I’d describe them as found stone in the forest where it doesn’t quite belong—course and unwelcome.

And that’s what worries me.

The other day, before the power went out, I found the remnants of an encampment less than a mile from my home. No one else would have noticed, but I recognized the stones that had been hastily moved and then replaced to hide the firepit that had kept these intruders warm. The softened earth was too cleared of last autumn’s leaves. Wildness tidied.

Someone is out there, slowly creeping toward us all—a frontline that knows we’re our own worst enemies. They know we’re weakest without our technology—our social skills long ago obliterated. They know that we’ll stay inside instead of finding new connections. They know that we’re more likely to turn on each other. They know that all they have to do is turn out the lights.


Abby Manzella is the author of Migrating Fictions: Gender, Race, and Citizenship in U.S. Internal Displacements, winner of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers Book Award. She has published with journals such as Threepenny Review, MoonPark Review, HAD, Flash Frog, and Massachusetts Review. Find her on Twitter @abbymanzella.

'Ganesh and Southern Maid Donuts' by Rudri Bhatt Patel

I know it is Sunday morning because the paper lands on the driveway with a louder thud, masala chai whispers underneath the door, and the sounds of Bollywood music vibrate in our small Texas home. My radio belts out Madonna, some version of the song Vogue springing in the air. The Debbie Gibson vests collide in the closet with my batik saris and I hear my parents speaking in Hindi, while I hum the words, “Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe.”

I walk into the kitchen, Lord Ganesh sitting vigil in our small temple, while my father bellows a familiar mantra. When he finishes praying, he turns to me and says, “Want to get some donuts?” I sit shotgun while we drive in his dark blue Camry to Southern Maid Donuts, the smell of curry lingering in the car.

I slide into my seat, the sound of Om Namah Shivay echoing from Dad’s favorite CD. Glazed donut in one hand, I half-smile at him, and say thank you in his language.

Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former attorney turned writer and editor. Prior to attending law school, she graduated with an MA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is the co-founder and co-editor of the literary journal, The Sunlight Press, and on staff at Literary Mama and Pithead Chapel. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and has appeared in Milk Candy Review, Pidgeonholes, 101 Words, Literary Mama, Mothers Always Write, The Washington Post, Civil Eats, Saveur, and elsewhere. You can find more of her work at

'Ganesh and Southern Maid Donuts' was first published in MoonPark Review in Spring 2021, Issue #15.

'All-Hands Meeting' by Thad DeVassie

Management called an All-Hands Meeting. The administrative types understand what this means. The floor workers have no knowledge of this concept as people start congregating in an open area on the factory floor. There is a microphone and a PA system there that isn’t normally there. An unfamiliar man in a suit approaches the microphone and begins talking about company values and challenges with today’s supply chain. He’s referring to a PowerPoint on large screen monitor that is ill-suited for this kind of gathering. People in the back can’t hear him over the dull hum of machinery. This goes on for 25 minutes. Nobody complains. In fact, everyone feels good, even a little refreshed for the extra 25-minute break in their day. There is chatter going up the leadership chain suggesting a need for more All-Hands based on employee feedback. That’s when the high-fives start flying in the executive suite.

Thad DeVassie is a writer and artist/painter who creates from the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of three chapbooks, most recently THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA from Cervena Barva Press. He was awarded the James Tate Poetry Prize for SPLENDID IRRATIONALITIES in 2020 from SurVision Books. Find more of his written and painted work at

'Neighborhood Port' by Leonard Kress

She pedals over the trolley tracks and cobbles on Allegheny Avenue, past Szypula’s bakery, its rye line redoubled. Past Stanky’s GoGo, where yesterday her husband stumbled, booted out, said the old baba, who defends the counter at Borowski’s Cleaners. She stops at the light to let two semis chug by, and the 54 bus, and a polka dot open-hatched hatchback with speakers the size of baby coffins, salsa notes pounding them shut.   

She halts at the red light, and before it changes, she sees a freighter floating between twin towers of the grain elevator and the cold storage warehouse catches her eye—the ship so endless, it seems, instead, to stand still while the whole neighborhood drifts down river, under bridges, out into the bay. (I see it all from the walkway of the Walt Whitman Bridge, the white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl....) The riptide and then back out to sea, the North, the Baltic.   

The seem, though, lasting only as long as the red light, as she once again pedals, plotting, leaning into the breeze that carries the stench from Rohm and Hass, passing hoagie shop, scrap metal heap, and Lithuanian Hall—before she discovers that the red letters of the word Gdynia stenciled on the ship’s gunwale have left on her forehead a chalky residue.


Leonard Kress has published poetry, translations, non-fiction, and fiction in Missouri Review, Tupelo, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. Among his collections are The Orpheus Complex, Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. Craniotomy Sestinas appeared in 2021. He has received multiple grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council and currently teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.

'Foretold' by Lisa Ferranti

The fortune-teller said in a past life I was a saloon dancer, a boa-clad high-stepper. She predicted I would travel by water taxi. That I’d love a man with hands hard-hewn. My mother said beware false prophets, shimmering idols, alabaster statues. I flocked to your arms of sinew and muscle, callous palms, sawdust and grit. A carpenter? mother said. Like Jesus, I told her. Like your father, she said, turning a paycheck into 80-proof fast as the Son of God turned water to wine.

The angular cut of your bone, carved to fit the chink in my baby’s breath armor. Mother said marry first for love, then money. We raced dusty highways, sticky grape Fanta bottles rolling at our feet. The sign said five miles to Vegas—there by dawn. Elvis said till death do you part, and we dodged rice rain, chased the sun.

The Lord says goodness and mercy will follow us all of our days, but at night, now, I follow you to the dingy after-hours bar on Howard Street, where I am not a dancer. I travel not by water taxi, but by rusty Ford Taurus, exhaust sputtering in my wake. I wait in the dank alley for you to emerge, for proof. I want to lie down in green pastures. But I force my eyes wide, open the window. Offer a limp dollar bill to a woman pushing a shopping cart nearby. “Bless you,” she says.

I stroke the chained cross that loops my neck. Even before I spot you, I see the future. I start the engine, drive fast, drive east, the pink scrim of sunrise glinting off the water tower next town over, beckoning like a crystal ball. 

Lisa Ferranti's fiction has been a Top 25 finalist in a Glimmer Train contest, nominated for The Best American Short Stories 2023 Anthology, twice on the Wigleaf Top 50 Longlist, and has three times been nominated for Best Small Fictions. Her work has appeared in RUBY Literary, Gordon Square Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Literary Mama, Lost Balloon, and elsewhere. She lives in Ohio with her family.

'Foretold' was originally published in Reflex Fiction on June 9, 2018.

'To Know Our Names' by Andrea Goyan

Grandpa posted a sign outside his woodshop: NO CHILDREN ALLOWED

He’d grumbled we were loud, always underfoot, and too damn many to keep straight.

Mama tsked at our tears and said don't fret. He's just a mean old man.

But we'd seen the polished bowls sanded smooth by gentling hands. We'd stirred our cooking pots with his slender walnut spoons and eaten our meals on lovingly crafted birch plates. We yearned to know what magic turned the man wielding the willow switch into something altogether different.

Mama said he poured so much heart into his work none was left over to share with us. One day, he’d squeeze out the last drop of love and shrivel away into dust.

The day he disappeared, the birds sang loudly outside his shop, uninterrupted by his demanding bellows for quiet. We dared enter his domain, our many voices calling Grandpa? Grandfather? Gramps? and were met with silence. His lathe still spun, and the tang of linseed oil stung our noses. An urn made of heartwood sat upon his table, and a man-shaped pile of sawdust interrupted the broom-swept floor.

Inside the urn, we found his heart, whole and plump. We crouched in a circle around the dust of him, closer than we’d ever been, and set the urn where we guessed his chest would be. We held our breaths and hands lest the debris of his life whipped into fury at our proximity. He stayed peaceful and still. We’re your grandchildren, we whispered, then shouted.

And we wrote our names in his remains so he would finally know us.


Andrea Goyan is an award-winning author and co-host of Metastellar’s Long Lost Friends. Recent and forthcoming stories are available in Small Wonders, Intrepidus Ink, Dark Matter Presents: Monstrous Futures, Flash Fiction Magazine, and The Molotov Cocktail. You can find more of her words on her website or follow her on Twitter @AndreaGoyan or Bluesky

'Sea Fret' by Kathy Hoyle

Sea listens.
Boys. Three boys. Lithe-limbed boys with windswept curls, slipping on seaweed, clinging and climbing on mossy rocks, catcalling through cupped hands. Boys, who bellow dares and whoop and push and land in icy sea foam spray, voices on the cusp of breaking.
Sea wants.
Boys. Three boys. Bare-chested boys with mammal blood and thumping hearts and slick white bone, not salted shell or rough-scaled fin. Boys, who taste of youth and joy and fragrant grass on summer days. Boys who bravely dive from rusted pier to swelling tide, ignoring warning voices echoing on crested waves.

Sea takes.
Boy. Smallest boy. Sweet plump boy with fading breath and aching legs and fingertips that briefly touch then slip away. Boy, whose mother - just that morning - packed him rounds of buttered bread and apple cake and warned of vicious sea with riptide curl and unseen snarling teeth below. Smallest boy, with tiny final cry, drowned out by sound of beating mammal hearts and screams from voices on the cusp of breaking.

Sea leaves.
Boys. Two boys. Lithe-limbed boys with bare chests heaving, salted tears on milk-pale cheeks, standing deathly still on sharp-stoned shore. Boys who start to shiver, clammy cold together, as they watch the sea fret mist roll in to haunt their minds with guilt-soaked dreams, forever.

Kathy Hoyle’s work is published in literary magazines such as The Forge, Lunate, Emerge literary journal, New Flash Fiction Review, South Florida Poetry Journal and Fictive Dream. She has won a variety of competitions including The Bath Flash Fiction Award, The Hammond House Origins Competition and The Retreat West Flash Fiction Competition. She was recently longlisted for The Wigleaf Top 50 and her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and The Pushcart Prize. She lives in a sleepy Warwickshire village and when she’s not writing, she spends her time singing Dolly Parton songs to her long-suffering labradoodle, Eddie. 

'Sea Fret' was runner up in the Edinburgh Award for Flash fiction and was published in the Scottish Arts Council Anthology Beached.

'Bambi' by Damilare Popoola

Tonight, the face of the sky is the countenance of a mendicant—dark grey, bare, begging for honour—and the moon is a depthless well dug by cruel hands, adding to its disgrace.

And we—my cousins and i—are gathered around Bambi, my grandfather, listening to the stories he has to tell.

Bambi, blind as a stone, the vitality of his eyes burned away by the slow fires of senescence, tells stories with the wit & grace of a potter, as one aware of the transcendental meaning they hold.

His lips, pinched from the rolling of time, don’t take away their appeal in the slightest. On the contrary, they elevate their relevance.

For what better portal for ancient truths to shuttle between immaterial and material than a rim of flesh weathered by time?

And we are struck by a sense of need beyond the ordinary. Pupils dilated, fixated on Bambi, our ears perked in all their eagerness, listening to this frail bag of bones whose words seem to hold the essence of life.

Not even our Pastor Rafiki, that enlightened vicar of God, could inspire this level of awe in us.


Damilare Popoola is a medical doctor and writer from Nigeria. He has keen interest in literature and its power to enlighten and transform the mind. In his nascent writing career, he has had works published in Writers' Space Africa. He tweets @paulomondml.

Debut Flash: 'High Seas' by Clint Watt

The pirate would’ve jumped overboard if she didn’t have so much to do today, and if there wasn’t a carpark below, fifty meters wide and a hundred loan repayments deep.  

The timbers of the plywood galley shivered with the dull January frost and the relentless boarding of schoolchildren, their teacher grading, with a glance, her PVC sword, striped Lycra leggings and Velcro headscarf for authenticity.  Curtain up! she remembers, visualising stills of Streep – no – Winslet.

Half-packed under the headscarf: long hair – auburn, not ‘ginger’, not ‘orange’ and not ‘carrot’.  The mini-hoard encircle her.  Your character is the spectacle, not your head, and she braces for barbs that never come, at least when teacher is near.  Instead, shy interrogation meets stock response.

“No, not all pirates were from the Caribbean.”

“Yes, there were lady– female pirates.”

“It’s Irish, that’s why I ‘sound like that’.  Actually, Grace O’Malley was–”, but the child had not come here to learn and was already distracted, feverishly spinning the galley wheel, which had been repurposed from a Ford flatbed and encrusted with seashells and Do Not Touch stickers.

Across the tarmac, a McDonald’s roof peers back at the scene: minimum wage, guaranteed hours.  Its steaming steel vents promising constant warmth and free Method training playing a jaded seller of unchanging meat.  

Then a half-remembered scene begins to replay, this time from the POV of a grown-up.  “How do you learn to be a pirate so good?”  There was no mockery in her small voice, only a question from someone discovering where they wanted to be, but not yet how hard some waters will jostle their course.

Just before breaking character, sunlight catches their hair.


By day, Clint works in the IT sector in Edinburgh. At night, he focuses on writing, filmmaking and staring into the void.


'Shelter' by Linda M. Bayley

Maybe Daddy and I didn't go for a walk in the woods that day. Maybe the crisp, cold sky wasn't so blue that we had to squint against it as we crunched across fresh white snow. Maybe I wasn't so small that I had to follow in each of Daddy's footprints, my calves sinking down into snow that reached only to his ankles, in case I lost a boot breaking my own ground.

Maybe I didn't spy a cocoon hanging from a bare winter twig. Maybe I didn't point and ask what it was. Maybe he told me it was a katydid cocoon, but maybe he didn't. Maybe I didn't ask what was inside.

Maybe he didn't pull the twig from the tree, didn't pry the dry brown husk apart. Maybe he didn't show me the insect sheltering inside.

Maybe, curiosity satisfied, I didn't ask if we could put it back.

Maybe he didn't lift his hands and shoulders in a shrug before throwing the twig and the husk to the ground to be covered over and forgotten in the next storm. Maybe he didn't tell me there was no going back. Maybe he didn't turn and trudge away.

Maybe I didn't cry.

Maybe, as he drove me back to Mommy's house, we weren't completely silent.


Linda M. Bayley is a writer and textile artist living on the Canadian Shield. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Geist, The Windsor Review, voidspace zine, National Flash Fiction Day 2024 Anthology, Five Minutes, and BULL.

'Moctezuma' by Monique Quintana

My love and I are being evicted from our house. No one wants us here anymore. My love has blue roses that sprout from his hand, and they have planted themselves here in the winter on this planet. Our brown skin has learned to sustain itself here. This planet has never seen hand bones so capable of loving. Our skin has grown accustomed to the cold. When we were children, our mothers told us that Moctezuma sent his warriors up into the mountains to collect crushed ice for him. He would drench the ice in the nectar of fruit, blood warm from the sun. The sun we have never seen before.

My love knits me blankets out of red yarn, and they always feel itchy on my arms and legs. I don't tell him this; instead, I lay the blanket over our bed, waiting for him to climb over brass knuckles and return home to me.

Tomorrow, I'll take our bed apart like it is built of bird bones, put it in my sac, and carry it over my shoulder. If I wish too hard, the birds will freeze and won't reawaken until more of our people come to this house and knife them back to life.

Tomorrow, I'll pull all of the roses from the garden until their petal heads fall off and freeze, and they'll make a trail of dirt behind us, my yellow gown flapping in the haze, and my black-eyed love will never look back, his hair slick with charcoal and rain from my mouth. We won't remember this little house we left behind, only the lights that combust over our skin again and again, making our children and stars in this cold cold fire.

Monique Quintana is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and is the author of Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019). Her work has also been supported by Yaddo, The Sundress Academy for the Arts, The Community of Writers, and The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. You can find her at and @quintanagothic

'Moctezuma' was first published in the January 2018 issue of Dream Pop Press.

'Pear Drops' by Elou Carroll

When the arrivals board blinks out again, Audra is still eating pear drops. She lets them melt on her tongue, the sugary coating smoothing, the way Lola liked—likes—to. Pear drops are Lola’s favourite.

“Ma’am, the station’s closing now.”

“Ten more minutes,” Audra says, boiled sweet clacking against her teeth. She waves him away and when he does not go, she ignores him, popping another pear drop into her mouth. Lola does the same when they argue—Audra never did let Lola speak with her mouth full.

“Ma’am, I’m so sorry. There are no more trains tonight. It’s time to go home. Come again tomorrow?” The station attendant dithers from foot to foot. He touches her shoulder—

Audra rears back and tears the paper bag between her clenched fists. “I said ten more minutes, I—oh.”

She stares, unblinking, until the pear drops are a puddle of broken pieces on the floor. Audra sinks to her knees, shards of sugar digging into her shins. Her eyes are wide as she scoops them up, shoving them in her bag, her pockets, her mouth.

“Ma’am… Audra—”

Audra holds up a finger, swallows. “They’re for my daughter. She’ll be here in a moment. Her train is due any minute now. It’ll come. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”

“I know,” he says, “I know.”

“She got on a train, you see. So I’m waiting.” Audra looks out at the empty tracks, at the dark tunnel down the line and wonders, is that a light?


Elou Carroll is a graphic designer and freelance photographer who writes. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Deadlands, Baffling Magazine, If There's Anyone Left (Volume 3), In Somnio: A Collection of Modern Gothic Horror (Tenebrous Press), Spirit Machine (Air and Nothingness Press), Ghostlore (Alternative Stories Podcast) and others. When she’s not whispering with ghosts, she can be found editing Crow & Cross Keys, publishing all things dark and lovely, and spending far too much time on twitter (@keychild). She keeps a catalogue of her weird little wordcreatures on

'I'd Follow You' by Jennifer Skogen

Sofi and Melly face a swirling vortex that's centered over the bathtub drain.

“Do you think Patrick did it?” Melly asks.

“Did Pat sabotage my bathroom with a mystical portal as some kind of breakup revenge?” Sofi leans against the wall. “I honestly don’t think he’d know how. He couldn’t restart the router.”

Melly nods sagely.

“So...” Melly tilts her head. “Should we throw something in? A test?”

Sofi tosses a wad of toilet paper. It sinks into the swirling colors; the portal shimmers lighter blue, and a scent like flowers fills the bathroom.

“Weird…” Melly says.

“Weird.” Sofi agrees.

“What do you think would happen if I went in? Think it leads someplace cool? Like Mars?”

Sofi rolls her eyes. “You’d die if it led to Mars.”

“Hypothetically speaking.”

"Hypothetically speaking, it’s probably a glitch in the universe. It probably leads to a black hole.”

“But…” She stretches out a hand ever so slightly. “What if I fell in? What would happen?”

“I’d jump in after you.” Sofi takes a firm hold of Melly’s sweatshirt. “I’d follow you into the sun if you were dumb enough to jump.”

Melly turns to her best friend. Sofi looks terrible. Melly should’ve come over earlier, even if Sofi said she didn’t want company. Sofi needs a shower, and something disgusting to eat–like one of those burgers where the buns are made out of donuts.

“Let’s get out of here.” Melly loops her arm around Sofi’s waist. “We can deal with this later.”

“Pat’s coming by later to get some stuff.”

Melly flashes her a grin. “Let him.” They cackle as they leave the bathroom, turning off the light and shutting the door behind them.

The vortex sparkles firework blue in the darkness, a sound like laughter bubbling up from the center. 


Jennifer Skogen loves reading too many books at the same time and going for long walks in beautiful places (usually in the Pacific Northwest). When she isn’t maintaining her two cats’ extravagant lifestyles, she can be found writing speculative fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in journals including Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Orion’s Belt, Luna Station Quarterly, Hungry Shadow Press, Drabbledark III anthology, Crow & Cross Keys, and Rust & Moth.

'Hindmilk' by Susan Holcomb

I read on the Internet that breastmilk comes in two forms: the watery foremilk, which comes at the beginning of the feeding session, and the calorie-rich hindmilk, which arrives at the end. When my baby suckles I imagine her traversing these two stages as I count down the minutes on my phone. Often, she breaks the latch too early, and this becomes our first inside joke: “Don’t feed me hindmilk!” I say, impersonating her. “Hindmilk tastes yucky!”

In the fridge, where I store the meager ounce or two I am able to produce when my baby refuses to nurse, the hindmilk congeals in a yellowed, fatty ring. I always feel an impulse to run my finger around this ring and lick. The rich-looking hindmilk rouses my appetite like the last bit of ice cream melted at the bottom of a bowl.

Out driving today, we passed a small brown calf suckling its mother, its head craning up to meet the teat. The mother cow, huge in my rearview mirror, looked off to the side, away from her baby. I followed her gaze past the dairy barn, out to the open field, where green tufts of grass were waiting.

Susan Holcomb holds an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and studied for a PhD in physics at Cornell. Her writing has been published in the Southern Indiana Review, The Boston Globe, Epiphany, and elsewhere. Her chapbook WOLFBABY, a collection of flash fiction, won the 2023 Cupboard Pamphlet chapbook contest and will be published this year. She lives in Los Angeles.

'Everything Must Go' by Nastasya Parker

Fed up with maintenance issues and clutter, the Owner announced a Clearance Sale.

Climate Change took her time browsing the merchandise. You’d think she wasn’t even there. 

Quick-tempered and preemptively covetous of anyone else’s gains, Disaster followed, along with his sister Disease. She made her vast selection with surprising speed for one so pale and yawning.

Conflict, though never picky, gave the remaining wares a vigorous rattle before sweeping up discounted masses. 

Only the most elite items went unpurchased. The Owner looked on them with distaste. He should have known.    

Climate Change lingered, fanning herself. ‘Tell you what, I’ll take the last lot and redecorate the place for you in exchange. I’m thinking high contrasting tones: some icy blues there, broiling orange-red here.’

The Owner accepted the bargain.

‘You got your eyes on a new place?’ Climate Change asked as she set about her work.

‘I might stay and enjoy the quiet.’ 

Nastasya Parker’s writing has appeared in Bristol Short Story Prize anthologies, The Phare, and Funny Pearls. She is editing her novel giving Eve’s perspective on the creation myth, and blogging about the random stories found in daily life, at

'Observing the Speed Limit in Liminal Space' by Edward Barnfield


His car has an alarm that sounds whenever he exceeds 70mph. It’s repetitive, like the beat at the rave where they first met, two idiots flailing in a field, convinced they’d be young forever. Now it rises above the engine’s rev as he accelerates past one vehicle, then another, desperate to reach her.

The drive to the hospital will take around an hour. The thought occurs, as he passes a service station’s cartoon coffee cup, that these are the last moments of this part of his life. Dappled sunlight illuminates the dashboard.

“Collapsed at work,” the message had said.


Her alarm is always set for 5.30am, jolting him loose from his dreams. He usually tries to sleep in for another thirty minutes or so, hands on the warmth where her body has been. She had stayed up late to finish her sales presentation, and he wonders now if that quick goodnight kiss will become their final instance of conscious contact.  


Accelerated pips on a heart monitor. A result, her chart will show, of impaired ventricular function.

His phone, mercifully, is on mute in the pocket of the jacket flung onto the backseat. Any attempt to update him or to reach out for information – his mother, her sisters – will have to wait until he is parked and motionless. He is between points, alone with his thoughts of her.

This is a special kind of magical thinking, he realises, to keep the horror at bay until someone in a hospital coat confirms it.

Still, he eases off the accelerator and sits back in the silence.

Edward Barnfield is a writer and researcher living in the Middle East. His stories have appeared in Triangulation, Third Flatiron, Strands, Galley Beggar Press, The Molotov Cocktail, Tenebrous Press, Leicester Writes, Strands Publishers, Cranked Anvil, and Shooter Literary, among others. He’s on X at @edbarnfield.

'To Be Still' by Elena Zhang

I’m sitting on the swing set at recess when a bee lands on my nose, legs twitching, tickling like a sneeze, like tears, and inside I’m praying go away go away please god I didn’t do anything wrong, but I stay still, so still, the swing chains don’t even shiver or moan with how still I’m being, knowing it’ll go away with time, seconds, minutes, so I just close my eyes and pretend it isn’t happening, but then the other kids start screaming when they see the black and yellow on my face, and a teacher comes running with her hands up, says it’s going to be okay but her voice shakes so I don’t believe her, and now she’s armed with a rolled up magazine that proves useless because the bee flies away all on its own, it’s always been up to the bee, the bee’s whim reigns, and everyone is asking why didn’t you move didn’t call out didn’t ask for help, but what they don’t know is that I’ve already learned how to stay still enough to avoid the sharp prick of a stinger from someone who smelled like honey.


Elena Zhang is a Chinese American writer and mother living in Chicago. Her work can be found in HAD, Ghost Parachute, Exposition Review, Your Impossible Voice, and Lost Balloon, among other publications, and has been selected for Best Microfiction 2024. She’s on Twitter @ezhang77

Debut Flash: 'Driving Love Away' by Gillian Holland

I’d never believed in love at first sight, but without warning it happened, and for five years we were inseparable. Inevitable, I suppose, that such closeness would diminish.

I can still pinpoint the moment he stopped reaching for my hand. By then we were both busy with life. I knew the relationship had to evolve, and hung on to the certainty that he loved me.

As time passed, I stood back when other interests took his attention, concerned myself with work and the house. He was often out, but always came home. Occasionally I heard myself asking questions he didn’t want to answer, told myself to stop, and instead of pushing it, laid awake, listening for the door, feigning sleep when he finally crept up the stairs.  

When he began staying out overnight, I confided in a friend who declared I was overreacting. He was one of the good guys, she said, wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. But I persisted in worrying. He’d glance at me with disdain, and say I was giving him that look. He caught me checking his phone, and grabbed it from my hand. We called a truce, and things improved, but I knew he was getting ready to move on.

Today the moment I dreaded has arrived.

He’s packed his bags.

I don’t want to let him go.

I watch over my shoulder as he quietly loads the car, closing the boot with a determined finality, and try not to think about the chasm he’s leaving behind.

Then he climbs in beside me, and says “I love you, Mum.”

I check the mirror, and we set off in search of his student digs.


Gillian Holland’s narratives focus on family ties, the way they bind, how they sometimes strangle. Having studied for an MA in Creative Writing in London, she returned to her native Midlands, which often provides the backdrop to her stories.  She now lives, writes, and reads in a small village in the National Forest, from where she still occasionally stalks her adult children via WhatsApp, just to make sure they got home safely. (They pretend not to know). Once a clandestine short story scribbler, Gillian is now working on her first novel. She can be reached by email at happygillholland at gmail dot com.

'Sunset' by Martha Lane

Mammy says she’s got the sun in her tummy. It’s big and round and hard. But the doctors have to get it out because the sun is too big to stay in a tummy.

‘I won’t be gone long, baby girl,’ Mammy says. And she promises to come home with the sun for me to meet.

I wave until the car is out of sight. The sky goes dark as they turn the corner. Mammy and Daddy and the sun.


I don’t think he means to, but Daddy wakes me up in the night. His footsteps are heavy like hooves. He speaks to Auntie Lou outside my bedroom door, his voice wet. The sun has died.

I lie awake, brain fizzy thinking how we’ll live without it. All the things we’ll have to learn to do in the dark.

When the morning comes, and the light peeks through my curtains I smile. Daddy was wrong. I feel silly for worrying really. And now I think about it, even if the big sun hadn’t come up, everything would still be okay. Because we could just let the sky borrow ours.


Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. She writes extensively about grief and nature and all things unrequited. Most of her stories can be found online at and her novella, Lies Over The Ocean, is available to buy at Amazon.

'Tommy Was Six Weeks Old When He Shed His First Skin' by Katie Holloway

Turning to Tommy’s Moses basket at the 3am mewl, my mind’s eye flickered between reality and the dream he’d hauled me from. I slid my hand into his shoulder-poppered sleeping bag, the velour at the neck stiff with dried milk sick. As I pulled him out, that first skin stayed behind.

Wrinkled at the knees and elbows, puckered with cradle cap, that husk was surprisingly inflexible. I inspected it as he fed, suckling with his pink mushroom lips, cheeks full and smooth as my life had been. When he was asleep again, tongue clicking against nothing but the roof of his mouth, I slid him back and stashed his shed shape. I wrapped it in tissue paper and put it in a jiffy bag at the bottom of my wardrobe.

At seven months, grinning and dribbling, Tommy crawled right out of that next skin while I ran his bath. This one was thicker and, when I held it next to the first that evening, impossibly large. I hid it inside a maternity dress and stowed it in the attic.

By the time I was preparing to return to work, Tommy stepped out of his third skin after his nap one afternoon. I wondered if it was time to tell somebody. That health visitor with all the pamphlets, perhaps? My mother-in-law with her artillery of supplements? Ed, with his SLR camera? But then he giggled at Bruno and chanted ‘dog!’ so gleefully that the thought slipped my mind as easily as he’d slipped those skins. I folded it up inside his first shoebox and kept it, mine.

Katie Holloway has never been able to help being a writer. She has a BA in English Literature with Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, and after accidentally taking a decade-long break from writing, discovered flash fiction in 2021. Since then, she’s been shortlisted in the 2024 Bath novella-in-flash award, won the 2023 Retreat West flash fiction prize, has received a DYCP grant from the Arts Council England, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best Small Fictions. Her stories appear in Popshot Quarterly, The Phare, Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Press and more. Katie tweets @KatieLHWrites

'This Is How You Know You've Kissed A Demon' by Tom Okafor

This Is How You Know You've Kissed A Demon:

First, a hunger food cannot sate, coupled with a scorching in your throat that melts swallows upon swallows of semi-mashed rice into a trickle.
Then, the incessant urge to urinate that keeps you awake, attempting to release the pressure imploding your urethra, but your vigil births nothing, only a spurt of urine that slimes onto the toilet bowl, greenish, drooling with a grace that mocks you and there, again, is the hunger.

Snack wrappers and food droppings scattered about the floor hail your newborn voraciousness as you walk to the refrigerator. You shove a quarter-eaten loaf  into your mouth; it does nothing. Your tongue goes stale. Half-eaten apples fly in the air as you spit the other halves out. You wrest a slice of uncooked steak into your mouth. It tastes like an embodied heaven. Smooth as golden seas. You eat—raw flesh, gobbled whole, and crumple to the ground. Right there against the wall, you fall asleep, your mouth: a corpse smeared tomb.

You dream of him, his eyes wrapped in waves of cerulean mirth. You stand in dewy meadows, grasses as soft as the smile stretching across his face. The smile stretches, and stretches...
When the edges of his lips touch his eyes, you step back. A screech pierces his mouth. You scream. Toothed tentacles shoot out his head and they, by some infernal trajectory, tear into your mouth, into your bowels.

You awake screaming, vomiting green fluids speckled with pieces of your abraded intestines. Your lover runs into the kitchen. Startled, he wraps his arms around you. You flinch. He hushes you, and asks what happened. Your belly churns, sobs crash out your mouth, but you don't tell him you kissed the blue-eyed devil you matched with on Tinder. You don't tell him you cheated.


Tom Okafor is a daydreamer who bends dreams into stories. He lives in Eastern Nigeria. He has dreams published in Apparition Literary Magazine, Gnashing Teeth Publishing, and elsewhere. He's been nominated for the Pushcart and Caine Prizes.

'The Faint Scent of Coffee' by Davena O' Neill

The door opens without a sound, for a moment I stand there, listening. But no radio plays in the kitchen; there is no television on in the sitting-room. I fight the urge to call out as I step into the hall. Like an intruder I move through the house, realising this is my first time being here without you.

In the kitchen, the remains of breakfast not cleared away, chairs shoved back in haste. From the floor I pick up your mug, cracked, bleeding drops of coffee on the tiles. About to throw it out, I stop and place it on the counter instead.

Your phone sits on the table, where you placed it just hours before. I put it in my bag, needing numbers to contact later. Reading glasses lie on the opened newspaper; I place them in their case on the windowsill.

Upstairs, I avoid looking at the bed, where I know your nightwear is folded neatly on the pillow. My hands begin to shake. I smell you in this room, like a presence closing in on me, so I turn, and run like a child afraid of ghosts.

Returning to the kitchen I grab my bag and your mug. The front door closes behind me with a sigh.

At my car, I look back towards your home. It seems faded, the windows and doors sunken in, as if the house itself knows you will not return. Placing your mug to my lips, cold and empty, only the faint scent of coffee remains.

Davena O’ Neill is an Irish writer. She has been published in FlashBack Fiction, Spelk, EllipsisZine, The Cabinet of Heed, among others, and was chosen as one of Grindstone Literary Dirty Dozen 2019. Find on Twitter @o_davena

'How To Say No' by Tania Hershman

  • Start by whispering “I don't think so, sorry.” when in a very crowded place. To no-one.
  • When in a slightly less crowded place, say slightly louder, to no-one, “I don't think so.”
  • The next thing you are offered, by anyone, turn it down. No matter if you want it or not. Say, “No, thank you.”
  • When a friend asks you to do something, travel some distance, when they ask you three times to come and you think they must really want you to, don't go. Even if you have agreed, tell them you now can't come.
  • When a friend disgrees with you and you are sure the friend is wrong and the friend says, “Don't you see?”, say, “No, not really.”
  • When an invitation comes to work for free or very little money say, “Thank you, but I don't work for free, here is my usual rate.”
  • When someone tries to pass you a plate of food, even if you want that food, say “No, thanks,” and pass the plate to the next person.
  • When you are asked if you mind about something you do mind about say, “Yes, I do mind. No, I can't let that go, I'm afraid.” If in writing, then delete “I'm afraid.”
  • Stand in the middle of your living room and say “No” in your normal voice. Then stretch your arms above your head and say “No” in a louder voice. Do this twice a day. Shape your mouth around the no-shape. Find different ways to say it. Say it questioningly:“No?”, and then firmly: “No!”, and settle into your way, your “No”, which

Tania Hershman is the author of three short story and flash fiction collections, four books of poetry and two hybrid books. She has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics and is working on a new hybrid poetry collection inspired by Star Trek and a novel set in a magical library.

'How to Say No' was first published in Under the Radar magazine in 2020.


'Keening in the Kuiper Belt' by Srilatha Rajagopal

Dear Solar System,

Please reconsider me as a member of the Solar System. I was recently unceremoniously kicked from my status as the ninth planet, with scant regard to my beauty, composition, five moons, my orbital aspirations around the sun, and an atmosphere—okay maybe smelly atmosphere, but methane has feelings too, stop the shaming!
Please! Reconsider!
Keening in the Kuiper Belt

Dear KKB,
Thank you for your interest in the Solar system. We receive thousands of applications EVERY DAMN EARTH DAY from aimlessly wandering planet-wannabes!
If you don’t hear from us in six moons feel free to send a probe.  
Solar System

Dear Tired,
This is wrt: Pluto for Planet. It’s been eight moons since I applied. The status hasn’t changed from “Received.” Probing as you suggested.

Dear KKB,
Probe received. We are still overworked and understaffed.

Dear Keening in Kuiper Belt,
Thank you for your application to rejoin the solar system. We gave your application careful consideration. Please don’t take this personally - you have admirable qualities, but at this moment, you are not a right fit for the solar system.
We would like to direct you to “What makes a planet, a planet?” for a full white paper on the subject, but briefly, the three criteria for a solar orbiter to become a planet are:
    1. It should orbit the sun (duh), which we haven’t seen you complete
    2. It should be a spherical object (you’re kind of an oddball)
    3. It should be massive enough to clear debris in its orbit
It is this third criteria that you unfortunately fail.
This is a firm and final rejection and NOT an invitation for you to start an argument.
We wish you the best in finding a perfect home.
Still Tired,
Solar System

Srilatha Rajagopal lives in Florida with her husband of thirty plus years. She was born and raised in Chennai, India. She loves to read, write, cook, garden, spend all her time with her two rescue mini dachshunds. She has been nominated for Best Small Fictions for 2 stories. You can find her words in Off Assignment, Identity Theory, Pithead Chapel, Milk Candy Review, and FlashFlood 2022.

'Some cats live forever' by Paul Jenkins

I have lived here 10 years. There’s this tabby longhair that waits for people as they go down the alley that connects the estate to the local Spar. He is always sat on this one high wall that stops people seeing all the shit in the gardens of the people who live behind it. He doesn’t age. Everyone has a different set idea in their head where he lives. It’s at number 42. It’s at number 9. Fiona at the Gables etc. But he doesn’t live anywhere. There’s domesticated wild cats and then there’s wild domestic cats like this guy. Always in reasonable nick. He doesn’t eat. Doesn’t need to. Won’t let you stroke him. He’s been granted eternal life rather than the usual white coated accompaniment over the rainbow bridge. That’s why he’s asleep on that wall so much. Gonna be awake till it’s all over. I don’t know who grants these cats immortality but I tell you there’s one in every other street. Maybe it’s a punishment. Something they did in a previous life. Maybe they were cruel to a cat one time and now they get to be one forever. Out in all weathers. Dodging traffic, getting bored. That’s some sentence that, forever. Some even have one of those little nametags with a name and an owner’s number. The number probably puts you through to the afterlife. Afterlife admin.

Say you rang and said “I found this cat.” And this weird voice tells you that they don’t care. And you look all bemused at the disconnected call in your hand. The wind picks up, the cat comes towards you as if to let you stroke it. Something in your head says you better not. You better not do that at all.

Paul Jenkins is a short story writer based in South Wales. He was a contributing editor to the 24 Stories collection for the victims of Grenfell Tower in 2018 and his debut collection, A Cure For Love, was published by Typewriter Press in 2020. When he isn't writing sad stories, he can be found on Twitter (X) as @fourfoot.

'The Diminishment of Ruby Brooke' by Abigail Williams

She had the wind in her laugh, the tide in her thighs. She was hills and folds and flashes of floods: boundless. Always too much. Quicksilver thoughts. Balloon heart passions. Ruby had the bit in her teeth and we lunged to catch hold of her coattails. 'Spirited,' our teachers said and she giggled like water in a gluggle jug.

The tripwire teens sent Ruby spinning. Tribes and lipgloss and side-eye smirks. Boys on the grass, girls on the benches and her in the middle, nearly, almost, not quite either. I tried to show her the rules, truly. I hissed at her to shrink, to lessen, but Ruby still believed in rainbows.

When her mum asked if anyone would like more, her eyes slid past her daughter because big girls didn't need big appetites, and the Lord knew her child would thank her one day. And when Ruby spoke up in class, we shuffled away in case her boom-clever voice swallowed us up and coated us with its ugly sunshine knowledge and then we'd have to wear it like she did, blazing beacons of difference.

There were so many ways Ruby stood out. It must have hurt, stubbing herself daily on her own wrongness. So she unstitched herself, cut into her cloth. Painfully, precisely, she whittled her thoughts. Un-ate her flesh. She made paper boats of her dreams, and set them sailing without her. Then she resewed her salty seams. And for a while we pinged with satisfaction to see her diminishment. To see her smaller. More like ourselves.

'Good girl,' the teachers said, because everyone knew easy was good.

We looked at her, this new-pattern girl, and pennies of disappointment fizzed on our tongues.


Abigail Williams is a writer of flash, short stories and longer form fiction. She has won the Flash 500, placed third in both the Oxford Flash Fiction and Bath Flash Fiction prizes, and won the Exeter Writers short story competition. She seems to have developed a taste for family-based stories and tofu hot dogs, not always at the same time.

'The Diminishment of Ruby Brooke' was first published online by Reflex Press in their Winter 2022 competition.

'The Ladybird Lesson' by Nuala O’Connor

A ladybird crawls on my palm. All of her beautiful contours are visible: her fire-crimson carapace, black-spotted and fragile; her teeny, robust legs that work hard, but effortlessly, to carry her. I love tiny things and I welcome this miniature, perfect creature who scuttles across my skin, stopping only to leave a splat of gold, a gorgeous residue. I sing to her, hoping she will stay with me longer. The ladybird exists here on my hand, seductive and special, a welcome surprise in my day. But I also know that she exists beyond me, in an unknowable place, the elsewhere she shares with her own kind. I whoosh my arm skyward and the ladybird lifts her red hatches to reveal the delicate wings that she uses, inevitably, to leave me. And she is gone. But her imprint remains – brilliant, beguiling – and for the rest of today I will conjure and enjoy again the tickle of her feet; the bittersweet smell of her; and the luck and joy I gained in knowing this particular ladybird, if only for a few moments.

Nuala O’Connor lives in Galway, Ireland. Her sixth novel SEABORNE, about Irish-born pirate Anne Bonny, was published in April 2024 by New Island. Her novel NORA (New Island), about Nora Barnacle and James Joyce, was a Top 10 historical novel in the New York Times. She won Irish Short Story of the Year at the 2022 Irish Book Awards and is editor at flash e-journal Splonk.

Debut Flash: 'invincible' by Yashaswini Sharma

        there was a time i wanted to be invincible; far too strong to be hurt, but outside the trees were glowing spring and the sun was golden too. i stared at the total eclipse with naked eyes, and i was burned. but nature is far too kind. soon, the scaly skin fell off with a thud and i emerged a new, softer person. i sang with the birds and waved at passersby. i stopped at the ice-cream truck and bought myself a lemon ice. i licked the run-off from my elbow all the way to my wrist.

        a flash of life in my eyes.

        i was surprised to see that life wasn’t much of a chore. i enjoyed summer as much as i did spring. i loved winter and the muddy slush that came with it. i discovered it was much easier to live when life and i are on the same side. i was overcome by the delicious sting of ambition; and i craved, and craved, and craved. it was maddening in its eroticism. it—the ambition, i mean—was something i wanted to possess, to consume, to keep safe in my belly. i realised what this meant—i wanted to live!

        i realised i was ravenous for home. hungry, hungry, hungry. salivating, even. the last few yards i ran.


        a smile plays on my lips now; the siren call of the scent that hits you when you’ve been away for long. i sit in the old grandfather chair and watch the world passing by. i am strong, but not invincible. i’ve been hurt, but i’m still vulnerable. i’ve loved, and i love now. i have nothing to be brave for. 


Yashaswini Sharma is a writer, filmmaker, photographer, and artist currently based in Lithuania. She loves art that isn't afraid to investigate relationships with oneself, others, and the universe. She is working on a contemporary novel, a couple of essays, and a script for a short film. You can find and keep up with her on Instagram: @pagesinshots, or X: @yashaswinx. She also writes a Substack, 'On the Outside, Looking In.' Come say hi!

'The Law Of The Playground' by Alison Wassell

In Year 3 our groups had animal names. Before that we’d been shapes. I was a hexagon.  The more sides you had, the brighter they thought you were. We weren’t supposed to know, but we did. Adam Ball’s mum complained to the Head that it wasn’t right to label us at such an early age. Adam was a circle.

The teacher had moved from the Reception class, and she thought seven going on eight wasn’t that much different from four going on five.

“Bless their little cotton socks,” she’d say, every morning, as we trooped inside.

I said we should be lionesses, because we were all girls, apart from Lewis Bradshaw.  The teacher said lions was more inclusive. I let it go, but I wasn’t happy.

With our over-achieving SATS scores, stable backgrounds, private tutors, parents in the PTA and on the Board of Governors, we basked in the warmth of the teacher’s approval, raised our hands with occasional right answers, slouched sleepily across our desks, smirking at the stupidity of the leopards, the zebras, the giraffes, the buffaloes.

In the playground, we came into our own. While Lewis watched our cardigans we marked our territory, stalked our prey, surrounded it, pounced. We weren’t the fastest, but we were clever. Sometimes we let the leopards do the hard work, swept in at the last minute. Zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, they were easy pickings with their snotty noses, second-hand sweatshirts, scabby knees. Eventually we took down the leopards too, because we could, although they weren’t really on our menu.

Adam Ball’s mum said we were predators, and something should be done. The Head said it wasn’t fair to label us, at such a young age.

Bless our little cotton socks.

Alison Wassell is a writer of short and very short fiction from Merseyside, UK. Her work has been published by Fictive Dream, The Phare, Bath Flash Fiction Award, The Disappointed Housewife, Reflex, NFFD and elsewhere. She has no plans whatsoever to write a novel.

'When there’s a question you cannot ask without destroying everything' by Carsten ten Brink

        Maureen was already there when I arrived at Sam’s Deli, where we’d first breakfasted together, after an all-nighter in the law office. The bars had long closed and it was close by, the pancakes generous with syrup, the coffee strong.
        It was no longer convenient. Equally inconvenient, we’d agreed, the location settled after a good-faith negotiation.
        She was sitting in one of the niches, away from the windows. Her hair was still hickory, the colour I guessed from a bottle, and clean but now reached her collar, something she’d not allowed it to do when we were married. She brushed the fringe above her eyes aside twice as I approached. She stood up – she wore an outfit to wear in front of juries, the navy one I had given her – and kissed me on the cheek with dry lips. She smelled of breath mints.
        Maureen had a large black coffee, the saucer surrounded on the plastic table-cover by paper ribbons shredded from Barbie-pink sweetener packets and overlapping, imperfect circular scars left by hot plates. She held the cup tightly with both hands as if needing its warmth.
        ‘Hi, Mac. You’re looking well. How’s Brian?’
        ‘Excited. Can’t wait for his week with you.’
        ‘Good.’ She stared into her coffee.
        ‘Are you OK? Don’t worry if you can’t put up a tent – he’s been practising,’ I said. ‘Be impressed.’
        She smiled briefly.

        ‘It will be fine. I’ll be fine,’ she said. ‘You can trust me.’
        ‘I know,’ I lied, looking into her lawyer eyes.
        ‘Is that why you wanted to meet? To check up on me? It is, isn’t it?’
        ‘No. It’s not that,’ I said, my excuse ready, ‘I wanted to talk about his birthday.’

        When she had gone I took a sip from her cup: coffee and sweetener, nothing more.


Carsten ten Brink was born in Germany, raised in Australia, Japan and England, where he now lives. He is a writer, artist and photographer.

'Punctuation' by Anne Howkins

Her abandoned paperbacks sulk in accusing piles, spilling their chapters onto bare floorboards. A few words cling defiantly to the well-thumbed pages, the rest relinquish their attachment to the paper.

He slumps on the sofa, ignoring the restless fiction. In the loveless dark inconsolable rivulets of Times New Roman trickle towards him, inch by sullen inch. They demand attention, yearning to be re-animated by a reader. Sometimes he runs his fingers through the streams, panning for happiness, letting misery drift by. When he closes his fists the brittle letters shatter. Black dust drifts, covering everything, like a fingerprint dusted crime scene.

Paragraphs decay, breaking into sentences, then phrases, to pool darkly against skirting boards and chair legs. He doesn’t notice the full stops, dots and commas rolling around, eventually settling into the indentations her red stilettos left in his newly stripped floor a lifetime of loss ago. The brackets and ampersands form a trail of curls drifting across the floor before they slip through gaps in the boards. As structure vanishes the words blur into a stream of unconsciousness.

When he drags himself off to his solitary insomnia, silverfish feast on book glue. Blank pages liberated from their spine slide into slippery traps for his bare feet. Woodlice cluster, gorging on the sheets until the pages resemble lace doilies.  In the gloom the floor shimmers.

He ignores the threatening manila accumulating in the hall. There is no heat or light in the house, and the log basket contains nothing but woodlice and mouse droppings.

The cold drives him to burn her books. He rakes through the ash each night, hoping to find the vestiges of love, forever, happy, as the skeleton pages disintegrate.

Without the punctuation of her, he can make no sense of the world.


Punctuation was first published by Reflex Fiction in their Summer 2021 Anthology.

2024 Wigleaf Longlisting

Huge congratulations to Lisa Alletson whose 2024 FlashFlood piece, ' Translucent ' made the Wigleaf Top 50 longlist! You can read th...