By Jordan Harrison-Twist

When rub the skin with tarmac, leave on you bone-shaped pictures, you say, blowing hard to reach the bloodflakes, each unique. You reach, stretch, fail to blot the wound.

Smashing gavills, the wind says, Parallel lines don’t ever meet, prevails on.

Alone, I peel off the plaster’s back.

If opposites meet in contranyms, you say, so can we. And shout inflammablesanctionfast.

Dust. And left.

Just over seven octaves apart we are, as you big stride a low arpeggio, Satie. Count distantly in.

Plead with the wind to bend the Earth, and that we become, you and I, longitudinal. 

Author bio: Jordan Harrison-Twist is a writer and editor based in Manchester, UK. His essays have appeared in 3:AM Magazine, The Double Negative, iiii Magazine, and Corridor8. He has been twice longlisted in Retreat West’s micro fiction competition, and once longlisted in the Reflex Press flash fiction competition. His story, Plethora, will appear in an anthology published by Comma Press later this year.

Flesh and Blood

By Lyndsay Croal

His cheeks are like mango flesh, soft and spongy. Fragile. When I hold him in my arms, I know I’ll never let him go. That I’d peel my own skin away to keep him safe. 

I think of when I first met his father, a tropical summer day, a cold lassi in hand as the sun seeded the white sand beach with its warmth. 

‘This spot taken?’ he had asked with his sugar-sweet smile. 

I felt something in the pit of my stomach then, like the weight of a stone being lifted away. A single moment, ripe for the taking.

Lyndsey is a Scottish writer living in Edinburgh. She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for 2020 and is working on her debut SFF novel. She enjoys writing speculative short fiction, and has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. Find her on Twitter as @writerlynds or via her website www.lyndseycroal.co.uk.

Lest We Perish

By Kathryn Aldridge-Morris

The border stopping dreams from passing into reality is not as clear-cut as the Dover Lorry Border Patrol. Marked only by half-drawn curtains, a baton of light. I can’t shake the dreams that night after night wrap me in sleep with layers of bandages, a hand-woven red sweater and inflatable vests.

I’ve a key worker, but no key. It’s breakfast time. He opens the fridge –

I see myself inside. Paling skin pressed against plastic. The driver knows anything lower than 7 degrees causes internal breakdown in his cargo of mangoes. Temperatures for storing humans don’t come in the manual.

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris is a freelance writer in the field of educational publishing. Her creative writing appears in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2020, the Bath Flash Fiction anthology (TBP 2020), Retreat West, Paris Lit Up, and the anthology ‘From Syria with Love’ (Indie Books).

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results by Sarah Stretton

Multiple tracks were laid out around the living room at 4 Lowry Close, where four miniature steam trains were in motion, one for each quadruplet, driven by homemade peg dolls whose painted smiles drooped with each day they raced around the coffee table, the walls, the fireplace and the feet of the parents, who sat resigned on either end of the sofa in an ever-growing cloud of engine smog and violent tempers, and as the days passed the peg dolls splintered while waiting for the heat of summer to open a window so they could leap free, escape and forget.

About the author: Sarah Stretton writes flash fiction, short stories and poetry. She has been published in Oxford Poetry journal, Popshot Quarterly and MIRonline and is the winner of the Saveas International Prose Prize 2019. She is currently finishing a part-time MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. 

Beyond the Line by Kristen Loesch

Today you’re in the high north, searching for a long-abandoned railway. You’ve become so adventurous since it happened, the thing you don’t say. You never look back, only up. It doesn’t get more up than the Arctic tundra. You find the tracks, stretching into the barren landscape. Your guidebook tells the story of the last train ever to run here: The emptiness around him drove the driver mad. He jumped off without warning and ran away. He was never found. Maybe he never stopped running. You suddenly wonder if you might be him. You slow your pace, just in case.

About the author: Kristen Loesch is an Asian-American writer and aspiring novelist.

She Didn’t Look Back by Gail Warwick Cox

Something strange blew in on the wind that day. It tickled the tree tops and set them a whisper. It swirled about the street, sucking up leaves and cigarette butts, depositing them in front yards so folk would know that it had called. Its probing fingers awakened lazy dogs, they howled uneasily as it ruffled their coats.

‘What is it Momma?’ I asked, watching from her bedroom window. Momma was changing her dress, she slipped into the yellow polka dot, her Sunday best. But it wasn’t Sunday. She didn’t answer me right away, instead she sat at the mirror and rouged her lips, teased her hair and dabbed floral scent behind her ears. Then she looked at me, not directly but through the reflection of the glass.

‘It’s the winds of change,’ she said, holding my gaze….

A car horn broke our connection. Momma jumped up and all but skipped down the stairs, I followed. Opening the fly screen she hurried outside. 

My daddy emerged from the back of the house. We stood at the threshold and watched as Momma walked down the path to the waiting Cadillac. She didn’t look back. She got into the car, I lifted my hand to wave but she stared straight ahead. The car pulled away. 

‘Where’s Momma going?’ I asked my daddy. Without answering he walked back into the depths of the house.

That was the last time I ever saw my Momma. In the beginning I looked out for her every day. I sat at her bedroom window, each time a car rolled down the street I hoped that it was her. It never was.

My daddy began to work less and drink more. Hooch and moonshine were his friends. I was left lonely. 

After a while Grand-mammy came to look after me. I can’t say she was cruel but she wasn’t kind either. I longed for my Momma, how I wished she had just looked back to wave goodbye.

Time passed and so did Grand-mammy. My daddy was never sober. I lived my life wild as a bobcat, until one day a familiar breeze blew in. It tickled the treetops and woke slumbering dogs.

I sat at Momma’s dressing table and painted my lips red, combed my hair and sprayed sweet perfume. I gazed into the mirror and viewing the room behind me I could just about make out an eight year old girl smiling at her Momma……

The noise of a truck pulling up outside broke the spell. I ran downstairs and out into the front yard. I knew my daddy was sitting on the porch, I could feel his eyes upon me. I turned to wave to him. A tear welled in his eye, spilled and trailed down his cheek. I had never seen my daddy cry, not even when Momma left. I got into the truck and stared straight ahead. As we pulled away my heart broke.  

Finally I knew why my Momma never looked back.

About the author: Gail Warrick Cox enjoys writing flash fiction and the particular conciseness it commands. She has twice been shortlisted at the Mere Literary Festival and has previously won a micro fiction competition. Gail lives in sunny Bournemouth with her husband.