Hello friends! We had some really wonderful submissions this month! Thank you to all who contributed to the contest. The members were asked to write a piece inspired by the photo shown below. Many congratulations to Gashbeen, Garrison, Rebekah, and Ryan.
by Rebekah Bortolin
There is a corner of my mind that is hallowed,
A monument to How It Was
That I have buried behind sentiment thick enough
That even I cannot reach it.
I see it at times,
From a distance:
Moss-ridden and crumbling
And still so beautiful,
Towering over everything that surrounds it,
Bone white against the shadows and grime
That have been left to stand watch.
Do not mistake my lax care
For some gentle accident of fate
That allowed us to drift apart;
My negligence is a tangible thing,
Calculated to drive enough space between
The Me of now and the Me of then
That one day it will be safe
To drill far beneath my obelisk
And send it toppling into dust.
The Lady of the Forest
By Gashbeen Saeed
The howling wind swept through the towering trees, rustling the leaves as the father stumbled through the dense forest. In his arms, the frantic man held a small bundle. He held the shivering child within close to his chest, desperately attempting to keep him warm in the icy greenwood.
The snow came down upon them with the burning rage of a thousand suns, and the cold cut through their layers of clothing to their bones. The moon loomed above the pitiful pair, its eerie light illuminating their panicked flight. As the father flew over the ground, held up high by his despair, his last child cried out in fear.
The man’s heart twisted with the agony only a parent can feel, and he asked in a wretchedly sorrowful voice, “Why do you hide your face, son? What frightens you so?” The boy clutched his father’s ragged shirt with terror as he wailed miserably, “She comes, Father! The Lady of the Forest comes for me! Do you not see her pale face, glowing triumphantly in the moonlight? Do you not see her cloak, fluttering in the vicious wind?”
The father forced himself to run faster as his legs grew heavier and his breath grew ragged; he replied comfortingly as his heart sank into the dark abyss of hopelessness, “Calm yourself, my son. The Lady of the Forest is not here with us. It is the mist you see.” The child nodded, yearning for the comfort of the words his father spoke. His eyes then focused on a figure lurking behind his father, a gentle smile spreading across her lips.
The Lady of the Forest reached her arms out to the boy as she kindly spoke. “Come with me, sweet child. We shall play together on the banks of the river, and I shall spin you clothes of the finest gold. You’ll have a full belly, and you will be warm all winter. Join me, beautiful child.”
The son held on tightly to his father, his tormented face turning paler with fear. “Father! The Lady of the Forest calls to me! She beckons me to go with her! Do you not see her, Father? Do you not see her emerald eyes, shining brightly with mocking laughter? Do you not see her silky black hair, flowing behind her as she rides her magnificent steed?”
The father answered sternly, “Calm yourself, my son. You see things that are not there. That is no Lady of the Forest you see. It is the trees, shadowed in the darkness, that you see. The Lady of the Forest is not with us.”
Looming over the father, the Lady of the Forest laughed, her joyous laughter ringing throughout the forest. “Come with me, sweet child. My sons shall play with you, and my daughters will sing for you. You’ll never be lonely, and you will never know sadness. Join me, beautiful child.”
The son shook violently as his youthful heart pounded with utter terror. As his father sprinted past the ominous trees, his breath escaping him in ragged gasps, the child cried, “Father! The Lady of the Forest calls to me! Her sons and daughters beckon me to go with them! Do you not see the Children of the Forest, with their clothes of gold and their silky hair? Do you not see the Lady of the Forest behind them, with her beautifully evil smile and her gleaming crown?”
The father replied reassuringly, although slightly uneasy, “Calm yourself, my son. I see what you mean. It is the shadows that you see. The Lady of the Forest and her children are not with us.”
The Lady of the Forest reached an arm out to the child as she rode her colossal steed. “Come with me, sweet child. Your youthful beauty and beating heart enchant me. If you won’t come with me, then I will take you by force!”
The child wailed with overwhelming terror as the Lady of the Forest clutched his arm in an iron grip. “Father! The Lady of the Forest has me!”
The father shuddered as the end of the forest came near. Gasping desperately for air, he reached the healer’s cottage. As he fell to the ground with relief, his legs aching, he froze. Lifting his hand to his son’s cold face, he realized that he . . .
He was dead.
by Ryan Stone
It started as a scribble
in my yearbook
with an apology,
I wish I’d been more,
held your hand
when it mattered
when it didn’t.
Ink lasts longer
than schoolyard buds,
before their bloom.
Notes we wrote
pens fall still.
In this cold place
I see your face
as it was behind the gym;
where your lips
Tiger Bullet Kick
by Garrison Kelly
Bob Rua had been through every kind of battle and shed tons of blood in his day, but even he admitted that he hadn’t seen anything yet. There would always be stronger challengers and they would always come in greater numbers. The anthropomorphic tiger wore his battle scars as badges of honor. He purposefully walked around in baggy shorts with no shirt to remind himself of the many hits he had taken. His thick striped orange fur could barely contain the bloody slashes he had endured. Most of his fur was getting grayer with every passing generation. “I’m getting too old for this shit,” he would often say to himself.
Old he may be, his job of guarding the Moon Temple Mausoleum was no less important. He patrolled the inside of the stone sanctuary and marveled at the golden treasures buried in caskets with their dead owners. Taking these jewels to the afterlife would make the “clients’” journey into heaven that much richer. Any lowlife bandit who dared rob these caskets would be met with a swift kick to the gut, a punch to the jaw, knees and elbows to wherever Bob felt like throwing them, or he could employ the infamous martial arts technique, the Tiger Bullet Kick.
Bob reflected on all of the times he was forced to use such a brutal maneuver. It not only obliterated anybody who stood in its path, but it took a lot of energy out of the user. Sometimes Bob would be bedridden for three weeks straight after executing the Tiger Bullet Kick. Sometimes he would cough up blood and vomit bile. It was amazing he lived as long as he did. The thought of having to perform such a technique again made him quiver with anticipated sickness and anxiety.
Elderly age afforded him the wisdom to show restraint when it came to the technique. It also caused him to be lost in thought whenever his alertness was needed. It wasn’t until he heard feint whispering that he was snapped out of his old man gaze. With his lantern guiding his way in the dark, Bob shouted out, “Who’s there? Show yourself! Family visitations ended much earlier in the day!”
Bob was getting closer to the source of the whisper and was able to hear that the speaker was using mystical tongues. “Necromancy? Is that why you’re here? Not on my watch, you scoundrel!” The tiger monk’s sandaled feet slapped against the stone floor as hard as they could when he approached the voice further. The whispers grew louder and faster until Bob’s lantern shone on the source.
Standing over a nearby coffin was a woman in red samurai robes with her orange hair pinned in a bun and her arms extended as she was casting her spell. She slowly turned her head around to reveal her monstrous, creepy clown smile complete with sharp teeth, a bloody nose, and bloodshot eyes. Bob let out a small shiver, but at the same time maintained his fighting stance.
“So you’ve come to my temple looking for your own personal minion? You necromancers disgust me! Being dead is hard enough without freaks like you trying to make puppets out of their corpses! I could vomit all over this floor right now!” said Bob.
The clown lady laughed like a horse and arched backwards like Bob’s warning was the greatest comedy in the world. She unsheathed her katana and spoke to him in a raspy voice. “Trust me, tiger man, Viktor the Warlord is hardly the man I came here for! I’ve got much more work to do on these sacred grounds!”
The necromancer samurai licked her blade seductively before leaping into battle with the martial arts tiger. The two warriors threw kicks, punches, and slashes at each other with whooshing sound effects behind them as they dodged like athletes. They continued to fight even faster than before, causing their dodges to resemble acrobatic flips and slides. During one of the slides, Bob Rua slipped on his ass and was vulnerable for a rushing stab from the samurai clown. But as the bladed warrior bolted towards him, he shot right back up and delivered an oxygen-draining spin kick to her stomach, causing her to double over and gasp for air.
Bob shook out his shoulders and said to his victim, “Is that all you’ve got? Are you going to finish this fight or are you just going to lie down and moan?” The clown’s answer came in the form of mocking laughter, to which the tiger monk marched over to her and lifted her head by her hair. “You think disrespecting the dead is funny? I should snap that skinny neck of yours right fucking now!”
The coffin the necromancer was working on exploded into green fire, knocking pebbles into Bob’s chest and stinging him slightly. Out of the fire came his worst nightmare, Viktor the Warlord, a seven-foot tall mummy wrapped up in filthy tape with maggots crawling all over his rotting purple skin. Viktor’s moans at first sounded like someone getting out of bed on a Monday. The moans then started to become animalistic, like a pack of wolves hungry for meat.
Bob tossed the samurai to the ground and rushed up to Viktor to deliver a furious beat down. His punches were like wrecking balls, his kicks were like sledgehammers, his elbows and knees were like battering rams, but all they did was stagger Viktor a few inches backwards.
The mummy wrapped both of his worm-infested meat hooks around Bob’s neck and hoisted him in the air while squeezing the life out of him. As the tiger man struggled to pry Viktor’s hands off, he threw even more jackhammer-like kicks to the midsection and groin area, but all he did was expend energy and darken his vision even more. Before he could completely fade away, Viktor released his grip and dropped Bob’s nearly limp body to the stone floor, causing him to nearly lose his lunch and his lungs as he coughed violently.
“Come on, tiger man,” taunted the necromancer. “Why don’t you use that Tiger Bullet Kick you’re so proud of. I know exactly who you are. You’re a dying breed of the Rua clan. You’ll probably be dead if you use that Tiger Bullet Kick one more time. Go ahead. Try it. You’re all alone in this temple. Nobody’s coming to help you. It’s do or die, my friend. Mostly just die, but you get what I’m saying.”
“Yeah, like I’m going to let you sneak out of here with the treasure once I’m dead and gone. Get lost, punk!” said Bob in a raspy voice as he staggered to his feet. This time Viktor grabbed him by the fur on his head and hoisted him high off the floor.
“It’s kill or be killed, Bob! What’s it going to be? You know you want to do it!” taunted the samurai as she did cheerleader-like hops and flips in evil happiness.
Viktor smiled at Bob with worms swirling around his teeth and tongue. His breath smelled like cow shit, almost bad enough to earn himself a KO victory. But then a bright yellow aura glowed around Bob Rua. The light radius grew beyond his prone body and the samurai clown was cheering him on. She knew what was coming and danced around like a madwoman. Viktor challenged him with an even nastier smile and said, “Do it!”
“It could kill me, but I don’t fucking care anymore! Tiger Bullet Kick!” shouted Bob. With fire and light surrounding his legs, he threw one powerful flying kick to Viktor’s chest, sending a heavenly show of golden aura throughout the temple, turning night into day and turning the moon into sunshine. The mummy warlord laughed like the monster he was before turning into a heap of dust and leaving Bob on the ground taking short and weak breaths.
The samurai spun around and tiptoed up to Bob’s lifeless body, to which she saw blood pouring from his mouth and nose. She clapped her hands happily and extended her arms to cast another necromancy spell. After her obligatory haunting whispers, she explained, “Truth is, Bob, I didn’t come here for Viktor the Warlord’s services. He was just a byproduct of a much bigger plot. I came here for you, tiger man. Forever more, you will be my undead minion. You will know your master as the great and powerful Makoto Lionheart, Gatekeeper of Souls. Now rise, you worthless scum! Rise from your slumber so that you may do that lovely Tiger Bullet Kick over and over again! Oh, I’m going to have so much fun with you!”
Bob started moaning like he had sleep apnea as he got on his hands and knees and slowly stood up to face his new master. In a zombie-like drone, he said, “I shall do whatever you wish, my lord.” Makoto spun around and cheered to herself while smiling like an innocent child. “There’s just one catch,” Bob said before reaching out and grabbing Makoto by both sides of her head. “I said that the Tiger Bullet Kick could kill me, not that it would.” Makoto trembled in his vice-like grip. “I’m ready for the world’s longest nap. Would you care to join me?”
With his tiger claws buried deep into the sides of Makoto’s head, he spun her skull around multiple times before her neck muscles loosened and her neck bone snapped in two, leaving her a lifeless heap on the floor as soon as Bob released her. The tiger warrior smiled at his handiwork, but not without coughing up chunks of blood and sprawling over the corpse of his victim. As his body relaxed on what might be his last night on earth, he softly said to himself, “Man, I’m getting too old for this shit.”
Ryan Stone is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. He shares his home in the blue Dandenongs with his wife and two young sons. His poetry has recently appeared in Writers’ Forum Magazine, Black Poppy Review, Napalm and Novocain, Goodreads, The Houseboat, Wolf Publishing, Café Aphra, Of Words and Water, and an anthology of two.
When asked to describe himself, Ryan responded: “I have no formal credentials, just an observer’s eye and an insatiable appetite for books. I’m rough around the edges but the right turn of phrase will stop me dead in my tracks every time. I love Metallica and Ted Kooser with equal passion and my closest friend in the world in my German Shepherd (just don’t tell my wife).”
More of Ryan Stone’s work can be found at Days of Stone.
Garrison Kelly has been writing creatively since January 2002 and made it official with an English degree in 2009 from Western Washington University. He’s tried to find work ever since completing school, but so far, no dice. His only source of income is through social security payments as he is mentally disabled with schizophrenia and autism. Mental illnesses are a favorite topic of his to discuss when writing, as are liberal politics, violent situations, anti-bullying politics, heavy metal music, and the occasional shy guy love story. Garrison’s favorite writers include, but are not limited to Carl Hiaasen, Lilian Jackson Braun, Brett Battles, and Susan Cain. His website is at Garrison’s Library.
An avid reader and writer, Rebekah has spent most of her life entrenched in words. She grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and spent a good part of her adolescence travelling the world. She works as a bookkeeper and freelance writer, and is currently finishing the final edit on her first novel.
When she manages to drag herself away from mysteries and space operas, Rebekah spends her time studying anything she can get her hands on, joking about superheroes, and foisting new and interesting stories at her unsuspecting friends.