Table of Contents Letter from the Editor...........................................................
The Nochi-Jite of Space Admiral Moto.................................
The Blessings......................................................................... 10 Pre-Raphaelite Girls.............................................................. 12 Beyond the Sea....................................................................... 14
_________ © 2017 Buckshot Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Printed in Canada First Edition www.buckshotmagazine.com 2
Dear Reader, Hello and thank you for picking up the very first issue of Buckshot Magazine! We are absolutely thrilled to have you here. After going through hundreds of submissions, we’ve chosen five for you to hold in your hands right now, with more coming each week at buckshotmagazine.com. We start off with You’re Me by David Rogers, a tightly-written tale best started without any idea of what to expect. After that is The Nochi-Jite of Space Admiral Moto, where writer Robert Dawson takes us far away to Sekai and a day of reckoning for Moto, the grizzled commander who bears the title’s name. Lyrical prose and rich imagery make this piece truly otherworldly. Next comes The Blessings by Ellen Denton. In this thought-provoking tale, Denton weaves a story within a story, powered by a sleek, first-person narrative. Pre-Raphaelite Girls, by father-daughter duo Delbert R. Gardner and Adele Gardner, is a poetic meditation on love, time, and family traced through the rise and fall of generations. Our final story, Beyond the Sea by Hannah Whiteoak, is a masterpiece of characterization. Though the eyes of young Ben, you will experience a day that changes his life forever. Within these pages lie fresh worlds, familiar characters, glimmers of truth, and moments that will take your breath away. Enjoy the ride. Sincerely,
Anthony Tan Editor-in-Chief
You’re Me _____ David Rogers
“You’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not real—” “Elle—” “—you’re not real—” “Calm down!” “—you’re not real—” The girl on the floor had her eyes shut, knees hugged close to her chest, with her head down. Repeating the words like they were a mantra. Rocking back and forth in front of the mirror, while the girl in the mirror stood looking at her. “—you’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not–” As the chanting continued, the girl in the mirror knelt with a wince and began to sing. “I’ll love you forever, I’m like you for always. As long as we’re here, we’re who we’ll be. Peace be with us, we’re safe in the light. Together we’ll be, forever tonight.” Elle looked up. The girl in the mirror looked just like her… except she had bruises on her arms and legs. Some small, others not so much. “Are you real?” Elle asked with a frown. “I’m you,” the girl in the mirror said, offering a reassuring smile. “But I’m talking to you.” “That must mean I’m real.” Elle shook her head. “No. You’re not. Mummy said if I’m not good the monsters would take me away. They’re under my bed. Are you—” “Mummy needs a new sense of humor. I’m not a monster,” the other girl said with a frown. “Do I look 4
like a monster?” “No,” said Elle after a moment, though her eyes lingered on the other girl’s skin. She wiped at her face. “So am I crazy then?” “You’re fine, Elle, but… I need your help.” “Who are you?” “I’m you. We’re each other. Can we talk?” “Why are you – who did that to you?” Elle asked, gesturing to the bruises on the other girl’s arms and legs. Some of them were horrific, the flesh yellow and blue, streaked through with red and purple spider-webs of clotted blood. “That’s what I need to talk to you about.” “You should…” Elle shivered. “Do you have a mummy like me?” The other girl looked away. “Just like yours.” “You should tell her someone’s hurting you,” said Elle. “Because that’s not right.” “I know,” the reflection said, meeting Elle’s eyes again. Staring at her without blinking. “So why don’t you?” “I’m trying.” Elle came to her feet, fists clenched. “Then try harder.” “I am.” The other girl stood up, bringing them eye to eye. “Elle, you have to listen. This is about us. Not me.” Elle stared at her for a moment, then folded her arms. “Okay.” “Good,” said the other girl. “When you go to school tomorrow, go to the office.” “But I haven’t been bad.” “I know you haven’t. Neither have I. But you have to go anyway.” “Why?” “When the lady at the front asks what you want, you tell her you need to talk to the school counselor.” “But why would I –” 5
“Tell her it’s important. And when you see the counselor – when you’re alone – I want you to show her these,” the other girl said, gesturing to her arms and legs. “I can’t,” Elle said immediately. “She won’t be able to see you. She’ll think I’m crazy. And anyway, there’s no mirror in the office.” “You can,” the other girl said. “What?” “You can show her.” “How?” “Pull up your sleeve.” Elle looked down at the long sleeve of her blouse. Her eyes went to the other girl, to those terrible bruises, then back to her own arm. Slowly, she reached for her sleeve and tugged. As it came up, she winced, then gasped at the sight of the bruises. Every shade of horrible, running all across her skin until they disappeared beneath the fabric. “Promise me you’ll go to the office to-tomorrow,” said the other girl, her voice breaking on a sob. Elle looked up. The girl in the mirror was crying. Their eyes met and Elle swallowed carefully. “I promise.”
_________ David Rogers is an American novelist. Writing about himself in the third person is … weird, but such is life. He is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, because dreams are what the future is made of. Learn more about his other work at davesworld.info 6
The Nochi-Jite of Space Admiral Moto _____
The Autumn Fortress of Sekai stands one hundred and ninety-nine stories tall. Only the glittering crystal spire beside it, the palace of the Pine Tree Empress, is taller. Between their tops slants the Generals’ Bridge, a single brush-stroke in the sky. Its width is but an armspan, and it has no railings: those who advise the Empress and command her troops must possess both courage and prudence. Space-admiral Moto, lean and badger-grey, approaches the forcedoor at the lower end of the bridge. Sensing no weapon beneath his dark-blue robes, the door shimmers and dissolves. He walks out into pale sunlight and begins the ascent to the palace. Mid-span, he pauses and turns to face the Grey Mountains. There, legend says, live the spirits of those who fall in battle. He has never quite believed those tales… nor totally disbelieved them. Tomorrow – tomorrow I shall know for certain, he thinks, then walks on. As he reaches the bridge’s upper end, the door to the Imperial Audience Chamber slides open. Inside, court musicians are playing the anthem of the planetary defense forces, and the Pine Tree Empress sits on her throne of priceless wood and glimmering tseta bone. He steps onto the square wooden dais and he bows deeply; the music falls silent. The Empress acknowledges his presence with the barest of nods. “The battle facing us is dire, admiral,” she says. “The invaders are less than a day’s hyperspace flight away… and their ships outnumber ours three to one.” “Our strategy has excellent odds of victory, Your Magnificence.” “At too high a cost, admiral! No - there is a new plan.” She leaned forward, ever so slightly. “As you recall, five years ago I ordered the brains of my senior commanders to be nanoscanned.” “I remember,” he says. The process had been lengthy and unpleasant. “Using the scan of your brain, my scientists have created a robot from your scan, with your expertise in space warfare. It has, they say, all the tactical skills that you exhibited in your prime, at the Battle of the Three Suns – and with photonic matrices replacing human neurons, it is faster by far. It shall be the one who commands our fleet tomorrow; you will stay here.” “Is this wise, Your Magnificence?” he asks.
“Your strategy gives you, personally, a seven percent chance of survival,” she says. “We cannot afford to lose your experience. Your family’s honor must take second place to Sekai’s safety.” For a moment, he lets himself picture a peaceful old age among his grandchildren… but only for a moment. “Where is this robot?” She gestures toward the crystal wall behind him. “It comes, even now.” The admiral turns. A figure dressed in robes identical to his own is ascending the narrow arc, moving with the smooth athletic gait of his youth. He watches it reach the end of the bridge, then turns back to the Empress. “Then, with permission, Your Magnificence, I shall leave your presence.” “You may go, admiral,” she says softly. “May your new admiral serve you well, Magnificence.” He bows again, and walks through the door onto the bridge. The robot looks up at him. It slows its steps, and they meet midway. He studies its face: though a rigid mask, it is undeniably his own. “It is a strange thing to meet one’s own ghost, one’s nochi-jite,” he says. The robot nods slowly, gravely. Shifting shadows cloud its mask, suggesting sorrow. “I regret usurping your rightful place in the battle. But my experience is yours, admiral, my skill is yours: the honor will be yours and your family’s.” The admiral gives a single nod. “Then before we part, let us view the mountains together.” They turn, boot-tips the same arm’s length from the edge, and face the misty peaks. The admiral puts one hand on the robot’s shoulder. What does it feel? he wonders. It must remember every battle I have fought, every book I have read… doubtless it remembers my pilgrimage to the Moon Temple after the Battle of the Three Suns, and the poem that I wrote there at sunrise. But does it understand why I wrote those words? Is it a warrior? Or only the reflection of one? He clutches the lapel of the robot’s robe, thrusts his foot between its legs, and throws himself toward the bridge deck in vicious sacrifice – pain lances through his shin and the smooth fabric almost slips from his fingers. He hits the bridge deck clumsily - but the robot is off balance now, toppling toward the edge. It twists, catlike, and one hand finds the edge of the bridge. Plastic fingers scrabble on smooth metal, but find no grip; the robot falls into emptiness. The admiral raises himself painfully to his hands and knees and looks over the edge. Far below him the 8
nochi-jite drifts like a falling petal, dwindling to a point. He pulls himself to his feet, bows solemnly towards the Grey Mountains, and walks back to the audience room, forbidding himself from limping. The musicians and guards are whispering among themselves. Unbidden, the admiral addresses the Empress. “Your Magnificence, the project has failed. The robot, while no doubt a strong tactical theorist, did not grasp the Way of the Void – of readiness for the unforeseeable.” The Pine Tree Empress nods. “Then with your permission, Your Magnificence, I shall rejoin my fleet.” Space-admiral Moto bows once more and, without waiting for the word of dismissal, turns and walks back across the Generals’ Bridge.
__________ Robert Dawson teaches mathematics at a Nova Scotian university. His fiction has appeared in many periodicals and anthologies, including Nature Futures, AE, and Compelling SF. He is an alumnus of the Sage Hill and Viable Paradise writing workshops. 9
The Blessings _____ Ellen Denton The great poet Carl Sandburg, in one of his works, tells the story of a young girl named Anna Imroth who died in a factory fire. Sandburg ends the poem with: “It is the hand of God and the lack of fire escapes.” *** My neighbor Bob takes out a thick family photo album and flips to a few newspaper clippings. One shows two piles of twisted, shapeless metal that, I am told, were once small airplanes. It’s hard to tell what the other one is just from the photograph, but Bob explains that it’s an overturned big rig, and somewhere mixed in the fire and rubble are dead things. As he tells the stories I marvel in silence at how he glows with pride, as he displays these pictures of negligent homicide right next to those of marriages and family reunions. *** Several years ago, he and his buddy Joe were herding horses, flying over ranchland in small, singleengine planes. Thinking he would play a trick on his friend – and knowing that the noise of Joe’s plane would drown out the sound of his own – Bob came up in such a way that he couldn’t be seen. He was flying much too close, looked away for a moment to scan the countryside below, and caused a mid-air collision. Both planes spiraled to the ground and crashed. Bob was in the hospital for months, recovering from his injuries. Joe was killed. The next accident occurred four years later – Bob was driving his motorcycle down a highway with his girlfriend on the back. The road ahead of him was empty; there was an RV behind him, and behind that, a big-rig truck hauling a load of sheep. The truck pulled into the left lane to pass the slow-moving RV. At that moment, Bob remembered something he needed, but had left at home. He was in a hurry and made a U-turn to get onto the opposing road, didn’t bother to look, and turned directly into the path of the oncoming big rig. The truck-diver swerved to avoid hitting him and the big-rig overturned, catching the back of the motorcycle as it fell. Bob, once again, survived with serious injuries, but his girlfriend, the truck driver, and all the sheep were killed. Fortunately, there were no other vehicles up ahead, because the heavily laden big rig, as it went slewing on its side down the road, would have taken out anything in its path. He finishes these stories with a self-satisfied smile. I tell him how lucky he is that he survived all those accidents. He tells me how it was no accident, it was God – God’s will that he live, live, and live again, 10
and not those other people. I say, as politely as I can, “I guess God didn’t care so much about your friend Joe, your girlfriend, the dead truck driver, his bereft family, and the sheep.” Bob’s doesn’t seem to notice my sarcasm. He smiles proudly and says, “Yes, it was just meant to be.” Later, trying to sleep, an image stuck with me, refusing to let go – the sheep, all those sheep stuck in their pens, rolling along, until suddenly – terrific pain, uncomprehending suffering, and a clamor like hell as they tumbled and crashed, this premature butchering. I didn’t get much sleep. *** Bob was killed today in an accident. I overhear someone mention it at the grocery store, one aisle over from where I’m standing with my shopping cart. They move out of earshot before I can hear the details. I stand, looking at rows of canned peas and green beans, stacked exactly as they should be. I have the sudden urge to knock them loose and send them crashing. *** When I get home, I dump the grocers and call up a neighbor, one that knows Bob’s family well. It seems he fell to his death. The rotted rung of a wooden ladder gave way beneath his feet, perhaps eroded by the swarms of termites already known to live in the floors and walls of his house. Bob had other, metal ladders – bright and shiny aluminum ones – but on this day, to replace a broken garage light, he chose the wooden one. It was an old ladder and didn’t have metal bars placed beneath each wooden step, like the ones manufactured today do. it splintered, the fall broke his neck, but it was his head hitting the concrete floor of his garage that ultimately caused his death. He was still alive and conscious when his wife returned home from work and found him gasping in pain on the floor. He didn’t make it to the hospital in time *** This accident probably was the result of termite destruction and the failure to perform proper tool, equipment, and home maintenance...or perhaps it was something else. At Bob’s memorial service, I overhear his wife say how he always favored that old ladder because of its height. He felt it brought him closer to Heaven.
__________ Ellen Denton is a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, three cats, and an extended family of deer and other wildlife that appear now and then outside her house. Her writing has been published in over a hundred magazines and anthologies. 11
Pre-Raphaelite Girls _____
Delbert R. Gardner and Adele Gardner
On my desk your pictured face smiles love at me; A double strand of pearls surrounds a neck That could have been the envy of Pre-Raphaelite girls. And I know, whatever changes there may be, We’ll always have the beauty of the pearls.
And yet from other portraits, which you claim Are not yourself but various grandmas great-Daguerreotype, salt print, and oval paint-You gaze at me Pre-Raphaelite-style, no saint. Nor yet was Guenevere, whom Morris loved so.
Your dark hair long and straight with Siddal’s grace And Lizzie’s simple, earnest majesty; Your brown eyes brimmed with love mysterious Might just be kissed with sorrow like Jane Morris’s; And yet the cheer with which you’ve faced our trials
You’ve had your doubts, as I’ve no doubt had mine; Yet through it all--and through the wilds of time, Those years between, no block but not in synch, No matter how I riddled through the rhyme, Found common ground in years and lives that matched; No matter your repeated trips through time To bring me back elixirs of life and youth-‘Twas just your love I wanted to keep me young, Our little family, growing late but strong.
Brings out wise, patient Effie in your smiles-Both Effie Gray Millais and Mother-mine, Each finding love when wed a second time. In your adoring gaze and impish mirth I see good-hearted innocence and worth Like that of Georgie, loyal wife and daughter, Burne-Jones, MacDonald, heir to fairy laughter. And in the firstborn daughter you’ve given me, My protégé, like Morris had in May.
Your oldest portrait, Waterhouse perhaps, Although this sketch is clearly Dante’s work-Shows me that face I’ve loved with breathless zeal Since you were little more than naïve girl-Though older, sadder, wiser than your peers, And yet your merriment defies the years You whisper of in sleep, and thus make real.
Your pictured face smiles love in modern frame-At least, ‘twas modern twenty years ago. 12
Did those girls envy you, and send away The rival who might steal alike their fame And love of poets, painters, by whose minds They were themselves cast out of their due time, And into timeless roles of history, myth, Suspended there past age and their own death, Remembered by history, art, creative minds? They might have cursed you, cast you out of time’s Relentless march toward glory, memory.
Gateway or mercy from Pre-Raphaelite girls Who loved too well, who died, who drank regret. Please say you won’t go back. If nothing yet Can solve the riddle of too many years young, I’ll go myself with you, work hard, make books Alongside William Morris, paint your looks, Hands purple with dye, weave tapestries and verse, While you like Christina Rossetti craft poems true. We’ll make this world seem beautiful, not cursed-And make sure all the stunners get their due. Let’s do that now, and here. We’ve many girls. We’ll nurture talents in our family first.
Did some good fairy turn their hate to fun By lifting you from age to agelessness, Not outside time, but simply swimming in it? My dear, it matters not. I love you tons, More with each hour that passes- and does not pass. We’re meant to walk together, to glory in The sun in treetops, sparkling lake, the sin-If sin it was to love one old, one young-And which of us was which, I cannot say. We each love more with every passing day.
On my desk your pictured face smiles love at me; A strand of cultured pearls surrounds a neck That must have been the envy of Pre-Raphaelite girls. And I know, whatever changes we may see, We won’t neglect the promise of the pearls-But love each day and all our young Pre-Raphaelite girls.
I know you dream. I see you stroke the pearls--
__________ Delbert R. Gardner and Adele Gardner (www.gardnercastle.com) are a father & daughter writing team with almost 400 pieces published between them in The Literary Review, Poetry Digest, American Poetry Magazine, and more. A WWII veteran, Delbert taught English literature at Keuka College; Adele is a cat-loving cataloging librarian and Del’s literary executor. 13
Beyond the Sea _____
My name is Ben and I can run across the whole world in fifteen minutes and forty-eight seconds. It used to take longer, but now I’m eight and almost as fast as Dad. Every day, I run through the cabbage patch, between the rows of beans, past the house, and through the long grass where the chickens like to hide, arms pumping, legs turning over and over until I reach the shore. I tug off my shorts and t-shirt and splash into the warm shallows wearing only the waterproof watch Dad gave me. From there, it takes me another two minutes to wade out to where the sea meets the sky. The sea is bright blue and encircles the whole world like a ring around a finger. I’m big enough now that the deepest water only comes up to my chest. I can lean against the sky and enjoy the view of the whole world while I get my breath back. Then I lay back and float in the water, watching the light reflect off the glossy sky paint in endlessly quivering patterns. As the sun begins to dim, its spherical surface fading from bright white to soft orange, Mom strolls to the shore and calls my name. Lazily, I wade back across the water and she hands me a towel so I can dry myself off. “Put your clothes on,” Mom says. “Why?” “You’ll catch a cold.” “What’s a cold? You mean how at night when the sun turns off, the air feels cooler? How do you catch that?” “Never mind,” she says, and begins to walk back to the house. I follow her, carrying my shorts and t-shirt. Grass pokes between my toes every time I take a step. It tickles. Our house stands in the middle of the world, directly below the sun, which hangs from the bright blue sky like a tomato from a vine. In the shadow that extends a stride from each side of the building, mushrooms poke through the soil. Further out, we grow fruits, vegetables, and beans, arranged in neat squares with paths just wide enough to walk between the plants. It’s important not to waste space, Dad says. In the wild outer regions, where the sea laps against the grass, chickens scratch and stalk. It’s my job to collect the eggs each morning.
I run to Dad, who is kneeling between the rows of strawberry plants. He stands and dusts his hands on his patched pants. “Hey, Pirate.” He lifts me up and spins me around before setting me back down. “Oof. You’re getting heavy.” “Dinner’s ready!” Mom calls. As Dad walks toward the house, I linger by the strawberry plants, which droop with ripe fruit. Glancing over my shoulder, I sneak a sweet, fat berry into my mouth. Inside, Mom is clutching Dad’s sleeve and whispering urgently into his ear. “I can’t take this much longer,” she says, before breaking off with a glance at me. “Take what?” I ask, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. “Nothing to worry about, Pirate,” Dad says. He sets plates on the table. Still smiling, he turns to Mom and says softly. “The sensor data is positive, but I think we should wait a little longer to be safe.” Mom turns back to the stove. Dad massages her shoulders and peers into the cooking pot. “Smells good. What is it?” “Bean stew,” she sighs. “Again.” Dad lifts the heavy iron pot from the stove and carries it to the table. He ladles out the stew, giving me the biggest portion. It is rich and sweet. Basil. Tomatoes. Lima beans. All my favorite foods. “Don’t slurp,” Mom says. “He’s appreciating your cooking.” Dad runs his hand through my hair. “What’d you do today, Pirate?” “I ran from sea to sea -- still can’t beat your time -- and then I swam.” “Don’t you get bored of doing that every day?” Mom asks. I set down my spoon. Am I supposed to be bored? “I like running and swimming.” “See? He’s fine. You want to help me harvest the strawberries tomorrow, Pirate?” “Can I eat them?” “Sure, but not so many your stomach hurts like last time.” After dinner, Mom and Dad remain sitting at the table. I clear the dishes into the sink and reach under my bed on the other side of the room to get my guitar. Dad has been teaching me to play since I was five. I know all the chords and put them together to make tunes. While I strum softly, Mom and Dad talk in low voices.
“The sensor data has been clear for three months,” Mom says. “It’s time.” I pick my way through the scale Dad showed me last week. Pentatonic, he called it. I don’t know how he comes up with so many names for things. Dad talks so softly I can’t hear him, but Mom’s voice hisses across the main open space of our house, where we cook and eat and I sleep. Dad keeps glancing at the door of their bedroom, as though he wants to escape into there, but Mom holds his hands across the table. “The drone recordings show no human life,” she says, “but there are animals, so the air must be breathable. And vegetation is making a comeback. It’s madness to stay cooped up down here when we could be rebuilding our lives.” “We should have let them in,” Dad says. Why does he sound so sad? I hate it when they whisper together like this. It’s the only time I feel lonely. I form a bar chord and strum hard. One of the strings snaps, whipping back across my fingers. I cry out. Dad is at my side immediately. “What is it?” “I broke it.” I cradle the guitar in my arms, appalled at myself. Dad takes the guitar. “It’s just a string. You can replace them.” “With what?” Dad glances at Mom, who folds her arms. “With another string. Don’t worry, Pirate.” “We’ll get you one.” “From where?” Dad closes his eyes as Mom comes over and rests a hand on his shoulder. His shirt rumples as she squeezes. “You’ll see,” he says. When I go to bed, they go into their bedroom. A thin strip of light spills under the door, along with a soft, wordless murmur. I wonder what they’re planning. Next morning, I wake with the rooster’s cry, grab my egg basket, and go to the door. Blinking a few times while my eyes adjust to the bright sunlight, I frown. Mom and Dad stand on the shore. That’s weird. I’m always the first one up. I run toward Mom and Dad, still clutching the basket. “What’s going on?” Mom turns and opens her arms. I run into them. Dad squats beside me. “We’re going on a journey,” he says. “Where?” He points at the sky. “Out there.” 16
“In the sea?” “Beyond the sea.” “There’s nothing beyond the sea. Only the sky.” Dad pulls off his pants and shoves them into a black bag. Mom turns away, strips to her underwear, and splashes into the sea. Hesitantly, I take off my clothes and put them in the bag too. He holds it above the water as we walk into the sea together. When we reach the sky, Dad begins tapping on it, tilting one ear toward his hands. Has he gone crazy? “What are you doing?” He shushes me and keeps tapping. From the bag, he pulls a knife and scores a rectangle in the sky paint. He runs the knife along the middle of the rectangle until it sinks deeply into the sky, feeds a metal object into the hole he’s made and rotates it. With a click, the square Dad cut swings open, revealing a dark hole. “What’s he doing?” I ask Mom. “He broke the sky.” “I didn’t break it,” Dad says. “I opened the door. Come on.” He pushes the bag into the hole and climbs in after it. I splash to the open sky-door and peer inside. Dad stoops inside a narrow tunnel. In one hand, he holds a yellow tube with a glowing light radiating from one end. “You next,” says Mom. The floor of the tunnel is earthy, like the soil in the vegetable gardens. This doesn’t make sense. How can there be earth behind the sky? With Dad in front of me and Mom behind, I walk along the tunnel, longing to be back out in the open. Eventually, Dad stops and shines the light onto the ceiling, revealing a rusty metal door. “Finally,” says Mom. “I thought I’d go crazy down there.” Dad opens the door and hauls himself through. I hang back. Cold air moves on my skin, as if I’m running really fast, even though I’m standing still. “What’s that?” “What’s what?” Mom says, pushing me forward. “The air is moving.” “It’s a breeze.” She laughs. “Oh, Ben, you’re going to feel wind in your hair and real sunlight on your face. You’ll be free. Isn’t that wonderful?” It doesn’t seem wonderful. With her help, I climb up through the door and almost fall back down in shock. The space we are in is bigger than the whole world. All around us are huge plants, like tomato vines but a thousand times bigger, and with thick, hard stems so wide even Dad’s arms wouldn’t stretch 17
around them. I crane my head, trying to see their tops. Are they so tall they scrape against the sky? But all I can see are interlocking stems, stretching higher and higher against a gray background. “Where’s the sky?” “Up there, of course,” Mom points upward. The dusty gray between the bare stems overhead looks nothing like the sky. Has the bright blue paint worn away? And where is the sun? I turn all the way around, trying to understand. “Where’s the sea?” “Hundreds of miles away,” Mom says. I have no idea what that means. I begin to whimper and hide my face in her stomach. Mom pushes me away and begins pulling on her clothes. Dad squats beside me and turns me to face him. “Ben, this will take some getting used to. The world is bigger, so much bigger, than you thought…” Mom pulls her sweater over her head. “We had to go into the dome to keep you safe,” she says. “We knew there would be terrible fires and dust, so we had to go underground. Dad built our home, with help from.... He built it to protect us. Isn’t he clever?” She’s smiling wider than I’ve ever seen before, and talking so fast I can hardly keep up. What’s a fire? How could Dad have built the world? Did he build this one too? I take a few tentative steps toward the nearest plant. Its stem is rough and jagged. I sense it is older than anything I have ever known. How many years did it take to grow so big? Some things are familiar. Below my toes is green grass, not as thick or lush as the grass at home, but unmistakably grass. I wonder if there are chickens here. Are there boys who collect their eggs? Confused, I turn back to Mom and Dad. “If the world is so much bigger, are there other people? Are they giants?” Mom and Dad glance at each other. The smile fades from Dad’s face. Mom shakes her head. “There are no other people,” she says. “There never were. It’s just you and me and Dad. And we love you, Ben. We love you so much.” I squint at the towering stems, which seem to go on forever. Even though Mum and Dad are right beside me, I begin to feel lonely. I reach for Dad’s hand. How long it will take to run across this new world?
__________ Hannah Whiteoak is a freelance writer living in the UK. Her short stories and poems have appeared in r.kv.r.y quarterly and Ember Journal. Find out more about her work at https://sites.google.com/site/hannahwhiteoak 18
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Premiere issue of Buckshot Magazine featuring 5 new open-genre flash fiction, short story, and poetry pieces. Enjoy!
Published on Aug 14, 2017
Premiere issue of Buckshot Magazine featuring 5 new open-genre flash fiction, short story, and poetry pieces. Enjoy!