Twisted Endings The magazine for lovers of unpredictable plot twists
M tion on Fic from J
from Carl Palmer
e Fe y hler
Twisted Endings March 2013 | 1
Twisted Endings ISSN: Coming Frequency: Biannually Founding Editor|Designer: Monique Berry
Contact Info http://twistedendings.webs.com email@example.com 1-905-549-3981
Special Notices Tagline suggested by Rachel Loveday. Twisted Endings has one time rights. See website for subscription details. No photocopies allowed.
In this Issue Contributors: Adam Randall, Anne Britting Oleson, Art Heifetz, Carl Palmer, Colin W. Campbell, Dan Delehant, Elena Lelia Radulescu, Florence McCambridge, Fred Shelton, Gene Fehler, Hal Oâ€™Leary, John Grey, Jon Moray, Linda White,
Rebecca R. Taylor, Theresa Milstein, Vanisha Mistry.
Poetry 4 Good At Any Age
Short stories 6 The Twister
In the story you are about to read, you will discover who has the sense and who is just plain senseless...even if it doesn't make sense.
4 Of Ethnic Dances 7 Old Voices in a Modern World 7 The Perennial Loser 17 Lovely Teeth 17 A Day to Remember 19 Lament
Jeremy always seems to be stuck in some rut of unrequited love or another. Luckily he can always depend on help from his friend Alex.
9 The Black Widow
Committing infidelities in front of his wife! How could he be so brazen? If only his wife had taken the time to listen to his explanation..
10 Cold Comfort
They say revenge is a dessert best served cold but an abusive husband finds that revenge can be hot, too.
12 Terminus What do you do when you've reached the end of the line?
14 The Pleiades
16 Reality in the Desert
A story about a mother, her son, and the decisions that shape our lives.
5 Brolly Folly When Bree enters a bar preparing to con the other customers, a most unlikely regular threatens to expose her secret.
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What do you do when you've reached the end of the line? What began as a holiday get away turned into something Linda and Robert Gladmire never expected.
Avenged They say revenge is a dessert best served cold but an abusive husband finds that revenge can be hot, too.
FROM THE EDITOR
Welcome to the premier issue of Twisted Endings! When I launch a new magazine, I always start by explaining how the idea started. In this case it began at a writers group that I facilitate called “First Impressions.” In October of 2012, I handed in a short story for feedback; it had a surprise ending. One member said, “Wow! I didn't see that coming!” Another said, “What a twisted ending!” That’s when the wheels started turning. I thought it might be fun to have an entire magazine devoted to plot twists. Thanks to all the contributors who took a chance on being published in this magazine. It’s been a privilege reading your work. And finally a big thank you to all the contestants who entered my Tagline Contest. I wish I could recycle them and choose a different one for every issue. But alas I must choose one. Congratulations to Rachel Loveday for suggesting the winning tagline. Now, get ready to twist and shout!
Founding Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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Good At Any Age Anticipation
Of Ethnic Dances
By Carl Palmer
By Carl Palmer
By John Grey
so what do you say Wanna give it a try
She watches his precise approach in her rear view mirror, grips the steering wheel tightly keeping both hands in plain sight at ten and two. Not the first time in this situation, she recalls emotions felt while relating her last experience to smug listeners. He slowly circles her vehicle from the back, around the passenger side to stand directly in front while writing on his notepad the whole time. He moves methodically to the driver’s door and taps the window, “Please turn off the engine and get out of the car, Ma’am.” “Congratulations, you parallel parked perfectly. Here’s your license.”
Six men in two rows raise antlers before their faces, cross over and interweave slowly, sedately.
Remember the last time you did it? Me either. We’ll start out slow and easy be patient and understanding no use rushing right into it we don’t need to keep score. Nothing to prove; I’m sure it won’t be anything to write home about or tell a close friend; probably best to keep it secret, it’s really no one’s business how well we bowl.
CARL “PAPA” PALMER, twice nominated for the Micro Award in flash fiction and thrice for the Pushcart Prize in poetry, grew up on Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, VA. Carl now lives in University Place, WA. Contact Carl at email@example.com.
In ancient times, this very ceremony was performed to bring death to a foe. And to think, only moments before, you whispered to me, "I wish I could dance like that." JOHN GREY, an Australian born poet and financial systems analyst has literary work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Left By Florence McCambridge A story about a mother, her son, and the decisions that shape our lives. Looking over at him I thought, I can’t do this. He sipped his apple juice through a straw, making loud sucking noises. Normally I would tell him to stop, but not today. We had been driving the dull farm landscape for hours and he was struggling to stay awake. I was still working on my coffee, which was now cold. The car smelled of cigarettes mixed with the faint memory of the pine air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. I tried to pull over a few times, but there was always a reason not to: a passing car, not enough of a shoulder, good song on the radio. They were all just excuses. I was scared, but my time was running out. I slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. The sound of the gravel underneath the tires was louder than necessary. He rubbed his eyes and I unbuckled his seatbelt. “I have to go to the bathroom,” he said. His sailboat pajamas were too small for him, and his little belly hung over the waistband. I pushed his soft blonde hair off his forehead and smiled at him. I watched him walk into the trees and waited until I could no longer see the fur trim of his jacket before starting the car. I drove away, picking up speed slowly and not looking back. FLORENCE MCCAMBRIDGE is a writer from Toronto who spends her days as a full-time copywriter and the rest of her
time as a freelance writer for clients and for her own projects including blogs and short fiction. Visit her website at http://florenceinprint.com.
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Brolly Folly By Theresa Milstein One rainy evening, when Bree enters a bar preparing to con the other customers, a most unlikely regular threatens to expose her secret.
ree flicked her red umbrella shut and shook it to rid it of raindrops. She gazed up from the doorway of the bar to see a haggard man standing, mouth agape with a cigarette dangling from his cracked lips. “You…you…just landed here from the sky. How did you do that?” She chuckled as she leaned her umbrella against the wall. Then she entered the cave. Before she could stop herself, Bree scrunched her nose against the stench of stale beer and desperation. Recovering, she squared her shoulders and sashayed to the bar. The only woman there, she felt every pair of eyes burn through her tiny dress. “What’ll it be, Miss?” the stereotypical bartender asked, pouring a beer from the tap for another customer. He had the kind of face that invited customers to spill their secrets. Wouldn’t he like to know hers? She opened her mouth to reply when the man from outside stumbled over to where she sat and took the next stool. “I saw what you did.” Bree chuckled again, and again turned to the bartender. “You choose for me.” Men loved thinking they were in charge. When she opened her crimson handbag, the bartender waived his hand dismissively. The haggard man stood and shouted, “This woman, she appeared out of thin air, right out of the sky.” The men roared with laughter. “Bill’s had too much to drink.” “Who’s gonna take him home tonight?” “Not me. I’ve wiped his vomit out of my car for the last time.” Too drunk to be offended, he asked Bree, “Was it you who did it? Are you a witch? Or was it a magical
umbrella?” He leaned in, his breath reeking worse than the bar. “I guess you could’ve enchanted the umbrella. I bet you’re a witch either way.” “Maybe she’s freakin’ Mary Poppins.” “Something like that.” Way back when she was respectable, she had been a nanny but it paid like dreck. She held her mug up. “Cheers.” The haggard man skulked away. “What do you do?” The man, who had on previous occasions wiped up vomit, “I’m a fortune teller.” “Oh yeah? Tell me, am I gonna get lucky tonight?” Just then, Bree spied a crack of light leak into the room. An ornery woman in the doorframe looked squarely at her. Bree pretended she hadn’t noticed, cleared her throat and said, “I predict you won’t get lucky for some time. Your wife is going to be furious.” The ornery woman marched over to the man who had just hit on Bree. A shouting match ensued between the couple. The inebriated men believed she had predicted it. Soon they begged for her to tell their fortunes. When she was done, the “fortune teller” had bamboozled over $200 from the men and gotten a few free drinks. A success. When Bree stepped outside, it was dark and clear. She reached down to retrieve her umbrella, but it was gone. Surely no man, even a drunk one, would be caught dead with a bright red umbrella. Then Bree realized her handbag was no longer on her arm. Maybe she’d had too much to drink. She hurried back into the nearly empty bar to retrieve her bag holding the cash… … just as the haggard man ran off in the back alley of the bar, handbag in one hand, umbrella in the other. He floated away.
THERESA MILSTEIN has several short pieces published in anthologies and journals. While her published works are
for adults, she primarily writes for children and is active in the New England chapter of SCBWI (Society for Book Writers and Illustrators). She lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog. Contact Teresa at email@example.com or visit her blog at http://theresamilsteinblogspot.com. Twisted Endings March 2013 | 5
The Twister By Jon Moray In the story you are about to read, you will discover who has the sense and who is just plain senseless...even if it doesn't make sense.
tried to warn you, Master Arthur. I tried to warn you of Mother Nature’s rude uninvited guest, the tornado. You wouldn’t listen to my sharp pleas. You scoffed at my animated movements, frantically motioning you to seek safe shelter. Your dumb, drunken replies were only for me to get you more beer. Some sense of humor you have, Master. How funny it was to your drinking buddies when they ordered me back and forth, up and down the basement stairs to get trivial things to entertain them with. You must’ve forgotten I have the sense. I have the gift to see ahead into the future. The six-pack of brew must’ve clouded your judgment. I saw it coming hours before it hit. Hours before your friends’ arrival to your alcohol loaded shindig. You just told me to shut up and leave you alone. Maybe your mind was on the football championship game. Maybe it was because you bet 500 dollars on Dallas. Whatever it was, you chose to ignore my warnings. Nice friends you have, Master Arthur. Two of them deadbeats—one a cokehead and the other on probation. Why did you allow them to treat me like scum? If I wasn’t enduring their tasteless insults, I was dodging chips and nachos hurled at me. Not that you seemed to mind. It was painfully obvious you found comic relief in their badass
wannabe behavior. If only you knew how much it hurt me. You would’ve, if you weren’t so wasted every time they visited. Sometimes I wished your team would lose so I wouldn’t have to endure putting up with their antics for another playoff game. You laughed at the roar of the storm sounding like a locomotive racing through a station. You and your friends chose to let the booze entice your manhood as the twister encroached upon your four -bedroom Spanish styled mini-mansion that you inherited from your dearly departed folks. You and your stupid friends chose to foolishly ride out the storm outside on the screened-in back porch, even when the pool chairs went flying into the back of the house. Ignorance is bliss, until you are catapulted ten feet off the ground, through the pool screen and into your neighbor’s house by way of their arched dining room window. Your friends were tossed around in every direction like kids flying off a merry-go-round. It would’ve been funny under different and lighter circumstances. As for me, I sought refuge under the dining room table with the chips bowl protecting my head. I lived to tell the tale amid all of the structural damage, unlike the cokehead and one of the deadbeats. I hope you pull through; although, judging by the velocity of your flight, I have my doubts. Master Arthur, you must know, when you were sober you were a pleasure to serve and that is why I never left you. How could I? I am man’s best friend. I’m just a loyal golden retriever named Gofer and as I sit lapping at the brew your ex-con friend so comically left for me in my bowl, I can reflect on my true feelings for all of you idiots. I feel sad and sorry for you, Master Arthur. You meant well…most of the time. As for your friends, well, I hope they go where they deserve. I guess what they say is true, every dog has its’ day…or is it the beer talking?
JON MORAY lives in Kissimmee, Florida, and has been writing short stories for four years. Contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Old Voices in a Modern World
The Perennial Loser
By Gene Fehler
By Art Heifetz
Voices from three hundred books, maybe more, started jabbering. Henry Fleming machine-gunned questions to Agamemnon and Odysseus, who both came off, it seemed to me, as braggarts, but Fleming was impressed; he even asked for their autographs.
His wife referred to him as the perennial loser. His investments soured, his business bellied up, he grew so heavy you could hear his labored breathing each time he crossed the room.
Farther down the row, Emma Bovary and Hester Prynne giggled about some love letters they'd received. I peeked inside the cover just as Hester spoke the name "Eddie." She blushed, and I sneaked off after apologizing for the intrusion. Then I heard him. Huck Finn. 1'd have recognized his voice anywhere. He said he'd like to take an ocean voyage; he wanted to experience life on the open seas. "You are Wolf Larsen, ain't you?" "Call me Ishmael," the seaman said. All of a sudden, as if prearranged, every voice in the room shouted in unison, â€œLong live Big Brother!" It was scary. I snapped off the lights, rushed from the room, and locked the door behind me.
One of GENE FEHLER'S thirteen published books is NEVER BLAME THE UMPIRE, a middle grade novel (Zonderkidz, 2010; softcover, 2011). In it, 11year-old Kate's mother is dealing with terminal cancer. The mother's courage and strong faith during her illness helps Kate and her brother and father stay strong themselves during this difficult time. Gene lives in Seneca, SC, with his wife Polly and their two toy poodles. For more, visit www.genefehler.com.
When finally she left him, his life took on a permanent shade of grey. He barely had the energy to change his clothes. The dishes piled up, unwashed. Disconsolate, he wrote a poignant farewell note and placed it near the phone. On the morrow, coming to collect her things, she read the note and found the empty container of laxatives next to the sleeping pills. From the bathroom came what sounded like the desperate groans of a dying animal. Deciding she would stay a while, she put on her gingham apron and began to tidy up. ART HEIFETZ teaches ESL to refugees in Richmond, Va. He has had over 60 poems published in the U.S., Israel, Argentina, France, Canada, and Australia. To comments or see more of his work, visit polishedbrasspoems.com. Twisted Endings March 2013 | 7
Help By Adam Randall
Girls. A problem which every teenage boy has to face. Jeremy always seems to be stuck in some rut of unrequited love or another, luckily he can always depend on help from his friend Alex.
he doorbell rang and I heard my Mum walking towards the front door. After a few muffled greetings were exchanged, I could identify the caller as my best friend of five years, Jeremy. There was a nice feeling in my stomach as I heard him coming up the stairs. This afternoon will be a lot better than the boring three hours of internet surfing I had planned, I thought to myself. There was a knock on the bedroom door and I knew it was him. “Hey Alex,” he said with a smile as he came in. “Good afternoon Jeremy,” I returned his smile. He grabbed my spare chair and sat beside me at my desk. “How are you today then?” he asked, genuinely wanting to know. “I didn’t see you in school all day today!” “Yeah, I guess we just missed each other. I had a look around at lunch, but I didn’t see you.” “Ah, that’ll be because I was up in the library. I needed to catch up on some work.” “And did you?” “Yep!” he replied in a very upbeat tone. 8 | Twisted Endings March 2013
“Good, good! I forgot to ask, how are you feeling today?” I smiled at him. “Ah, well, not too good actually.” My heart dropped. I knew that despite his positive nature, Jeremy would often get very sad indeed, which made me feel equally sad. I had a terrible feeling that I knew exactly what his problem was too. I hoped I’d be able to make him happy again. “What is it?” I asked. “Well, it’s Shania,” he revealed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m starting to think that I have no chance with her. I’ve liked her for nearly six months now and it’s starting to make me feel rather depressed.” “Ah, Jeremy.” I couldn’t find the words to say, so I gave him a consoling pat on the shoulder instead. “It’s just that there’s the rumour going around that I was ‘taking advantage’ of Debby when she got really drunk at that party the other day. Pretty much everybody believes it. Plus, I’m pretty sure that Shania likes Chris anyway, that’s what people say,” he spoke very quickly—he always tended to do that when talking about subjects which made him uncomfortable.
There was a brief moment of silence after he had finished. I tilted my head forward, to make eye contact with him, and gave him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I spoke to Shania today. Neither of those things are anything you should worry about! I asked her whether she’d heard the rumour about you, planning to tell her that it’s not true if she had, and she replied, ‘Yeah, a bit stupid isn’t it? It’s obviously not true!’ so you shouldn’t have worried about that. And, the subject of Chris came up in our conversation as well. I offhandedly mentioned him, and not accidentally either, and as soon as I did she sighed and said that she’d been annoyed by the way he’s always ‘showing off to get laughs’ lately. I continued, “I guess that’s not a confirmation that she doesn’t have a crush on him, after all we are extra sensitive about the things those we ‘like’ do, but still…She always talks highly of you, and you both get along well, I wouldn’t be surprised if she liked you.” At this point, I realised that I’d been speaking for quite some time without giving him a chance to say anything so I brought myself hastily to an end. “So I really think you should talk to her about this.” Jeremy grinned. I’d solved all of his problems in a single swoop. “You’re a legend.” He gave me a few pats on the back. I tried to be modest, so I stayed silent, but I let myself smile. “I think I’ll send her a text and ask whether we can talk sometime after school tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.” “So what shall we do now, anyway?” I asked. “Ah, I’m sorry. I just needed to talk to you about this. I don’t really have time to do anything else. But I really appreciate it. I hope I can make it up to you sometime.” I was a little disappointed, but not bitter; he and I often did things together. We rose and walked back to the front door. I open it for him, he stepped out, and then turned to face me. “Well, goodbye then,” he said. “And if you ever have any trouble with a girl, you can always come talk to me!” “Thank you Jeremy. Goodbye.” But I never did have any girl trouble, and I never will. I went upstairs, feeling the weight of sadness in my stomach. I’d never be able to tell Jeremy about the trouble I had, because the only trouble I had was with Jeremy himself.
The Black Widow
ADAM RANDALL, a second year Creative Writing student at Bath Spa University, comes from a small town called Corsham. Writing has been his hobby since age four. Visit his blog at http://everyauthorwhoeverlived.weebly.com/ index.html.
FRED SHELTON resides with his wife and four dogs in Roseland, VA. His fiction has appeared in Dew on the Kudzu and Eskimo Pie. His non-fiction has appeared in The Burg and the Washington Times. He is presently working on his first novel. Contact Fred at email@example.com.
By Fred Shelton Committing infidelities in front of his wife! How could he be so brazen? If only his wife had taken the time to listen to his explanation, rather than storming out of the house like a rejected lover, perhaps she would have understood.
y wife looked at me with disgust when I brought the stranger into the house, holding onto her with my hand. “Where did you find her? In some bar?” “As a matter of fact, I did find her in a bar. She’ll be staying for the weekend. Her name is Susie. She’s one of the Black Widows.” “I don’t care whose widow she is. This house is not big enough for both of us. If she stays, I’m leaving.” “She’s not going to hurt you. This is an experiment” “You’re not experimenting with me.” Then she grabbed her bag and walked out the door. Susie and I got along fine. The two days she stayed with me she would rise early and stretch her long beautiful legs in front of the window, as I watched the sun glisten off them. I prepared her three meals per day, and we would dine together while listening to stereo music. In the evenings, I would sink into my old chair and watch TV while she reclined in the chair beside me. But she would never permit me to touch her or get too close. On Sunday night, my wife called. “Has that hussy left my house yet?” “I’m leaving with her right now.” I opened the car passenger door for her and helped her into the seat. She never showed any gratitude or emotion; she remained stoic. I drove her back across town to the bar where I had picked her up. Joe, the evening bartender, stood behind the counter as I walked in. “When Professor Collins comes by, tell him his experiment failed. Widows will not become aggressive in the darkness. Give this back to the professor.” I then handed him the glass jar with the black widow spider in it.
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Cold Comfort By Linda White They say revenge is a dessert best served cold but an abusive husband finds that revenge can be hot, too.
he voice wakes me in the middle of the night. “Arnie. I’m scared. Arnie.” Scared? Of what? I always looked after us. I made money to have a nice house. If you worked as hard as me, you would enforce some standards in that home. I wanted a hot meal on time. I wanted that nice house properly cleaned. It’s not too much to ask, is it? “Arnie, Arnie. I’m so cold.” It was her own fault. I told her a hundred times. “Don’t touch my remote control.” I didn’t like her watching those stupid soaps. She was watching when she should have been getting my supper and she lost the remote. It didn’t hurt her to watch what I wanted. “Arnie. I wanted to watch figure skating. I used to skate. I was even pretty good. Remember?” “Shut up,” I said. “Just shut your hole.” “Arnie. I don’t want to be here alone.” I got my earplugs I wear at work. Those jackhammers are hell on hearing. I put the earplugs in. “Arnie, come on down. I’m so lonely. I’m scared.” Damned earplugs aren’t working. I don’t want to hear her whimpering but I can. Why can I still hear her? “Arnie, come down for a minute. I promise I’ll be quiet then. Please.” I am a reasonable man. I just feel stressed sometimes. I have to go down and see if she’ll shut up. Doesn’t she know I have to work tomorrow? Doesn’t she know that I had ended it yesterday? Darlene is right. It is colder than Siberia in the basement. “Arnie, please. I’m so cold.” I go past the furnace to the storage room. There she is, dead. Just like I left her. So why do I hear her voice?” “Arnie, I’m turning blue. I’m so cold. Let me come back upstairs.” I look at Darlene. She should be blue. I pushed her yesterday but not that hard. She fell and hit her
stupid head. All she has to do is look after me and the house. I work hard. It’s not too much to ask to have a nice home. To have a good meal. So when she asked me I said, no. Why does she have to go to her sister’s all the time? You’d think she’d learn. “Arnie. It was her birthday. I just wanted to see her, that’s all.” That voice. She has to be dead. How come I’m with dead Darlene…AND I CAN STILL HEAR HER DAMNED WHINY VOICE??? “Arnie, you can’t hurt me now. But Arnie, I’m so cold.” What does she think I can do? “Darlene,” I say. “Of course, you’re cold. You’re dead, you stupid woman.” “Arnie. I’m so cold. Arnie. I’m scared and I’m alone.” I turn my back because I’m done. I’m going back upstairs to my bed to sleep. “Arnie, don’t go. You have to stay with me.” I try to walk out. It’s like moving through mud. So slow. Then I can’t move at all. “Darlene, baby. Let me go.” “Arnie, I want you to stay. I’m cold and scared and lonely. You can’t go.” “Let me go get you a blanket.” I forgot what Darlene’s laugh is like but it wasn’t like this. I try to reason with her. Crazy, she’s dead. I couldn’t get through to her when she was alive. “I’ll get you a hot water bottle.” More lunatic laughing. I can’t get it out of my head. I cover my ears. “You can’t go Arnie. I want you to turn up the furnace. Turn it up high.” Stupid woman. The thermostat is upstairs. She lets me move to the furnace. I bend over and pretend to adjust a dial. That damned laughing gets louder… it’sWHOOOOSH! “I’M BURNING. HELP, DARLENE, HELP. I’M SORRY BABY.” The last thing I hear is that crazy laughing and my own dying scream.
LINDA WHITE is a retired teacher who still substitutes teaches. Her other interests include writing, camping, traveling, and her dogs. She currently has the first draft of a mystery almost finished. Visit Linda’s website at www.worfywhite.com.
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Terminus By Anne Britting Oleson What do you do when you've reached the end of the line?
he train station was deserted. How quickly it had emptied! She'd climbed down from the London train, looking around the platform for the map or bus schedule—the one thing she'd grown used to finding on this, her first solo trip, anywhere, ever. She'd arrive at a terminus, find thee posters which directed her onward, and go. Onward. No map. No poster. No information. The voice in her head mocked her. Now, here she was, at the train station from hell: everyone who had alighted—and granted, there weren't many—had been met by family or cabs and had disappeared, leaving her in the blazing July sun on a train platform in the middle of a moor. She tried the waiting room door: locked. The ladies' room: out of order. When, in desperation, she lifted the receiver in the BT callbox, there was no dial tone. Biting her lip, she dragged her suitcase out to the sandy lot behind the station. To her right, trees. To her left, a dirt road snaking away. Nothing else. No one. Ha. What the hell are you going to do now? She felt the panic rising into her throat with the bilious taste of vomit. Nothing. No one. If this were a film, the camera would pull back in its dolly into a wide-angled shot of her lone form, paralyzed with fear and indecision, in the midst of this train-station emtpiness, a small dot in a wide empty world. How could you have made such a stupid mistake? His voice in her head was a slap in the face.
She wanted to cry. If she were home, rather than some 3200 miles away, she would be crying now. Her ex -husband would make sure of it. How could you have missed that? She could hear his sneering voice clearly now. No buses even run on Sundays. How stupid could you be? In his derision, he would pound things, break them, as though every problem could be solved through his manner of brute solution. She would cower. She would apologize. She would cry. Stupid. She clapped her hands now to her ears, trying to fend off his voice. He was out of her life; she wanted him out of her head. She pressed frantically, released. It was when she sucked in a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut that she heard, in the outside silence of the deserted station yard, the warbler. She waited, still holding her breath. Another warbler answered, from somewhere down the dirt road. After a moment the air was alive with birdsong. She was alone; she had made a mistake; and no one was shouting at her. Only birds singing. Slowly she opened her eyes. Beyond the station, the sun dipped to rest on the shoulders of the trees. Her shadow, pulling the misshapen tail which was the suitcase, pointed down the dirt road. Blowing her breath out through her nose, she squared her shoulders and turned to follow it. She did not see the train pull into the station behind her, nor the single man who clambered down onto the platform.
ANNE BRITTING OLESON has been published widely in the US, UK and Canada. She earned her MFA at the Stonecoast program of USM. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (2007) and The Beauty of It (2010). Another book, Counting the Days, is scheduled for release next year. Visit her blog at http://anneboleson.wordpress.com.
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The Pleiades By Dan Delehant
"The Pleiades" tells the story of the loneliest man that ever existed. Perhaps only the pre-Eve Adam knew such intense and impossible solitude.
on’t ask me what happened because I have no idea what happened. I think I was in a coma. I could hear voices but they were vague and indistinct. I could see too. I think my eyes were open but it was as if I were looking out of the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. The view never changed, just alternating periods of distant and indistinct white and inky blackness. This went on for I don’t know how long. Then I noticed the voices suddenly seemed frantic. There was screaming too, I think, and I seem to recall crying. Then there was nothing—just silence and the vague continued passage of light and dark. Then, in the midst of a period of light, a great shudder wracked me. The view from the wrong-end binoculars dissolved. The ceiling of a room came into focus. I blinked several times and turned my head and looked out a window at a gray sky. I was alive! Or was I? Something was dreadfully wrong. There were no people! No bodies, no skeletons, no trace of where they all went, or what happened to them. They were just gone! All of them! There was no television, no radio, no 14 | Twisted Endings March 2013
internet–no electrical power. I kept thinking I was just dreaming, but the days began piling up and I slowly realized that I was not dreaming and this was indeed real; indeed, it was my reality, somehow, some way.
ver the years I grew increasingly desperate for companionship. In rare moments of lucidity I knew I was halfmad. Every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse of myself in some lost magnate’s ornate mirror. What a sight! A swollen-faced, corpulent man wrapped in minks and ermine, swathed in an expansive and flowing domino of rare black silk culled from the catacombs of The Forbidden City. My fingers, fat like swollen and wrinkly sausages, were ringed with untold carats of flawless diamond and gold rings that ensconced the finest Indus rubies and African opals. My locks, long the hue of the Himalayan snows, cascaded down and mingled with the furs in the middle of my back. A solid gold diadem, inlaid with coruscating jewels, adorned my cranium. That crown I gleaned from the secret larder of a dank, long undisturbed room, deep beneath The
Vatican. Its history I uncovered by breaking a glass carapace and reading a notation regarding an ancient papyrus scroll. The crown was serried with adorning Egyptian jewels pilfered centuries ago from a pyramid. I was the unchallenged Post-Modern Pharaoh of an empire never even dreamed of by a Ramses or Alexander. I ruled a kingdom, the vastest by far that ever existed—alas, a kingdom, absurdly devoid of subjects. In the mirrors, the bleary eyes of a disturbed man stared back at me. Me, a sad-hearted and demented potentate, lonelier and loonier than any denizen of now empty and eerily silent Bedlam ever was.
fter many wanderings, and after I crossed the Balkan lands, there, on the overgrown banks of the famed Hellespont my loneliness finally achieved surcease. I came upon an ancient and sacred palace that harbored my salvation–a hoary, coldwalled castle, adjacent to the hillock that once knew the ineffable beauty of Helen of Troy. And, as they did to the now toppled towers of Ilium, the timeless Asiatic waters licked at the castle’s massive stone pedestals. This fortress, a merciful abode of elegant stone whose inhabitants soothed the ague of my solitude and forever ended my misery. There were seven of them, each as lovely as the other–sisters all, long -awaiting their master and savior. Oh how they rejoiced at my arrival. At long last I was done with wandering and loneliness. The Emperor of the World, The Sultan of the Apocalypse, finally had his palace and his harem! The copulations, celebrations, and feasts went on for days delirious, for weeks fervent. The grand palace never knew such protracted passions, such profusions of wafting patchouli and pungent liquid lapis lazuli. I, the Ruler of the wide, round world, the Emperor of the ancient, near-immortal Earth, the High Highness of the Hellespont, spent my invaluable time and energies on the seven beautiful and bewitching sisters–the daughters from the foothills of evermysterious, snow-fogged Ararat. Never had men
or women lusted for such carnal communion and tender closeness as I, or they.
n time I developed a favorite–Salome by name. There was great strife in the palace. My passion for the other sisters diminished, and then dried up completely. My desire and love was now but for Salome. In the high dudgeon of their envy they plotted against her. I had no choice. I had to move against them to save her, for they were exceedingly jealous of her. On a moonless, stygian, Asia Minor night, I took my jewel-encrusted Arabian sword to each of the chambers of the six sisters. I went from room-to-room and with deft strokes of quietus dispatched each in their beds. None offered resistance. It was their fate and they accepted it in resignation and silence. Not a single scream issued from their bloodless lips. Each beauty lie abed, inert and unprotesting, and awaited the stroke of my glistening scimitar. The dark and terrible deed done, I returned to Salome in our bedchamber just as the sun was offering up its brilliant, silent, aubadal beams. There were no witnesses to my evil deeds, for the moon was busy beaming elsewhere about the orb, while the sun was still shrouded behind the walls and spires of old Constantinople, and beyond the still-shadowed waters of the Black Sea, and the Russian steppe that long ago knew the steed-born terror of the marauding and merciless Huns. “They are no more my darling,” I whispered to Salome. “From this moment forward you shall be my one and only queen, chosen by me, the mightiest of Pharaohs, to rule at my side over this entire planet.” Salome said nothing. She looked up at me from our love-bed; she seemed sad and empty. It was time for me to breathe life into her. I reached over and attached the hand pump’s nozzle to my always quiet queen’s metallic valve and performed the chagrining office of once again inflating my rubbery and wrinkly, but soon to be beautiful again, Salome. This would be a morning of monumental love-making.
DANIEL DELEHANT has had stories published in Western New York's The Other Herald Magazine, in Twisted Endings Magazine, and in Alfie Dog Publications in England. He and his wife of thirty years live in Whittier, Ca.
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Reality in the Desert By Rebecca R. Taylor
What began as a holiday get away turned into something Linda and Robert Gladmire never expected.
“You won our awesome adventure package to the Arizona desert. Thank you for entering,” said a man’s voice echoing in Linda Gladmire’s ears. Now, seated on scorching sand, she had no idea where her husband was, or why a camera was hanging from a cactus. “How did we get into this mess? We were supposed to be going to a resort; instead I’m stranded, and feel like I’m being barbecued.” Suddenly, a rabbit hopped closer. It wore a sign that read, “Walk seventy paces forward, turn right, and walk another twenty-three. Don’t look back if you want to see your husband again.” Linda stood up on shaking legs from the blazing heat and lack of water, which almost caused her to faint. But she walked without looking back; she had to find Robert. Robert Gladmire sat in a room with locks everywhere, and a large puzzle covered the walls. A voice kept penetrating the room telling him to solve the puzzle if he wanted out. He and Linda had flown to Arizona and taken a helicopter to their supposed resort. It was a shack in the middle of nowhere. Washing up, he was told he would be taken to the actual resort and that Linda had already left. He felt uneasy but did not know what to do in the middle of barren land with no transportation or cell phone signal. Now, he was 16 | Twisted Endings March 2013
trying to figure out the immense brainteaser and had no idea where his wife of seventeen years was. He looked and saw a camera. Linda arrived at a lean-to on her twenty-third step. A man handed her a shirt and told her to put it on. It read Reality World, The Adventure Finds You. “Where’s Robert? What do you want?” “You won an adventure package. If you meet the demands of the challenges, you will be rewarded; otherwise, you will be punished.” “Why it doesn’t say any of this on the prize application.” “It did in fine print,” and he handed her a copy of her prize form. She looked at the highlighted section, “winners will be asked a skill testing question.” “It says asked a skill testing question and talks about the resort, five star treatment, and delicious meals. I haven’t seen any of that yet. Where is my husband?” “Doing a puzzle.” “What kind of puzzle?” “The skill testing question. You’ll see him in a week if you’re lucky.” “Why are you doing this?” “For our viewers.” “Are the cameras filming us?” “Yes, you’re on reality television.” “We didn’t agree to this. This is criminal. You threatened my husband’s life if I looked back.” “You’d have seen the camera crew and it would have spoiled the stunned look on your face. Maybe threatening was wrong but this is only our second episode, we still have some issues to work out.” “Why don’t you just advertise for contestants, people watch reality television for some reason and people audition for all kinds of crazy things, switching households, eating insects on islands, you name it, someone will be crazy enough to do it.” “We’re still working on it. Now, you have a choice. I get you a drink and you sit and wait for your husband to solve his puzzle, or you can walk forty paces where you’ll find a cheap hotel, its owners are on vacation. If you can create an acceptable three-course meal for eight people then we’ll let your husband out.
Robert’s the chef, not me. I hate cooking but maybe this will this save my husband from the distress he must be in, worried about me, and trying to find a way out, away from these reality lunatics. “What are his chances of solving the puzzle?” “Virtually none.” “I guess I’m cooking.” Linda walked to the hotel where she set to work trying to make an acceptable meal. Many tries and curse words later, a moderately appetizing table set with eight places was on the table. Bruno, her host came in with seven other people and they sat down, Linda stood while the crowd scrutinized her food. “Passable,” said Bruno eventually. He told Linda to get herself a plate and once she had eaten, she walked back to the lean-to where her husband had started kicking holes in the walls. A helicopter landed and took them to a beautiful resort where they stayed for a week. They’d survived their skill test in the desert but decided that there would be no more entering contests without fully understanding the skill-testing question. REBECCA ROSE TAYLOR lives on a farm near the St. Francis River in Quebec. Her recent works have been included in Long Story Short, Barebacklit, The Montreal Review, Dark Fountain Magazine and Perspectives Magazine. When Rebecca isn’t reading or writing, she enjoys knitting, quilting and crocheting. Contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lovely Teeth by Colin W. Campbell Oh listen to this poem, you precious little gem. Your smile is bright, your teeth are white. Pity you don't have more of 'em. Originally from Scotland, today COLIN CAMPELL is ever-so-lucky to be able to divide his year between homes in Sarawak on the lovely green island of Borneo and faraway in Yunnan in southwest China. He writes short fiction and poetry and spends way too much time on www.colincampbell.org and www.shortstory.mobi.
A Day to Remember By Hal O’Leary
A summer morn, a sun beyond compare a stroll to bask and take the summer air. A life reborn, a day extremely rare No soul could ask for anything more fair. So, off I set, not really caring where it was as though I’d never had a care. At ease and yet alive, for unaware I longed to know what waited for me there. On such a day I felt that I could swear that nothing dire could possibly impair my golden ray of hope. I do declare it lit a fire I felt a need to share. But, not to be, for down the sidewalk there appeared a sight that gave me quite a scare. For I could see, and much to my despair, someone at night had scrawled a message there. I knew, of course, it wouldn’t be a prayer or children’s play, and so I’d best prepare myself for coarse and yes, the foulest fare to turn my day into a sad affair. But as I neared I had to stop and stare for on the walk, I saw and do declare. Not what I feared, for there without a flare… In yellow chalk it simply said, “HI THERE.” HAL O'LEARY, as a Secular Humanist, believes that it is only through the arts that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He began his writing career on retiring at age eighty-four and has now been published in thirteen different countries. Hal is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University. It is his only degree, having dropped out of the same institution sixty-four years earlier. Contact Hal at email@example.com.
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Avenged By Vanisha Mistry They say revenge is a dessert best served cold but an abusive husband finds that revenge can be hot, too.
y mind immediately went blank. He couldn’t possibly be the killer. My sister’s death wasn’t an accident. Whoever killed her did it on purpose. How could it be him? I must admit my sister, Sam, stupidly got married to a thug. Jason was like all the others who lived in the darker part of Brooklyn—morose and poor. On the other hand, Sam was the complete opposite; gracious and rich. We lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We partied with the richest people in the country, shopped at the most expensive top of the line boutiques and went to state-of-the-art private schools. I’m not quite sure how she managed to get mixed up with such a lowlife. Even our brother was appalled she’d gotten involved with someone so shady. My father died on Sam’s wedding day. He attempted to stop her from marrying the lowlife scumbag, but she refused to listen. After all, she was in love with him. My father couldn’t bear to see her walk down the aisle; she was giving herself way to this moron for an eternity. I remember my father’s exact words, “The day you marry this lowlife, will be the day I die.” And he wasn’t kidding. On
that day my father died of a heart attack and my brother refused to talk to or see Sam after the incident. He was more furious than my mother was; I don’t condemn my mother for blaming Sam for my father’s death, but my sister had finally found love again after years of misery. How could her happiness cause them to be so upset? The police told me she was stabbed repeatedly and left to bleed to death. I don’t understand how he could do that to her. He loved her so much. How could he be so angry to leave her dead, in her apartment for her husband to find? Jason couldn’t take the pain of seeing the one he loved in such a state, so he took his own life to be with her again. Sam had spent years mourning over the end of her relationship with her first love. He had left her after being together for six years. He told her that he loved her, but had to leave her because he’d met another woman (whom he claimed was his soul mate). She was torn apart. My brother tried to help her by telling her that, “good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” She didn’t believe him till she met that scumbag, Jason, from Brooklyn. My brother hated seeing Sam with him. Sam stopped needing my brother’s support all the time. She had found someone else to lean on. He detested that she relied on someone so revolting instead of someone who was well respected in our society. He felt all of my fathers’ anger and disappointment. She was ruining the stature of our family and he loathed that. My brother said he’d do anything in his power to end this-- and he did.
VANISHA MISTRY is currently an Economics and Finance student at University. She has a driving passion for writing, music and soccer. Vanisha loves to read because it's a great escape from reality, while writing gives her the opportunity to help others escape from reality.
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Lament By Elena Lelia Radulescu "What does it mean to dream of your own body slowly changing into a seed?" my mother asked, pain growling at her thighs like wolves on wintry nights. "And what does it mean to touch rich, dark soil with your bare hands?" she wondered, arms resting on bed pillows, fingers thin, silvery shine, all stains of life removed from flesh and skin. How can I, a poor interpreter of dreams, translate her words and signs, when only yesterday I bought her pine wood casket?
ELENA LELIA RADULESCUâ€™S poetry and short stories have been published by Trajectory Journal, Mutabilis Press Anthology, Visions International, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Karamu, Square Lake Review, Calyx Journal, Chelsea Review, Romanian Literary Review and other publications. Contact Elena at Elena.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Published on Mar 16, 2013