1.Harvest Dance Macabre on the Kitchen Counter by Ruth Weinstein
2.Voodoo Lily and Doll by Ruth Weistein
3. FAVORITE SONG by Luke Ramer
4. Reunion by Luke Ramer
5. Next Life by Luke Ramer
6.Dark is your loneliness in a crowd by Jean-Louis Trudel
7. Theater of the Helpless Beasts by Alexander Zelenyj
8. EPICEDIUM By Marlene Fabian Stiles
9. Just Take It Easy, I’m Here to Help by Todd Sullivan
10. Bloodlust by Solape Adetutu Adeyemi
11. #300,000 by Solape Adetutu Adeyemi
12. This Space by Solape Adetutu Adeyemi
13. Resounding by Cassandra M Lawton
14. Savoir Complex by Cassandra M Lawton
15. Five Slashes by Elizabeth Davis
16. Windwitch by Marcy S Wood
17.From the editor
Harvest Dance Macabre on the Kitchen Counter by Ruth Weistein
The purple bell peppers, though royal in color, refuse to dance. Stolid and blocky, they are Hapsburg chins unto themselves and exercise their prerogative by declining a pas de deux with slender orange frying peppers.
Large San Marzano tomatoes chaperone the Indigo Roses, wild with apple green, deep purple and passionate orange-red in one dress, and their suitors, ardent green Anaheim chilies.
They dance to rhythms born in the head of Dave Brubeck in the last century, played by the fruit flies’ flurry near the compost bucket. They all dance night and day, pushing lemons and garlic out of the way, fanning themselves with basil branches, awaiting the next tune, kaleidoscoping
colors when Kali-ma sashays in, kicking butt and calling the tunes, her four blue arms doing port de bras in the cardinal directions. “This is no dance craze,” she mouths. “This dance has stood the test of time, and everybody dances, no exceptions.”
The Hapsburg peppers sway in time to the crashing cymbals, still stolid but with surprising grace. The cherry tomatoes—which had watched the party in their safe little bowl far across the counter from leering gash-mouthed pumpkins ablaze with lechery— begin to hop and twirl, waving stems furiously.
In each one enough seeds for new universes get ready to burst when Kali-ma says “Go!” In the end only the fruit flies remain, playing on until the next go round, billions of years in one gardening cycle.
Voodoo Lily and Doll by Ruth Weistein
Voodoo lilies—the name pricks at the inner fetish and shivers the spine even on a hot October morn.
I, merely the setter of the scene, not director of this chilling scenario so near to Halloween, have dug the earthy brown tubers for sharing.
See the pink apex of the bulb, tiny and innocent as the tip of a black kitten’s tongue, but portending a horror of a plant that sends a dark-red spathe rank as death, drawing buzzing flies to its fleurs du mal. Or the Amorphophallus alba pallid as a wraith.
But fear not; it will not bloom in your garden yet, but must grow large and benefit from a mild winter or be grown in a pot inside. Next summer it will grace your yard with parasols of leaves, making a low, shady canopy to hide evidence of foul deeds: bodies of grass snakes, skinks, a songbird or two.
I see your shady yard is lacking something, a bit of art or ornament. I have just the thing from a walk by the river.
Following the grinding sound of machines, I descended the mountain to the river where the blades of oblivion dug from the dry river bed scoops of earth and placed the red soil on the rocky road bed, scraped ten feet down in forty years. I walked along the berm—a brave attempt to channel water—and saw a doll head in the road and disinterred it to carry it home for proper burial.
Once a beloved baby doll, which on its many exhumations and reinterments, met with the tailoring skills of Herr Doktor Frankenstein, it was now far from home, lost forever. I planted its round head with staring eyes shoulder deep among the umbrellas of shade, the leafy tops of voodoo fronds.
Ruth Weinstein is an octogenarian organic gardener who has lived a back-to-the-land lifestyle with her husband in the Arkansas Ozarks for forty-six years.
Her poetry has been published in print and online journals. Her ten-poem collection The Legendary Tomatoes of New Jersey is the third-place winner of the 2022 Miriam Rachimi Micro Chapbook Poetry Prize, published by Poetic Publishing. In February 2020, Stockton University Press (Galloway, N.J.) published BACK TO THE LAND: ALLIANCE COLONY TO THE OZARKS IN FOUR GENERATIONS, a family history and memoir of her first eighteen years.
Ruth is also a textile artist, working in various media.
by Luke Ramer
Someone recently asked me
What’s your favorite song?
But I can’t name just one
But then I’m driving
Wind in my hair
Knife on my lap
And a song I love comes on the radio
Heavy guitars and dreamy synthesize
And I realize
It’s not just the song
It’s the memory you associate
That’s what makes it special
I glance in the rearview
At the two college girls near the end of their life
Their drunken hair blowing in the wind and dew
And I stroke my knife
I crank the radioThis is my favorite song.
Reunion by Luke Ramer
It’s a crisp orange evening and the highway never ends but it reminds me of our road trips together
The flowers I brought for the occasion are purple and pretty and reek of lavender, just like you
The fading sun reminds me of making love to you in crystal blue waters of the Caribbean
I arrive at a creaky rusted gate as the murky night shuffles all the color from the sky
I walk slowly and the only sounds are the leaves, crickets, and occasional ghost
I find your marble stone beneath the romantic shadows of a towering oak
My wrinkled hands tremble but my shovel is swift and determined
The loose earth piles up and I see your wooden sleeping box
I crack it open with a crowbar and whiff your perfume
Inside it’s dusty and cold, but I am with you at last
You’re only bones, but I see you like the past
A mischievous smile and beautiful ass
We kiss, and I taste our memories
We fuck, and I take you home
Because I don’t mind
If you’re only
by Luke Ramer
Living is nothing but a dead-end job
And after shooting up one night
I was fine
Leaving the whole thing behind
I woke up dead a while later
Wandered and found a pack
And we roamed together
Watched each other’s back
I kinda liked this life after death
This being undead
No one spoke, nothing left to be said
No worry, No Monday morning dread
As we hunted the desolate streets
The remaining humans got smart
Discreet, they boarded up
Barricaded and slowed our horde up
But we broke their barriers, enjoyed our feasts
Their sweet brains and tender meats
We all shuffled our feet
Moved as one giant beast
It felt good to fit in
Maybe I’d enjoy this next life…
But time drags on endlessly
And humans become harder to score
As the pack grows daily
I barely recognize it anymore
I just want to sleep
But the hunger won’t leave me be
It’s like heroin
Only I can’t get enough to OD
One day I move on
Not that any of them care
I wander, alone
Starving, widdled to bone
Hunting for flesh
As my own body decays
Worse than it did in my human days
I’m damned to this fate again
Life and Death, Beginning and End
This whole thing is a sham
I’ve been misled, fooled, robbed…
Death is nothing but another dead-end job
And I’m ready to punch out
I stumble to a freeway overpass
High as a rollercoaster
I make sure to drop head-first
My brains need to burst
As I fall
I hope this is the end of it all
But if there is another life to slog through
I hope it’s better than the last two…
Luke Ramer is an award-winning filmmaker and podcaster who lives in Northeast, Pennsylvania with his family. He created and writes for Dark Fiction Factory.
A father who is still young at heart, Luke also live streams video games on Twitch. He is a huge fan of the Caribbean, NFL football, and philosophy.
His poems where first featured at: https://www.darkfictionfactory.com/
Dark is your loneliness in a crowd by Jean-Louis Trudel
They will come to unchain, a fearsome legion of many breeds
leading space fleets of freebooters or mercenaries
against those like you who relish interstellar thuggery
and craft new forms of sentient slavery
turning biology into forced servitude,
finding joy in the suffering of exquisitely remade flesh,
and programming kindness without an end or limit
(true thralls give gladly, their joy brighter
even as they exhaust their essence)
Among the stars, you never sought to amass
a treasure of gold bars or clever machinery,
for matter raw or rearranged is too common,
sucked from a star's helpless corona
or assembled by untiring mites into mechanical aids—
plunder must suffer to be worth your raids
Enslaved beings must think, feel, and weep
to prove a master's mastery:
atoms and molecules are not proud
they submit wordlessly to become instruments,
there is no thrill in cowing them, unlike sentients
who retort: "We will not bow; this is not allowed."
The unslavers move from star to star
seeking those like you who believe in natural hierarchies
setting soft, smelly flesh above clean and brittle ceramics
ordering a world's sentients by hair colour,
genital geometry, sex or gender,
enforcing authority with unclothed power
Fleets may be turned back or held in check,
but a single ship may still defeat algorithmic thievery
or outwit the brute deviousness of your novert trickery,
the righteous fight with many weapons and in many shapes,
they neither boast nor apologize
they know the weak smile because they must
and the strong snarl because they can—
but to face the world as a blank is to hope
The vainglory of your sway over others will not last,
it cannot even beat down the banal poetry of petty loves
and the beguilement of living life as light as a feather,
flitting from bad choice to worst choice as long as they lack consequence:
decision is heavy only for those weighted down by your chains
It is said they will come in anger,
to bring ease to the oppressed
and loneliness to their erstwhile masters
For their foes will be sentenced to life solitary,
minds transferred into the very bodies they despised and used—
as familiar as the flesh of a companion sex,
to learn to grow and bleed,
to be desired without being asked to desire
as unfamiliar as the metal limbs and optronic senses of former servants
to grasp with bewilderingly exact fingers
and see the full-spectrum world with sensitive hair
as alien as organisms once subordinated unknowingly
ignored and trampled, cut down and stripped of their bark,
to slither, or march with trumpets,
or merge with warm, moist thoughts of deep mycelium
to achieve a reckoning of accounts
with those who refused to name them or even see them
Their foes given painless new guises will be told: "You will never be alone"—
though they will meet no one they knew
Bars and chains do not a prison make, just as their absence is no mercy:
waiting forever to see someone who cared and loved you
(briefly, or as long as a night that faded into grey dawn)
waiting so long that you forget their face and voice, and wonder—
if they came unrecognized
waiting—mad for a kind word or a shared memory,
until you would kill to be hurt by someone who cared enough to hate you
Such is your doom, to be stranded among strangers,
since you could not be kind to your own
— — —
Jean-Louis Trudel has been writing and publishing science-fiction mostly in French but sometimes in English, since 1984. He is the author of about thirty books, over a hundred short stories, many book reviews, some historical essays, and several translations. His poem “Summer Encroaching, Winter Yielding” was a nominee for the 2022 Rhysling Award (short poem category). Other poems have appeared in _Polar Borealis_ and a Canadian anthology.
Theater of the Helpless Beasts by Alexander Zelenyj
Are we even men anymore?
Jim sees the thing—it used to be Matthew Colling, corporal—slithering like a snake through the elephant grass,
jagged bones spearing forth where spindly legs once whispered the man warily through the bush, eyes every compass direction at once (the best point-man a platoon could want)
A dog-keening and a monkey-braying now splutters on and on from its bleeding mouth
Will it reach their foxhole; another landmine; paradise Above; inferno Below?
Jim turns to watch what was once his friend, Private Lance McCall, fellow Kingston, Ontarian:
It strides bold as a lion into the fray,
M14 spitting fire to send sniping shadows falling in the deep green gulfs
Jim sees the eyes in the familiar, cork-smeared mask,
and they belong to no man at all,
gazing outward from bottomless Morning Star
The ghost of another comes back to Jim:
His CO—what was his name? I’ve buried it too deep; it belonged to the man, not to what he became—in the village they’d marched through en route to this very site of ambush, savage and preordained like a Biblical prophecy waiting to be loosed upon them, the wicked;
that man likewise subsumed inside the Something Else, into the animal skin,
and this beastman taking the innocent one—his chosen; his sacrificial village virgin—at dagger-point, into the jungle, into the realm ruled by cruel kingbeasts
And her ghost: hers will haunt Jim more strongly than all
A scream from down the line stirs Jim (just more death, pal, relax; just another firefly blown out)
He clenches his eyes, bites off the prayer that comes reflexively, as common these days as cheap cigarettes and snapshots from the world you left behind
But when he looks again he’s still helpless in his hole,
And so, because he must, he goes over the top
to join the wild dance of beasts
they’ve all become
But why must I?
The Jim-thing wonders, even as it unleashes the godpower of its gun,
growing this ghostland’s population of spectres
Do I go because my order-barking Lieutenant wills it,
or do I obey a voice in the deepest heart of me,
bidding me be what I am?
What we’ve always been?
Alexander Zelenyj is a Canadian author known for his cross-genre work in the areas of horror, science fiction and fantasy. His books include the short fiction collections, Blacker Against the Deep Dark (Eibonvale Press, 2018), Songs for the Lost (2014 Eibonvale Press; digital edition 2016 Independent Legions Publishing), Experiments At 3 Billion A.M. (2009, Eibonvale Press), the poetry collection, Ballads to the Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics of the Deathray Bradburys (2014, Eibonvale Press), and others. HIS most recent book, These Long Teeth of the Night: The Best Short Stories 1999-2019, is a compendium of his short fiction published by Fourth Horseman Press.
For a more comprehensive bibliography please feel free to visit his website at alexanderzelenyj.com.
EPICEDIUM by Marlene Fabian Stiles
Attracted by stale Halloween candy,
Vagabond Death appears on my doorstep
Flashing a sheepish wolf’s grin.
His black, horsehair robe is dustier than last year and threadbare.
A bright calico sack tied to a hickory pole is slung over his bony shoulder.
Sometimes the sack squirms.
Four years ago he stole my favorite cat and I have never forgiven him.
Death leers, leaning into my face.
His eyes are dark pools drowning in mystery,
His black hole of a nose exudes the foul stench of a maggot-infested skunk.
His voice is humble. “Can you spare a sandwich? I’ll work for food.”
Fumbling in my pocket, I find a dollar and press it into his white-boned hand.
His fingernails are long and slightly curved, almost delicate.
I doubt he’s ever done a day’s work.
“Bless you.” His grin broadens and he swings his sack over his shoulder,
Ambling down the street toward the next house.
Coughing, I shut my door and set the deadbolt lock.
All that night I am racked by rancid breath oozing over abscessed teeth
As Death reappears in my dreams
And smoothes a black silk handkerchief over my face,
Smothering my scream.
Come morning I am spitting up yellow phlegm.
By the end of a bedridden week I have lost ten pounds.
Eventually breathing in and breathing out becomes less of a torture.
I can’t clearly recall the touch of Death’s icy fingers
Or his putrefying halitosis until
A dust cloud swells at the end of the road.
My heart palpitates as a black hooded figure turns the corner.
It is only the neighbor walking his dog.
Death has no doubt spent his dollar on cheap beer and moved on
Until the same time next year.
Marlen Fabian Stiles writes in multiple genres including horror, and will be publishing a novella “The Time of the Valkyrie,” the story of a soldier haunted by his buddy’s ghost as he struggles to keep a guilty secret. Another soon to be published novella, “Grimalkin and the Sith Cat” is the misadventure of a woman and her cat trying to outwit the death cat of Irish legend.
She has co-authored a science fiction novel, “Moon Life,” that explores the Unintended Consequences of discovering an extraterrestrial life form that holds the key to immortality.
Just Take It Easy, I’m Here to Help by Todd Sullivan
Just take it easy, I’m here to help
Your eyes gifting sight, I’ll carve those out
Your cries go hoarse, and soon sound dim
Your feet that trekked, and took you far
From womb to grave, I’ll chop those off
Just take it easy, I’m here to help
And then your hands, that built that house
Through constant work, I’ll grind them down
Your pointless screams, will soon go hoarse
For that brave heart, which saw you through
Times that wore, I’ll dig that out
Just take it easy, I’m here to help
That brain of yours, that figured out
The best way forward, I’ll dice that up
Your shouts and pleas, will soon sound dim
There’s no other way, for you to ascend
Your voice now hoarse, will soon sound dim
Just take it easy, I’m here to help
Todd Sullivan currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he teaches English as a Second Language. He has had more than two dozen short stories, poems, essays, and novelettes published across five countries. He currently has two book series through indie publishers in America. He writes for a Taipei web and play series that focuses upon black and African narratives. He founded the online magazine, Samjoko, in 2021, and hosts a YouTube Channel that interviews writers across the publishing spectrum.
Bloodlust by Solape Adetutu Adeyemi
I stare at my hands
Stained liberally with blood
I didn’t mean to kill her
I honestly didn’t
How can one kill who one loves
I do not know what came over me
An urge, a force that took over my hands
And apparently my senses
A rage that possessed me,momentarily
I found myself cutting her open
Slaughtering her like a ram
I keep telling the law enforcement officers, it’s the Devil
This is not the first time we’ll be having a disagreement
So I cannot explain why I killed my wife, my love
My love, tender and mild
My heart is heavy
My soul is grieving
A part of me tries to deny this cold blooded murder
But my hands say different
Her cold, mutilated body says different
#300,000 by Solape Adetutu Adeyemi
Her tummy kept rumbling
She was so hungry
Indeed their poverty was grinding
She wondered at how to get money
What could generate money to feed
Her eyes alighted on her children playing
Her eyes shone with excitement
Her heartbeat quickened
Yes, she finally had the answer
To her solve her problems right before her
Her kids! They were sellable!
She made the connect
And sold her children, her flesh and blood
Her bundles of joy, literally
For 300,000 thousand naira
A whole lot of money, she thought
That would solve her problems now
And the problems hereafter!
What to tell hubby?
She’d cross the bridge upon getting there, joor!
Afterall, there’s nothing new under the sun
And so the deal was struck
Her kids handed to whom she wist not
For the price was right, she wist thought
This Space by Solape Adetutu Adeyemi
We are many
So very many
You cannot count us
We, the uninvited guests
In this space
We cannot be dislodged
In fact, we seek to dislodge you
And take over
What you think…is your space
Solape Adetutu Adeyemi is an avid reader and creative writer. She is an award winning writer with published articles in the following magazines and journals; Lagosmetro TV, Writenow literary journal, Upwrite magazine, Poetry marathon and Lullaby of Silence anthology. In addition , she is the treasurer of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos chapter.
She has certifications in Movie production and Script writing from the Lagos Film School. She is also a voice over artiste.
Solape has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and a Masters in Environmental management in which she made a distinction.
She has over thirteen years experience in FMCG in the following capacities: Quality assurance, Admin and HR.
Resounding by Cassandra M Lawton
It is dark and my back is pressed
against knotty pine boards.
I can’t sit up. I am forced to lie
down and remember.
I feel with only my hands.
My fingers bleed as I dig
at the lid—the wood splintering
into my hands as I try
to break the boards above.
Moist soil rains down,
threatening to bury me
and I stop fighting.
Instead, I feel and my finger
brushes a string, thin and innocent
and I pull it taunt. Pull it tightly.
20 feet above, a bell rings
but no one answers.
I try once more.
The bell rings
Savoir Complex by Cassandra M Lawton
I’ve been dreaming
of people dying,
though it’s not always
it was a friend—a hand
bent back until torn,
red smothering bone,
ligament, and tendon.
panged an echo of memory,
my thread luring skin back
I am reform.
it was a lover—head thudded
on a countertop
and he was displayed
in a storefront,
the price tag too low.
When thread isn’t enough, I use
my own skin.
Telling myself, I’ll heal someday,
but they need me now.
I am restoration.
it was a grandma—struggling
to stand for the bus.
When they struggle, I force
them up with stints
made of my bones
and glue their eyelids back on.
They thank me with empty
They call me savoir,
I am assailant.
Cassandra Lawton is a student in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. With a Master’s in social work and an MFA, she researches the healing benefits of creative writing in therapeutic and community spaces. She has served as the Assistant Editor, and later, Editor-In-Chief of Jenny Magazine. She has fiction published in Bridge: The Bluffton Literary Journal and Rubbertop Review, nonfiction published in Entropy and Anomaly, and poetry published in Volney Road Review.
By Elizabeth Davis
It’s the same wake up
and count all the damage. Is
the fact you can’t remember a
Part of the curse or just a
Rare mercy from the wolf-bitten? You
Stare at the mirror counting your
Recent scars. Hoping it wasn’t too bad
Before you turn on the news. Was it you
Or some one else? Those two missing hikers
Found bones jutting from rotten clothes.
You reflection fractures back at you as you
Try to muster up contrition. But there none.
Five grooves leaving so many cracks over
To the very edge. From the first night was
It just the flailing from a body
Twist and shout into myth or your nightself
Telling a truth that that the dayself will
Ignore. Bruth their bloody teeth and
Close the door no longer thinking about
What happens after they return at
peace with their own monsters
Elizabeth Davis is a second generation writer living in Dayton, Ohio.
They live there with her spouse and two cats – neither of which have
been lost to ravenous corn mazes or sleeping serpent gods. they can be
found at deadfishbooks.com when they aren’t busy creating beautiful
nightmares and bizarre adventures.Their work can be found at Illumen1, and All Worlds Wayfarer, and Sci Fi Lampoon.
Windwitch by Marcy S Wood
In the high plains desert of the Colorado plateau,
A tumbleweed, young and tender, wears a spring
green crown with blood red veins. From cadaverous
branches grows a globe of tiny gold flowers,
hummed by a cadre of salt flat gnats.
Baked under the sun’s oven, grit laden dust
devils from red rock basins break her dessicate
body. A tangle of spider-web sticks, she
wraps the crossroads of post-rail barbed wire.
Abused and broken, her sheathed pods open,
spreading seedlings across rock and arroyo.
In dark cracked mud the resting remains root.
Marcy S. Wood, MA, loves teaching yoga, and hiking the Colorado Rockies. She was nominated for the AWP Intro Journals project for 2022, and published in Eucalyptus and Rose Lit Magazine. She writes with a wooly Bern-Newfie at her feet.
It is Spring here in the Southern Hemisphere, and Halloween meets the creeping heat. But spooky season is upon us all as fans of the strange and unusual, and like the entries in this issue, any environment can create a sense of fear, or wonder. Once again it has been a delight to showcase poetry which is out of the ordinary, I hope you have enjoyed reading the fantastic and unsettling vignettes featured as much I enjoyed platforming them.