“Under Neon Light” by Daniel Harrison

In a bar where a flickering cocktail sign lends respite to weary travellers, a man sits and he watches his world burn. His fingers are calloused and lead into taut, scarred forearms. Decades of barbed hooks and fishing lines have made his skin a battlefield rubbed raw by saltwater. He wears heavy rubber boots and a woolen sweater. His thick hair tumbles out from beneath a beanie that once might have been red. An anchor’s voice drones from a staticky TV, mounted high on the wall. The man’s hollow eyes settle on long, panning shots of a coastline: grey seawater, thin waves, the shadows of a harbour. Now the camera zooms in on a column of billowing smoke. Behind that, a boat sinking as flames tear its metal and wooden flesh. The man’s chapped lips and pockmarked cheeks do not move, even as the anchor says that there is a person inside. His mouth is dry, but he is not drinking. Not yet. He wants sober regret, before searching for his reason at the bottom of a glass. Or maybe he will find his reason in the glowing sign above the bar, where men like him have sought answers to the ghosts that chase them inside. But the man knows his reason will soon be at the bottom of the harbour, entombed in the boat where he spent his life. Where his father showed him the world, one he can no longer leave, and passed on his scars for the man to hide, as travellers hide in the neon light of cocktail signs.


DANIEL HARRISON is a young writer and poet from Calgary, Canada. His work has been published in Blank Spaces magazine, and he has self-published a short chapbook of poetry. Daniel is currently enrolled in the English program at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.

“Labyrinths” by Sophie Gazarian

Lily builds mazes in her dreams. When she’s awake, she draws them with colouring pencils on sheets of loose-leaf paper.

Her parents pay little attention to their child’s strange hobby until they notice rooms and passageways appearing in their house that weren’t there before. Her mother finds a door behind the washing machine that leads to a dark, never-ending corridor. When Lily’s father goes down to the basement, there are twice as many steps as usual and they lead into the back garden.

Her father finds a sheaf of drawings tucked in one of Lily’s colouring books and connects the dots. He’s unnerved, but Lily is a well-mannered girl otherwise, so he gently asks her to keep her mazes to paper only and leave real buildings alone. She’s going to hurt someone, he warns. Lily agrees and continues to draw her labyrinths in private, creating new rooms with trapdoors and hidden entrances.

When Lily is thirteen, a middle-aged man sees her walk home from school from the doorway of a run-down pizza parlour. He follows several paces behind her, watching with delight at the way her body sways with every step. 

Lily takes a left into an alleyway the man’s never seen before. She then takes a right through a door that materializes in the brickwork. She jogs down a flight of stairs that appear before her and lead into an underground tunnel. The man pays no attention to these anomalies, so absorbed is he in his pursuit. He follows Lily as closely as he can but he’s soon out of breath as it becomes harder to keep up with her. Lily turns another corner and disappears from view.

“What on earth…?” the man says as he comes face to face with a dead end and no one else in sight.

And then the walls close in on him.


SOPHIE GAZARIAN is an emerging writer from Montreal. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University and an MA in Library and Information Science from McGill. She is a member of the Quebec Writers’ Federation.

‘Midnight Inferno’ by Suzanne Johnston

The last time I struck a match, I lit the sky on fire. Up, up, up galloped the pillows of smoke, stacked on top of each other like scorched marshmallows. The flames slithered up the barn walls and nicked the rafters. Embers rained down like shooting stars, feeding the fire that ripened as it borrowed oxygen from the crisp midnight air.

I opened the milk house door to get a closer view of the inferno in the barn’s belly. Two mice scampered out like adulterers, clutching their fur against their naked bodies, choosing the cold rather than risk perishing in this firestorm I’d ignited.

My pores began to unbutton from the heat. I stood back, watching the blaze from the bend in the driveway. I shoved my hands in my fleece-lined pockets, felt my heart chop in two as flames etched yellow streaks into the cracked windows that heaved like winded lungs.

I hadn’t wanted to burn the barn. But it was coming down, with or without my help. Over the years, strong winds had blown boards and shingles across the yard in a mystifying and deadly swirl of debris. I worried a fire in the summer, with the grass daring to light just from the sun’s heat, would eventually toast the barn and take the homestead with it. So, I picked the coldest night in January and doused my childhood barn in kerosene.

A giant ball of flame erupted through the roof, pummeling the night with its fist. The gas cans I’d sculpted into a funeral pyre had triggered the blast. One last big bang ripped through the barn’s innards and flung them out its empty window frames. Its crippled walls kneeled to the earth like captured fathers at war.

Close to dawn, the barn drew its last breath and folded inward.

A smoldering heap reduced to charred limbs.

The heavy, grey clouds snowed ash that morning while I dug through the rubble with my shovel, pounding down glowing embers peeking out from their funeral shrouds of white.

 


SUZANNE JOHNSTON is a writer and marketing professional from Calgary, Alberta. She writes risk-taking short and novel-length fiction for adults, drawing inspiration from her prairie roots. She is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Broken Pencil and FreeFall.

Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Johnston. All rights reserved.

‘Like a Spore’ by Larissa Andrusyshyn

Marisol scrolls through the appointment list and marks the scheduled patients who have checked in. The waiting room is already full. On Thursdays, the doctors have both appointments and walk-in hours. Doctor Lamarche is twenty minutes late, and all the wait times will be pushed back even more than usual. She knows there will be grumbling, and breaths let out in front of her in long, angry hisses. Doctor Lamarche is a man of shiny teeth and strong cologne who expects that the ‘front of house business’ be kept from him. He has no idea what Marisol faces every day while he prods their wounds and presses his stethoscope to their chests. How people cough open-mouthed right into her face, that meth heads trying to score painkillers sit in the waiting room picking their sores, that she must handle, label, and package for transfer all the samples the doctor takes: urine, blood, cyst and every manner of removable flesh that awaits the news as to whether it is malignant or benign. That people line up despite the sign that says, “The reception staff cannot estimate the wait time” and demand to know how long the wait will be. How she sits, desperate for a minute of silence between phone calls, and patients who complain about the wait, complain about the walk-in hours, complain about the fact that the next available appointment with a specialist is months away. How the germs, diseases and rat sightings seem to grow more frequent and proximate. How she googles air purifiers and pandemics on her lunch break, sure that she’s seen patient zero hunched in the waiting room shaking. How she rubs hand sanitizer into her palms over and over like a salve. How she feels like a membrane, see-through like a snailfish she saw once in a documentary about life in the deepest part of the ocean. How every day she is becoming something translucent, shell-less and drifting.

Larissa … poetry has been shortlisted for ARC Magazine’s Poem-of-the-Year, the 3 Macs Carte Blanche Award and the CBC Poetry Prize. Larissa’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Feathertale Review and Maisonneuve Magazine. Currently, Larissa is working on a new manuscript of poems but taking breaks to write fiction. Larissa facilitates creative writing workshops in Montreal.

 


LARISSA ANDRUSYSHYN‘s poetry has been shortlisted for ARC Magazine’s Poem-of-the-Year, the 3 Macs Carte Blanche Award, and the CBC Poetry Prize. Larissa’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Feathertale Review and Maisonneuve Magazine. Currently, Larissa is working on a new manuscript of poems but taking breaks to write fiction. Larissa facilitates creative writing workshops in Montreal.

Copyright © 2020 by Larissa Andrusyshyn. All rights reserved.

 

‘Lucky Black Boy’ by P.T. Russell

Shrieking wails, carried by the churning wind above, deafens me as the darkness steals my sight.

The ocean water is warm and murky. Its salty froth burns my nostrils and stings my eyes. I am surrounded by haunting voices inside and outside of my throbbing head. It’s too loud. I can’t think. All of my waning energy is spent on breathing in the briny air and swimming for my life. My arms claw through debris and foam while my battered body moves with the surging waves, protesting against the shifting current. The evil tempest wants to pull me out to sea, out to my death. My legs are numb—one must be broken but they kick with a fury I cannot explain.

I will live and not die. Not tonight.

“Swim! Swim!”

Desperate shouts behind urge me to keep going, not to look back, that I’m going the right way. But the further I swim the sadder I become. My home is gone, so is my mother and baby brother. The black water rushed in and took them away.

My throat burns because I swallowed some of the wicked water. Someone like me pushed my head down into it. I struggled to keep them off but they were screaming for help and they couldn’t swim. I saw the hood of a car, maybe white or grey, that swayed back and forth under the water. The floods had gobbled it too.

My uncle beats them off with a piece of plywood and tells me again to keep going. For a moment, I use their limp body to rest but they start sinking and the painful fight against the water is back on.

The storm is fierce and mean: it strips away your spirit, soul and self-respect.

It’s getting harder to breathe and swim and live… My muscles are giving up but my mind wills them to move. The rope tied around my waist connects me to my uncle. He is all I have now. Another big gust of wind rips out of the night sky and hurles us over the steepled rooftop of a weeping church.

Where is God?

My whole town is buried underwater.

Will there ever be other children and games of marbles in the sand?

My friends have probably sunk to the bottom by now.

Can they see me?

Are they proud?

I’m swimming for them too.

Uncle is wheezing, he is swimming slower and slower; his growling shouts have become sputtering whispers. He’s coughing up the black water. I know he is tired, his head must be aching. Our ceiling fell on top of him and burst it open, while I hid beneath his belly.

He can’t keep up anymore and I need to check on him. But before I can turn to him, he tells me to keep going, that he’s ok…

I can go faster now, I have a second wind; there’s a light bleaching the darkness up ahead. I believe they can help me and my uncle.

I can’t hear him anymore and most of the screams around me have also stopped. My body glides ahead easily through the bouncy waves. My good uncle untied the rope. I guess he is finally free.

I should give up too, so I can be with my family. I can hug my mother and kiss my brother and run barefoot on the hot dirt roads, racing with my friends. I always won. They always said my legs used to spin like a bicycle wheel. But my uncle’s voice is pounding in my head. It speaks louder in death than it did in life. It scolds me like a warning and I have to listen.

The light is closer but I am still afraid. There are so many bodies floating around me and I will have to crawl over them. Everyone looks like me, blackened by the shadows of the ugly night. They are faceless but we are all the same. We are all dead.

I swallow more water and choke. I fight to keep my head up but it’s impossible because the wind is beating down hard. An angry tornado swoops in, whipping over the water. Bodies, including mine, are snatched up and thrown through the air…

The booming winds bring a scary silence as it spins me like a wooden top. Dizziness, then the blackness takes me whole.

My back and side hurt.

Does this mean that I’m alive?

I land on top of a capsized boat; it drifts in the wasteland of what used to be a marina. I jump off the boat and catch the metal railing of the building it slams into; just before the broken vessel washes out into the ocean. I hold onto the railing with jelly arms and a strong leg. The wet rail turns into melting lard—I lose my grip and my wrinkled fingers open as I fall.

“I have come for you,” the water declares with its greedy mouth.

I close my eyes because my strength has long gone. It is my turn to leave this world. Time was short for me and the storm takes young and old.

Mother’s sweet brown face smiles down on me. My hands reach up for her.

We finally meet again…

The woman who catches me before I die is not my mother— she was a strict teacher from primary school. She pulls me up into her arms and brings my head to rest on her warm bosom.

She whispers in my clogged ear, “You are one lucky black boy.”

 


P.T. RUSSELL is a Canadian resident from The Bahamas, who has recently resumed the gratifying art form of storytelling. She is currently working on short stories, flash fiction, screenplays and also hopes to shoot a short film in the near future.

Copyright © 2020 by P.T. Russell. All rights reserved.

 

‘Highly Evolved Creatures Talk to Me’ by James Finost

Stepping off the blurry edge of town, first through the corn-filled meadows, then an untouched wilderness, twisted maple forests, pristine rivers—where do they run to?—shallow canyons, shores of salt lakes—half a continent of scenery at least, all passes in a matter of hours and then—sand. And then that’s all there is. Hundreds of years of walking sand. Wandering endless bleached earth. You could drown in it. Wherever the other side is, only the creatures can say.

What do they say? “I know a place you can go.”

Water burns, though it isn’t water, from the canteen to my lips down my throat through my arteries, unrelenting poison, memories of being able to black anything out by numbing the hours with the next round and the next. Where is the darkness now? A day that never relents to night, allows decades to crawl on by.

I take desperate sleep under a sun that doesn’t move, doesn’t blister my skin. This heat could peel the shell off a tortoise, but no burns come to my arms or feet or face, it only shrivels my insides.

The flash of a scorpion out of the earth stops to consider something a moment. I bring a stick down on its back and cleave it in two, squash the stinger under the sole of my sandal, squeeze its insides into my mouth. Its blood burns my tongue, though it isn’t blood. Gulp it down, whatever I can get, and toss the carcass away.

Asking them: “How do you live?”

The voices come—where do they come from?—“We don’t drink.”

Feverish walking through immeasurable nothing. Not another soul to be found. No bodies rising from the earth, like nothing ever died out here because nothing lived out here. The steady incline up a rapid, moving, shifting hill, a blistering promise of some view. But more nothing all around. The opposite of being trapped in a confined space. Trapped in the bright abyss.

At times I find the canteen dry. And other times when I wake—was I asleep or passed out?—it’s filled with the substance again. Oldest affection, sweet and refined it used to be. Like the blood of someone you used to love, or who used to love you.

Another carcass tossed away—my own—in the ever-expanding wasteland, the void of nature. In a place like this, you start to wonder if you’ve fallen entirely into some place eldritch, a blight on a map in the centre of nowhere at all. Black ants at the sides of my vision, or are they the spots of delirium?

Whispers. The creatures whisper to me still. Where are they?

My hands search inside the sand. No, not sand, soft scrobiculate pockmarked ground. Cup both hands to my head to shut out the light and peer through tiny holes in the ground. Here they are! They gaze up from unreachable quenching darkness. What highly evolved creatures these must be with their irises so clear, rested, full of colour—I used to know them.

They say, “Don’t you know what it’s like watching you?”


JAMES FINOST is an Australian emerging writer living in Canada. Not too long ago he was a primary school teacher, and before that a facilitator of writing groups for young people. He now works in a library trying to keep his ever-growing reading list at bay.

Copyright © 2019 by James Finost. All rights reserved.

 

‘Meeting Morris’ by Laura Wang Arseneau

From the bakery, I walk down Bagot St toward the smell of the lake. I bought one bagel to share. It is still warm in the paper bag. I asked for butter so it seeps, grease staining brown paper dark. You will not mind.

I walk my bike right at corner

BANG!

It hits a post of steel, bolted down to concrete.

I upright the bike and carry on.

Across the way rattle wheels of a walker, a moving cage for a Mister; a shuffling old man, moving slow, head down.

Passing by black iron fences the front yard of a mansion.

Maple tree denuded of maple keys.

Leaves yellow veined, and fresh blood red, scuttle over and around an overturned urn, empty on the walkway.

All the pretty flowers gone.

Bark.

Gateway opening, closing.

Child’s voice.

A red wagon being wheeled over chalked, hopscotch squares, numbers smudged.

Followed by yellow dress, hop skip cartwheeling limbs and a red ribboned ponytail lassoing.

Hey, I too have a red ribbon on wheel, flap flap flap with each turn of my front bicycle tire.

I do not want to be late to meet you. So I hop on and pump pedals.

Gain speed, taxi runway, take flight.

Too soon

I reach the boardwalk and get off and wheel my bike along. It is heavy going, so off! it goes.

BANG! Wheels spinning Ferris wheel.

Now I am set free to go to our

BEACH.

No Morris. I am early. I am late. You are early. You are late.

I will wait for you just a little while longer. The planks beneath my soles are silvery, stripped down and smooth. I kick one shoe, then the other off foot

FALL.

My bare feet move one step, two steps on wind bleached boardwalk.

Step onto smooth stone.

Bend and pick stone, pocket.

Toward waves.

Break, foam, roll, repeat.

Break, foam, roll.

Plank gives over to sandy grit.

I button my sweater against wind.

Tear a milkweed pod and pocket.

Snatch a gull’s feather, caught in shrub and pocket.

I am early, so

LONG I wait for you. You will see me, here won’t you? Step off the platform. Heels sink into sand. Toes dig shovelling each step. I am looking for

FIVE, six, seven flat stones arranged in a half circle. Here it is. Eyebrow to eye of burnt out fire. I sift through charred driftwood, choose the nicest one that fits snug in the palm of my hand.

Fingers enclose.

Smudge char black markings onto my fingers.

Char

KOHL lines on my face.

I will do my makeup just how you like it Morris.

Eyes rimmed in kohl. You used to say, I like it when you put makeup

ON again off again; here there; there there, there there, don’t worry. Morris, you told me I look like Mata Hari. Dance for me? I pocket a charred stump and move with the wind. Feet spin, slip, twist too the music on the wind. I am your muse, your model, your lover, how oft.

TEN, nine, eight you remember? We promised to meet here. It is getting colder. I will leave a note. But with what?

In pocket, why this charred stump will do.

Sharp end of a blackened wood writing tool.

Big letters on silver wood.

MORRIS I WAS HERE. I write a message for you to see

HOW I kept our promise? Where were you? Where are you now?  Oh! It is getting darker.

Sun’s weak eye through clouded lids.

Time to turn back come back tomorrow is another day

TIME, night-time.

Wind at my back. Hand in pocket. Here is stone. Drop.

Here is feather, buoyed up in wind, fly away little birdie. Bye bye.

Here is milkpod with white soft inside like dog fur, opened and picked clean. Run like the wind little doggy.

Last one

In pocket charred driftwood stump in fist.

Palm and fingers black.

I keep this for you, Morris. You, artist man. You, who gestured charcoal on my body. Do you know

WHY, look here.

Someone left a bicycle, lying on the boardwalk, wheels spinning with red ribbon flapping. Beside it lies two halves of a bagel and a torn paper bag stained black.

 


LAURA WANG ARSENEAU‘s short fiction has been published in Canadian literary magazines such as The Antigonish Review, Fiddlehead, The Windsor Review, Hammer’d Out, and JoyPuke. She has been an arts writer and curator, now based in the Niagara region of Ontario.

Copyright © 2019 by Laura Wang Arseneau. All rights reserved.

‘I Bring a Girlfriend to Hang Out with my Friends’ by Jamie Saporsantos

I used to make out with Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

It was a doll.

She was a doll, and I was four.

And the little four-year-old girl that I was just wanted a little smooching before she pretended to swim in the bathtub and played with her plastic toy Flounder.

 

When I was a pre-teen my cousin would ask, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

I’d say, “No.”

Do you have a girlfriend?”

No,” I’d say, and she would smile. Now, I think that was a joke, but twelve-year-old me just thought it was normal.

And it is normal, it is normal, I tell myself.

 

Now, I bring a girlfriend to hang out with my friends.

We’re thirty minutes late because I want them to have had at least one drink in them.

We walk up to the table and take our seats.

I let a breath out as two little shot glasses are placed in front of us, and I smile while introductions are made.

Alcoholic,” my girlfriend teases.

Just a lesbian,” I say.

 


JAMIE SAPORSANTOS is an emerging writer born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. She is a recent graduate of Mount Royal University’s English B.A. program where she discovered a passion for the craft of creative writing.

Copyright © 2019 by Jamie Saporsantos. All rights reserved.

 

‘The Lake’ by Kate Foster

Dante likes to tell stories. More than anything, he likes to make them. This is how he lives his life, moving from one story to another. I listen with my eyes fixed on his. The movement of his lips hypnotizes me and I inhale the carcinogenic sounds.

When Dante calls me that night it is already dark, but the August moon is blazing in the sky. It radiates beams of amber among the night’s shadows. Dante has toked a few Js and his voice rasps in jazz-like notes across the line.

“I’m flying,” he says, “Let’s go fishing. I’ll get the gear. You can drive, cousin. We don’t need a flashlight tonight.” Dante is always making plans. Everything he says jumps out of his mouth as a whole scheme. He does not ask if I want to go but simply says, “Right on. See you when you get here.” I pocket my phone and start toward the door, pausing only to grab the flashlight on my way out.

When I get to Dante’s place, I find he is not alone. Peering in the front window of his grandmother’s house, I see that Dante’s friends are there, sinking into the floral couch with glazed eyes, talking lyrically to themselves and each other. I stand on the outside for a while and watch Dante as he gesticulates wildly, his high-top dreads bouncing. I can feel the shape of the words as they flip and slide into my imagination. Realizing our outing is not going to be an exclusive one, I tap out a beat on the window and interrupt the rhythm of their conversation.

It takes them a while to rise, but finally, Dante saunters into the yard where I am leaning against my mother’s Chevrolet. Josh and Tyler follow him, carrying fishing rods and gear. We assemble ourselves into the car. This car that shuffles us all summer, from work to beach to liquor store, from parking lot to pub to party. I toss the flashlight into Dante’s lap, but he ignores my subtle gibe.

It is late and the road winding out of town toward the lake is quiet. Josh is in the back seat rolling another joint. Dante raps something about the time he got chased off a bridge by an old grey mutt. The boys are laughing and shaking their heads. Dante keeps putting his hands on the steering wheel and I keep pushing them off. We zigzag along like this until Dante suddenly shifts a long leg to the driver’s side and bangs his foot on the brake. Curses rise from the back seat and Dante steps out into the path of the headlights. His hand scythes its way through the air and points to the cemetery that spreads across a hill on the edge of town. Leaving the car on the shoulder of the road, we climb over the fence and dodge our way among the graves. We pause while Dante tells us about the ghost of his grandfather that can move pennies across his tombstone at the stroke of twelve. Since we have no pennies and it is not yet midnight, we return to the car and carry on. We fall silent as we reach the lake, remembering Dante’s step-brother who drowned two years ago.

Josh and Tyler settle themselves on the tiny, weathered dock with their tackle, their phones alight to attract bait. Dante and I throw our gear into the musty, communal rowboat. Its cracked yellow paint feels like dry leaves in my hand as I climb over the side. Finally, I am alone with Dante. We row toward the center of the lake. The black water and indigo sky seem to merge into an abyss at the horizon. We cast our lines carelessly into the water. Dante’s words push into the air again and fall over me like a thick blanket; the weight bearing on my shoulders. My fascination moves from the lull of his voice to the landscape of my own thoughts. I look up searching for Cassiopeia but not finding her. The moon is still brimming and there is so much I want to say.

“I have one,” I say, still holding my line. Dante moves to net a catch, but I stop him. “Not a fish,” I say. “A story.” Words rush from my mouth as I begin to tell him my dream about Cassie. My Cassie, who passed by accident before we could help her. Walking out of a cave in the woods, she hands me a book where every other page is blank. Her other hand drops a pill bottle that disappears in a mound of sand at her feet.  I stop suddenly as Dante reels in a thin speckled trout. The hook is piercing its lower jaw. Its writhing body a frantic scream. I reach out to stroke its side, the thousands of gleaming, protective scales.

“How does it end?” Dante wants to know as he unhooks the trout. I take it, still flipping, and drop it back in the lake. I shudder, still feeling the cold wet fish in my hands. “She walks across my grave,” I laugh. Dante laughs too. I stand and balance in the small boat. Throwing off the last of my reticence, along with my sweater and sandals, I dive for the moon’s reflection, shattering the inaudible surface of the lake. The cold water sends pleasant shivers down my sides and feeling the waves surround and buoy me, I swim invigorated toward the shore.

 


KATE FOSTER is a Black Nova Scotian whose writing has appeared in Understorey MagazineCanthius and Room Magazine. She lives with her family in Dartmouth, NS.

Copyright © 2019 by Kate Foster. All rights reserved.

‘How Not to Die in a Fire’ by Pamela Hensley

Marguerite had always feared dying in a fire. For years she’d lived in a luxury retirement residence with security cameras and 24-hour attendants, but she still worried that if the place caught fire, she’d never get out alive. The attendants would forget about her, or be overwhelmed trying to help other residents, or they’d run out to save themselves instead.

It had happened before. It had happened in L’Isle-Verte where all those elderly people were trapped in that nursing home, and either choked to death on toxic fumes, or suffered the agony of watching their flesh melt like candle wax from their bones.

Marguerite complained to her sons about this. She told the young caregiver at the reception desk. She told the doctor who gave her a flu shot in November. But everyone ignored her or placated her. She was just an old woman, not quite right in the head.

One night in February, the fire alarm went off. Marguerite’s weak heart beat like a snared rabbit’s and her arthritic hands began to shake. Gripping the rails at the side of her bed, she managed to get up and dress in her robe and slippers unassisted. She was the first to make it to the designated gathering place and to wait beneath the exit sign.

Lord have mercy. She prayed as she stood there waiting. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, please don’t let me die this way. Amen. The fire alarm kept ringing but no one else came. What’s the matter with them? They will die in their beds. They will die in the worst possible way. She looked down the hall, then around the corner, and then let herself out of the building.

“I will not burn to death,” she said out loud as the metal door slammed shut behind her.

It was -28°C outside the residence. Snow and sleet hit her cheeks and forehead. As the wind blew through her periwinkle robe, her jaw began to shiver so violently that the filling from one of her remaining teeth flew out like spittle from her mouth. Above, the sky was black as ash and empty as a graveyard. She looked up, and her eyes rolled back into her head before she fainted on the slab of ice below.

Marguerite lived to be ninety-three years old.

 


PAMELA HENSLEY is a Montreal writer. Her stories have appeared literary journals including EVENT magazine and The Dalhousie Review. Last October she was a finalist in the Bristol Short Story Prize in the UK and was published in their anthology. She is currently at work on her first novel.

Copyright © 2019 by Pamela Hensley. All rights reserved.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.