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Fiction

Fiction

Who The Final Girl Becomes

Cinda begins the worst afternoon of her life by hiding in a closet. It’s spring break of her senior year of high school, and she’s rented a cabin with four friends using money she saved from her job at the bookstore, and it all feels terribly grown-up: the long drive into the mountains in the passenger seat of her boyfriend Travis’s car; the box of condoms Paulina not-so-secretly tucked in the glove box; the case of cheap beer and freezer bag of weed that Wally stowed in the trunk; the excursions and activities that Maeve carefully planned.

Fiction

Until It Has Your Reflection

I hold the crayon to the mirror, ready to swipe it across my reflection’s neck just as my husband, Tomas, instructed. Make a quick horizontal line, then break the crayon against the glass. Snap it like you would your reflection’s neck. I’ve chosen the shade closest to my skin tone because it feels fitting for the occasion, the brown that I’d had to explain to our kindergartener was not “the skin color” crayon. Not everyone has skin as dark as ours, and some have darker. I imagine similar conversations in other households, about other crayons.

Fiction

Last Night at the Sideshow

This story started life just over nine years ago—October 30, 2013, to be exact—as an assignment in an online workshop taught by Craig Clevenger.  We’d been focusing on escalation of events and status play between characters, so the jockeying that surrounds gendered expectations, especially involving sex, seemed like a good place to start.  Beyond that, I’ve always found carnivals unsettling because of their atmosphere of blatant disguise, so the theme and setting fit hand and glove for horror. 

Fiction

To Cheer as They Leave You Behind

She comes early, forcing you to reschedule meetings from the car as Alan drives, white-knuckled. You don’t mind—sending contract notes while in labor is the sort of story the partners will tell for years. Delivery is an athletic event, but you understand those. You ran cross-country in college, before law school took over. You understand pain, how to bear down and force your body into submission. And then it’s over. They put her in your arms, swaddled and squalling, and she is exactly as you imagined.

Fiction

Wallers

The day her mother brought Mr. Nelson home, Martha faded into the wallpaper. It seemed the safest thing to do. Martha had never met Mr. Nelson, but she had met the others, and she knew what they could do to her. Had done to her. And her mother. It was possible that this one was different, but Martha did not want to take that chance. “Martha?” called out her mother. She was clinging to Mr. Nelson’s arm, Martha saw, and swaying a little. Just as she had with the others. “Martha?”

Fiction

Break the Skin If You Have To

The base of my skull buzzes as I pick up some bleach and a new scouring pad from the market. I’ve been away from my house for too long. When I get back, I must remember to clean the oven, clean the stovetop, clean the sink. In the checkout queue, I drop my basket onto the counter, and then I see her again. The new girl. So many have come and gone through the years that I barely remember them. Their polite gazes always slip off of me when I come through their checkouts.

Fiction

Only When You Laugh

Twenty-four hours to go. The Ultus Theater was all lit up, the marquee emblazoned with his name, glowing in the haze of the heavy rain. Laffing Farm Final Show: Mitch Williams! He chuckled to himself. Mitch, Mitch, born in a ditch . . . The last time he was outside in a downpour was ten years ago, that night by the lake after his treatment. He had been jittery with withdrawal, teeth chattering in his head, as loud as the waves crashing against the shore. Look at him now. 2,800 seats, sold out.

Fiction

Ant Twin

When you learn a fact like the one that opens this piece—that all the ants on Earth add up to the same weight as all the people—you want that to mean something, to have some consequence. This story is the consequence that fact imposed on my mind, the body horror it implied. If it makes your skin crawl, I hope you’re reminded of your own Ant Twin out there somewhere: its skin, too, is crawling.

Fiction

Devil Take Me

The caveat is that I’m going to lie to you. That’s how confessions work, isn’t it? There are those things that even though we want to confess, we can’t confront, and so we talk around. Lying isn’t even second nature; it’s our primary condition. The best I can do is tell you the truth about when I’ve lied. Let’s start at the beginning. I come from a deep and worn-out notch on the Bible Belt, the only child of Peter and Trudy Cadigan. Well, no. You’d need only look at the graves to know that’s not entirely true.

Fiction

The Ghost Eaters

The Man had come and gone, other Someones too, and all the lessers, but Barley still guarded the House. He still patrolled, passing right through the gate instead of getting caught under the slats, still lifted his nose and trotted the fence line every morning, though he could no longer smell the asphalt baking in the heat or rabbits in the hedges. At sundown he returned to his grave and lifted his leg even though he hadn’t urinated since the Man put his body in a cardboard box and dropped it into foot-deep earth.