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Walking to work always feels the same: lost time. Muscle memory takes over, and all you remember is leaving your apartment and arriving in front of the revolving door with still-scalding coffee in your hand.

But today something pulls you back from that realm of nothingness. You stop in the middle of the busy sidewalk, your feet willed to pause by that flash of purple in the sky. Eyes skyward, you follow the path of a tiny purple balloon, lazily dancing before reflective windows of a nondescript skyscraper.

You sip your coffee, and curse yourself when it burns away the…

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Someone’s scream broke the silence like tearing fabric. The deer bounded away before I got off my shot, kicking up cold winter soil, and my heart pounded as I looked about the otherwise empty forest. Rifle clutched in my gloved hands, I waited. Listening. The cloud of my breath warped as I whispered, “Make another noise.”

As if she heard me, a weak call for help sounded from the north. Or was it the west? I looked both ways with a swallow. It took a few seconds to find my voice, and I shouted, “Hello! Where are you?”

Another call…

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Moira sits on the sand and waits. The tide tickles the bottom of her feet, then washes over her body. And she waits. Weary green eyes on the horizon. Wet tresses crusty with salt frame her trembling face, and her lips round as she blows out every shaky breath.

Three hours she’s waited here, in the soft grey sand between the sharp and glassy rocks. Three hours with nary a sign. The garrison said they were coming home. They didn’t say who.

The furious growl of engines sounds over the hill behind her, and her head snaps up to the…

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That late summer day, we bet on coins and dropped them in the river without knowing the answers. The universe didn’t decide our fate anymore. We made our own luck.

Like when we sped around the carousel to claim the grey rabbit and the fat raven even though no one else stood in line. Every time we passed each other in the up-down, we contorted our faces in silly expressions and declared each other the victor.

Afterwards, you caught ice cream in your hands when my three precious scoops of mint chocolate fell off the cone. You ran away when…

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The entire room wept at my sister’s funeral. I did not.

Dad wanted me there, so I came. His style of begging was less odious than Mom’s. She tried to bribe me with gifts for Tony, even going so far as to tell Tony behind my back so he would convince me. Finally, she drafted Dad, and he was gentler, resigned in his heart to failure. With him being gone so much of the time growing up, I didn’t blame him for the same complicity everyone else participated in, especially Mom. But that was about it. I didn’t owe him…

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Black nylon stretches across the sky. Where it tears, the stars shine through, peering at humanity with their golden and crimson eyes. The old man on the park bench beside me grips his cane with white knuckles and stares back at those stars. His jaw clenches like he’s holding a decades-long grudge. Maybe he senses my awe, because he looks at me just then, but the malice I expect in his watery brown eyes is something entirely different: a little fear, a little want. A sprinkle of oncoming peace?

The two of us have our own staring contest, and then…

My brain tells me go, go, go. Not anywhere important or good. No, it wants to go down, far down beneath the earth and soil into the magma.

My brain wants incineration. So much so that sometimes it’s like it’s already gone. And I’m just a partially functioning case of skin with some trembling bones.

My brain is okay with abandoning me. It dreams of solace in nothingness. And then I am left with agony in nothingness.

Except I can’t properly feel it. I’d rather feel it. I’d rather it steal the breath from my lungs, claw at my vacant…

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Trigger Warning: mentions of abuse

The cold salt of Lorenzo’s cooking stings in my memory just as it did back then on my cracked lips. I drag my tongue over my lips now, to make sure it’s only that. A memory. Only when I’m satisfied, when I know I’m safe, do I twist the knob and open the front door.

Gravity does most of the work; the heavy, black metal swings open and clatters against the wall. Through the dark guts of the house, I see the back wall of windows, lit by predawn light. The strap of my…

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The Sounds of Love

Overwhelming silence. The house and its residents breathe and move, but my ears have shut them out. At the top of the stairs, my toes curl over the top step and my fingers pull at my tulle dress. The party-goers wander on the floor below, oblivious to me and focused on the drinks in their hands. Eloise made her exalted homemade punch, spiked with the perfect amount of brandy and blended with fruits and unfamiliar spices. The people down there, ghosts waltzing towards the next frolic or fancy, they know the punch well. …

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No one had warned me. The unassuming house, as white and plain as the others on the row, gave nothing away, and my husband had written the address nonchalantly. The answer to my gentle knocks was immediate, and the wrinkled face of Marietta Candor peered up at me through gold-framed glasses. “You’re the sculptor,” she said, pupils dilated.

“Ian Goodfellow.” I smiled. “My husband saw your advert in the paper.”

“Come inside,” she said and creaked the door open wider.

The odor of sour beets and cauliflower overwhelmed me, and I turned my gag into a cough to spare Mrs…

Aren K. Hatch

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