The Garden’s Machine by Madeleine Rowe

Deirdre was a coward.

The coffee warmed her chilled hands. She adjusted her glasses, hoping the frames would disguise the circles under her eyes. At a nearby table, a child was staring at her while the parents spoke to one another. The parents, they were engaged in such a lively conversation together.

They were such a happy couple. Deirdre found that it was hard to keep herself from coughing.

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Radiance by Sam Knowles

You’re not even sure it was there. A glimpse of blue jeans, a familiar backpack, and an unsettling glow. Like algae, if its bioluminescence was tied with a peculiar, threatening aura.

The figure slips further into the crowd ahead, between briefcases and raincoats, snapping you out of it and hiding from view. 

You can’t help it, so you follow. It’s dumb and probably not what you think. But those shoes have the exact scuffs and fades you know so well… if nothing else, this will be a funny story, you think.

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Dust and Gasoline by Gabriela Pilar

He saw it. The car. It was still, molded into the side of the brick wall. The shredded Honda was not the first impact weighing on the integrity of the wall. A family had formed. Misfortunes and consequences of time flocked together. Metallic chipping and the hole-turned-front-door for a family of racoons. They congregated at the wall. And now, the car. It seemed a sad thing. A nuisance, really. An old family car, maybe, passed on to a new driver. A family heirloom that had overstayed its welcome. He saw it. It was there, until it wasn’t. Then, the wall stood alone. Family dinner had not been interrupted. 

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Simulation Dream by Kay Gray

“We have to go! It’s our 10-year high school reunion,” my wife, Griffin, said as I looked at my watch. Six o’clock. I’ll admit I didn’t care to go. I didn’t care to see all the people I had spent four years avoiding, but I would and will do anything to please Griffin. 

I looked around as I slowly backed out of the garage. Immediately as the back windows exited the dark and breathed in the light, I pressed my foot against the brake. I rolled down my window and stared up at the picture unraveling before my eyes. The sky was a tannish sand color, with the clouds beginning to circle one another. I feared what might come down and destroy the beautiful car I had skipped two summer vacations to afford. 

I quickly pulled the car in the garage, parked, and ran towards the door. My hand slapped the garage button as my other hand struggled to grasp the door handle. Finally, I twisted and turned, shoving the door open. “Woah there!” Griffin exclaimed. The door swung open, almost hitting her as I stumbled in. “What’re you doing?”

“The sky… it’s yellow.”

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Winnielow by Taylor Walker-Williams

Winnielow is a small town, if you can even call it that. I think the textbook term is a village. That’s cause we only got about 1,000 people around here. Everybody around here know each other; you was either born in Winnielow, or you wasn’t. Most folks don’t stop by to visit; it’s too far from any major tourist-like places. Don’t nobody leave — no reason to. And most of the time, nobody goes out of their way to move into Winnie. But you always get a few stragglers, like Audora. 

She was obviously a city girl. Had no reason to be in the middle of nowhere, to find this town. I don’t think she found us on some Google. I think she had all her stuff packed, and I think she was running. Trying to find a town to start over in, where don’t nobody know you. That might seem like a blessing or some kind of sign from God. But that also mean you don’t know how things go. Don’t know the history, the deep history. For us growing up in this town, it goes too deep to even speak about. Maybe the stories were forgotten. Maybe we all wish they were. Either way, you can’t just come to a new town like Audora did and know what locals know, what we was taught.

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Song of the Departed by Kylie Burnham

It was not an unfamiliar experience.

Countless times, a chilling sensation drug Marion from the soothing embrace of slumber, and they awakened to a ghostly, faded world. They stood now in that mirror reality, in the woods behind their family home. The trees they’d explored as a child stretched skyward like desperate, reaching hands, the vivid browns of their trunks faded to a muted grey. Their roots twisted into the ground below, extending outward like tangled, blackish veins. The greyish quality of the world extended into the soft grass beneath Marion’s feet. With the air around them cold and still, the woods felt like an ancient, long dead being. And the blackened sky bore down upon them, as if anticipating the world’s revival and eagerly waiting to stamp it out.

This was all so familiar to Marion. So familiar, and yet… so very different.

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Zorvirg’s Masterwork by Joshua Eller

A sharp and eerie noise flew through the dense forest of Fiyhiiuk and found him in the depths of it. The tone was distinguishable and terrifying. He knew the sound, and he knew it well. He swore under his breath. He had hoped that he had more time. Zorvirg looked at the red tome on the table and went to grab it with a slight hesitation. The book felt powerful in his hands. Holding it against his chest, he began flipping through the pages until he found what he was looking for: his last resort. There wasn’t any time left. He had his typical containment procedures; hopefully they would be sufficient. Zorvirg was on a clock that was beyond unpredictable. The sooner he left, the better the chance he would give them both.

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Hardberger & Maro, Attorneys at Law by Le’ Stevion Harris

A yellow taxi travels down a downtown Dallas road, carrying a passenger along for a ride. The pink and peach of dawn are unraveled against the darker remnants of last night’s sky. The taxi’s body looks scuffed and acquainted with the city, with seemingly haphazardly placed stickers on its windows: one is a logo for ‘K104’ radio station; another is a partially degraded and halfway removed logo for ‘Johnny’s Pizza and Subs.’ Still, there are more. The larger stickers of the price points are fixed perfectly balanced in the back corner of each rear seat window. The passenger thinks the road is not as packed as expected for the downtown of a big city. In the back seat, the passenger sports a low taper fade haircut, brown skin, and anxious brown eyes, which peer out the window as the reflections of streetlights and busy people pass across the glass. This twenty-something man, in his simple grey suit, is Deonte Clark.

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What about the house? by Ridisha Shetty

“It all started on that day, when I first bought the house. I… I had a feeling. Call it some sixth sense or an instinct; I knew something was not right. But… but it was my dream house. It was just perfect. Everything was just how I wanted it, the cozy fireplace, the couch and the television were all positioned so perfectly as if someone took the blueprints out of my dream. I had fallen in love at first sight. Maybe that’s why they say love is blind. I wanted the house, and I was getting it in such a good deal, I couldn’t decline the offer. I warded off all the negative thoughts. This had to be my house. I moved in after a month. It was all good, or maybe I didn’t notice anything because of the moving and excitement. But everything was going great… just the way I…” Jacob was speaking as Dr. Smith interrupted to ask, “I am sorry, so you live there alone?”

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