Fur and Feathers – Jess Koch

Dad was the first in our family to change. It was slow in the beginning: one morning he woke to find the skin on the back of his hand had hardened and darkened overnight. When I asked about it, he told me it was just dry skin, and I believed him because I was only twelve at the time and didn’t know what I know now. As weeks passed, the dark patch grew. It spread …

A Time for Understanding – Lisa Fox

I lay your bulky, yellow head on my lap, your labored breaths hot against my nightdress. Your massive Labrador paws thrash against an unrelenting hardwood floor, as if you’re trying to run to a place without pain. I press my cheek into your soft fur; it cushions the fear that strikes with each violent spasm that threatens to take you from me. I pull you close, wrapping myself around you until the yelps subside to …

Via Dolorosa – Christine Lucas

“Your father crapped himself,” croaks her aunt’s ghost. “Go clean him up!” “Yes, Aunt Katina.” Father craps himself every other hour; Maro needs to finish the bills first. But the numbers won’t add up. Father’s pension isn’t enough anymore. “Such a worthless daughter,” mutters the ghost. “I envy your mother, who’s not around to watch!” Of all the ghosts in this damned house, Aunt Katina had to be the talkative one. Maro shoves the bills …

Rooks on Sundays – Jack Neel Waddell

“You never liked to play chess with me,” she says. The board lies on a tray across her bed. Pillows prop her up slightly, just enough to see the pieces. She reaches out a wrinkled hand, skin both pale and blotched brown, like the flesh of an apple left out too long. She grabs a rook that she carved, perhaps twenty-five years ago, from purpleheart wood. Today she remembers how it moves. “I know how …

A Layer Thin As Breath – Thea Boodhoo

“Valley. Can you still hear me?” Julian’s voice filtered through her dying radio. The Prince of Cats was a speck of light, dimming through the gold-grey film that, atom by atom, was devouring her helmet. Valley tried to say something, anything. Failed. Julian was sobbing on the other end. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so kzzzzzzchchchcffft—” and that was it. Her radio was gone. “Oh god,” she breathed to herself, to no one. “Oh god,” …

Country Whispers – Matthew Amundsen

Seeing the bodies of them girls hanging outside the town’s gates made me think coming here was a bad idea, but it was too late to go back now. The driver, Finnas, didn’t seem the type to turn these horses around no matter what I said, and Maw would send me right back even if he did. The kitties dangling alongside the girls made me feel worse. I didn’t know if the girls did anything …