Remains – by Amanda McLeod

Remains

The first time I woke up after, I headed out to the well like I did every morning. I was surprised to find the well full of stars. You couldn’t drink stars when I went to sleep. The stars were in the sky then. But the world is different now.

Now, the sky is filled with other things I don’t recognise; and around those things smaller things wheel and skim like the insects used to around the porch light at night. I still put the light on each night. I don’t know why. I haven’t seen anyone since I woke up. Where everyone went is a mystery, but I suspect it has something to do with the things in the sky.

I still am not sure how it happened. I went to sleep, then woke up, just as I always do, only I woke up to this instead of the world I was expecting. I’m not sure how much time passed while I was asleep but the forest had come back which suggests several hundred years. The house still stood, though somewhat rickety, and the concrete well remained, full of stars instead of water. Although time has clearly marched on without me, I feel as though I have gone back in it rather than forward.

Plants have reclaimed much of what was taken from them, and in turn animals have followed. I suspect, given my solitude and the strange happenings in the sky, that this planet was left to heal itself. It has done a spectacular job, and what anomalies I have noticed, such as the well of stars, are not unpleasant. As to myself being the only person here, I was already old when I went to sleep and I had no family and few friends. I believe I was simply overlooked.

My daily existence is as simple now as it was before. I wake in the morning and go to the well, where I draw the stars I need for my day. Then I set about the routine of staying alive; fixing and repairing, growing and nurturing, harvesting and storing. I try to learn from the unknown mistakes of a past that passed me by. I make myself part of this place, a strand in the web rather than an apex predator. When I am out foraging, I sometimes see animals. Some I know, and some are slightly foreign, as evolution slowly works its magic. By unspoken treaty we live in harmony; both they and I neither fear nor are feared.

I am unsure whether anyone knows I am here. I would like to believe those things in the sky are aware of my presence. Should they come for me, however, I do not believe I would go. The universe out there feels too big. The familiar strangeness of this place is comforting. Should it ever come to that, I will tell them politely that I wish to stay here, and I will advise them to leave this world alone, as it finds new ways to heal old wounds. If they return, they will need to bring with them a different way of knowing, lest this become a circle. Perhaps it will happen while I am alive, perhaps never. Either way, I will spend my last days in this wild beautiful place, drinking from my well of stars.

***

Amanda McLeod Headshot

**Amanda wrote this piece of fiction for SLM’s writing prompt for 2017: You wake up 500 years in the future. Describe what you see, hear, smell, and how the passage of time has changed your surroundings. Be creative. Be different. Be daring.**

Amanda McLeod is a writer and artist, currently based on the east coast of Australia. Her fiction has appeared in Sick Lit Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, OJAL: Open Journal Of Arts And Letters, and elsewhere. She enjoys good coffee, rainy nights, being outside, and almost anything to do with cheese. Her plans for the future include finishing her novel and publishing a children’s book.

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After Much Thought, I’ve Made up my Mind – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Faulk

After I read all of the outpouring of support and kind words from Twitter, Facebook, the submissions email, my personal email, Facebook comments and messages, and every other way that one can communicate under the sun, I began to rethink my decision to close SLM.

But the fact still remains that this magazine is simply not able to be run by one person anymore. I have to face my feelings. I have to grieve my recent losses and focus my attention back on my family, rather than constantly fretting about the state of the submissions email, and having anxiety about the fact that it’s backed up beyond belief.

My emotional, hormonal, and physical well being are a top priority right now. And I can’t do that while I’m still singlehandedly trying to steer this ship and continually falling behind.

I do need to get back to my own writing; I have to in order to cultivate its originality, growth, and excellence. I’m no good to you guys as an editor or a writing coach if I continuously neglect my own craft. The two things go hand-in-hand. One doesn’t exist without the other.

And I need my time to heal. If given the proper open-ended time-frame and stress-free, no-expectations freedom about my recovery, I’ll bounce back quicker and be stronger than ever.

I LOVE what I’ve been able to do for your confidence as writers. I LOVE how much I’ve meant to you guys as an unbiased, open and honest publication that lived and breathed passion for the art of writing and for the purpose of saving modern literature.

I’m not leaving.

I will implore you guys, the ones who I consider to be my friends, to please stay in touch with me. Before you know it, I’ll be back to scheming with Nicole, trailblazing through the literary world once again. SLM might be going away for a bit, but the results of it and the confidence it has instilled in each one of you will never go away. My personal email is kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com – and, as I said before, whatever venture I’m going onto next will, more than likely, end up on this URL one way or another. Stay tuned. Keep in touch. I need to get myself well before I can truly, passionately be your advocate, your coach, and the best platform for your writing.

I treasure all of you. All of our emails, even the ones where we might have exchanged heated words (ha, it happened more than you can imagine! Writer-on-writer arguments?! They are epic!) have been the best learning experience for me as an editor and it has all made me a better one.

At heart, more than just a writer, I am a passionate creator.

Don’t look at this as a goodbye – rather, try and look at it as I have been, as a “See you later.” Or look at it as a “To be continued…” because that’s what it truly is.

Thank you guys for being the true spirit and talent behind SLM.

Prerna Bakshi, Voima Oy, Carrie Redway, Kate Murdoch, Ani Keaten, Paul Beckman, Rob True, Santino Prinzi, Penny Barratt, Lee Hamblin, Bibi Hamblin, Terence Hannum, Brian Vlasak, Ani King, Tabatha Stirling, Toby Penney, Pete Langman, C.C. Russell, Jason Jackson, Stephanie Hutton, Chloe Moloney, both Steve Cooper and Steve Campbell, Dan Diehn, Dan Flore III, Samantha Carr, Mil Ana, Caroline Giles, Matthew J. Lawler, Mike Zone, Monica Flegg, Annabelle Banks, Brian Michael Barbeito, and so many, many, many more of you – THANK YOU. Even though I’ve fallen out of touch with Jeffrey H Toney, PhD of Kean University, I still extend a warm thank you for his belief in my mission here and for his willingness to help out and offer suggestions, solutions, and contest ideas.

Even if you and I ended on “bad terms,” please know that they’re not bad in my eyes. Every connection I made through this venture happened for a reason. In this business, sometimes all we have is each other.

But now is the time for me to sever my ties and switch up my approach.

Stay in touch. I intend to.

Signing off once again – for the final time –

Over and out,

zzzyy

Kelly

Wild Dreams – by DON TASSONE

Wild Dreams

 

His alarm went off precisely at six.  So did his coffee maker and TV.

CNN was playing on the flatscreen in his kitchen.  He scanned email and FaceBook as he sipped his coffee and chewed on a breakfast bar.  He had two more friend requests overnight.  He accepted them both.

He grabbed his laptop and stepped down the hallway to his office, where he traded online all day.  He took a break just before noon to run on his treadmill and down a protein shake for lunch.

At five, he decided to chat on FaceBook with a handful of his 462, now 464, friends.  Then he ordered dinner from his favorite Chinese restaurant.  A young man delivered it to his door.  He took the bag from him and nodded.  He had already paid and left a tip online.

He enjoyed chicken lo mien, egg rolls and hot oolong tea as he watched a movie on Netflix, relaxing in his recliner.

He was in bed by ten.  He drifted off to sleep and dreamed, as usual, about living in the wild.

***

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Don Tassone lives in Loveland, Ohio and teaches public relations at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  His stories have appeared in a range of literary magazines.  They’re posted at http://dontassone.com

King of Hearts – by SEBNEM SANDERS (S.E. SANDERS)

King of Hearts

Annoyed with the dismal news on the television, Joe grabbed the remote and switched it off. Tapping his fingers on the table of the hospital bed, he pondered on what to do next. Time warped and stretched infinitely in the ward, as various illnesses spread inside the bodies of the patients at the speed of light. Book or magazine?  Book, another life story to delve into. A temporary remedy to ignore his own one.

 

As he turned to the bedside table to browse the unread paperbacks, the bald head of a child appeared through the doorway. Big blue eyes, above a white mask covering the rest of his face, he peeked into the room.

 

“Hey, alien child, what are doing on my stage? Planning some kind of burglary?”

“I’m exploring the building.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be upstairs with the other alien kids?”

“I’m not an alien. I live here and you’re bald as well.”

 

“Well, I’m an actor in this House of Comedy. This is my make-up for the latest TV series, which is more popular than ER. The crew has gone for a coffee break, and we’re awaiting their return.”

Joe saw the hint of a smile in the child’s eyes, as the patient lying in the next bed began his routine moans and groans.

 

“Why does he make this noise? Is he hurting?”

“Not necessarily. He’s from another planet, doesn’t speak our language.”

“Can’t you teach him?”

“I tried, but he’s not very good with languages. By the way, my name is Joe, what’s yours?”

“Shadow, I’m the shadow of the boy upstairs. Actually, I’m there, but my shadow can show up anywhere I’d like to go.”

“So you’re unreal. Welcome to the setting of our show. The director didn’t say this episode included the part of an alien child. “

“Can I play?”

“Of course, you can, but I’m finding it hard to relate to your expression under that mask. Come close, I’ll improve your make-up.”

 

The child approached him, staring at the tubes attached to his hand and body, before gazing at the books and pens on the bedside table. Joe picked up a blue felt pen, and drew a clown’s mouth on the boy’s mask.

 

“There, you’re laughing now. That’s essential for a comedy. We can play until the guards come and get you. Not sure you’re allowed here.”

 

Nurse Alice stepped into the ward, rolling her eyes. “Billy, the fugitive. The doctor has told you many times not to wander into the other wards. Germs, remember? Come, I’ll take you upstairs.”

 

Billy sighed behind the laughing mask, and relented with a sideways glance at Joe.

“His name is Shadow, Alice. Listen, Shadow, next time you escape, bring some colourful felt pens, a drink and a pack of cigarettes. Any female actors will also be appreciated to join the show. Not enough girls around here.”

 

“You’re not supposed be smoking. You have the big C. I’ll see what I can do about the rest,” Shadow said, as Alice took his hand and dragged him out.

Alice returned with disapproval etched upon on her face. “You should have rung the bell, Joe. The leukaemia kids are not allowed direct contact with other patients. Billy has a habit of escaping, and it’s not good for him.”

 

“I worry about you, Alice in Woncologyland. We’re already infected with the disease. You should be the one wearing the mask. I think it would suit you, make you more mysterious.”

She laughed. “Come, Joe, it’s bathing time. Let’s get that gown off and make you nice and fresh. Groaner is the next in line.” She drew the curtain around the bed and began her task.

“Stop making passes at me, Alice. You can’t have my illegitimate child.”

“I’m not Garp’s mother and I don’t need a child from you. I already have one of my own.”

“I know. I was writing another screenplay, not original though. Just an evocative one.”

“Listen, if you want to talk to the children, you can see them in the garden, but you must wear a mask. Better than being cooped up here, all day. I’ll take you out in a wheel-chair. “

“Deal.”

On a sunny day, Alice wheeled Joe’s chair into the grounds where the children played. He held the stem of his drip as the contraption rolled along beside him. He’d already drawn a smiling mouth on his mask. Shadow came up to him, followed by a group of kids, all of them pale, their skin almost translucent.

 

“This is Flower,” he said, pointing to a shorter child.

“Nice to meet you, Flower. Now, line up here, so I can complete your make-up. Give me your names to inspire me. Felt pens, please, Shadow.”

Apart from the colours and the shapes of their eyes, but lacking eyebrows, eyelashes and hair on their heads, the masks they wore made them appear androgynous. Shadow gave him the box of pens and Joe set to work. Once the make-up session finished, he presented him with a small carton of orange juice and a short pencil.

 

“Your drink and cigarette,” he said, winking.

“Thank you, I thought you’d forgotten. I need a glass. Can’t have my drink out of a carton.”

 

Alice brought him a plastic glass and poured the juice. Joe lifted the mask from his mouth and took a sip. Placing the pencil between his lips, he drew a deep breath and exhaled.

 

“All set now, Gang. Shall we rob the blood bank and sell the loot to the vampires, or burgle the medicine cabinet, drug the nurses, and make our escape from here?”

 

“Escape!” they shouted in unison.

“Agreed. Those big smiles on your masks will fool the staff who will fail to see the vicious expressions concealed underneath.”

****

The next time Shadow escaped to the ward, Joe’s bed was empty. No sign of his books or papers on the bedside table. He tiptoed to Groaner’s side and poked him. “Where’s Joe?”

 

Groaner turned his head. A single tear rolled down his face as he muttered something incoherent.

 

Alice entered the room and put her hand on Shadow’s shoulder. “Joe had to go, Billy, but he left something for you.”

 

She produced a paper from her pocket and watched him read the note, written in multicoloured letters.

 

Hey Shadow, I’ve been offered a contract by a Hollywood producer and had to leave. Make sure you carry on with the show down here. Joe xxx      

-The End-

***

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Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she lives on the Eastern shores of the Southern Aegean Sea where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have been published on the Authonomy Blog,  The Drabble, and  Sick Lit Magazine. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child.  Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, will be published this year. More information can be found at her website: https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/ where she publishes some of her work.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sebnemsanders

*Featured photo courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

The Best Medicine is SLM…Or So I’ve Heard – Kelly Coody, Editor in Chief

A word on submissions: if we tell you that we love your work, that’s not an automated reply. We’re actually typing that e-mail to you after we’ve read your piece with a fine-toothed comb; we’re telling you that we love it, meaning we want to see more of you and your submissions. We kind of love our repeat contributors here at SLM. 

Which brings me to my next point:

Are you a writer?

This isn’t a trick question; nor does it exist to elicit vague answers. It’s either an emphatic yes or a no.

Why?

Think: do you love it–is it what truly makes you happy?

If you can confidently answer yes to that question, then you are a writer. Everyone has a story to tell–and only you can tell it. Your voice, your story and your passion all deserve a fighting chance.

We are the vehicle for that fighting chance, that previously untold story, and that spirited piece of writing that might need a few revisions.

Let rejections strengthen you, not plague you with self-doubt or encourage you to give up. As an experiment, if you receive a rejection within the next week, read it all the way through. Then take a deep breath. And find your silver lining; find a reason to smile.

The world is still our playground–as adults, we always seem to forget that along the way.

When you strip away everything, when you’re left lying in bed trying to fall asleep at night, that’s when the realization can hit you: the only person you’re meant to be while you’re on this earth is you.

Embrace that.

Shake off the bad days, string of bad days, bad moods, or whatever has you down. Rest. Wake up to a new start; make yourself a strong cup of coffee or tea and take in everything about this new day. This blank slate. Step outside–literally and figuratively. Step forward. Abandon previous writing “Do’s and Don’t’s” and write the Story of You. Stay true to your writing style and you’ll find your place.

WOMEN: I am seeing signs of life and I LOVE IT!

Sexism still exist and runs rampant, although there are plenty of folks lining up to debate that notion with me.

It pervades boundaries it should never be able to, and is perpetuated by this endless social media-powered society, giving EVERYONE a voice, an opinion, a criticism, safe behind their computers, tablets, laptops or phones.

Make no mistake — misogyny is still here — it’s just sneakier, actually more vicious than before, well-planned and regurgitated by the masses. Remember #restingbitchface or #basicbitch?

Here at SLM, we value, support, encourage and appreciate our very talented writers–who happen to be women. Don’t doubt your every move or second guess a piece of your writing, thinking it might be too provocative.

Part of the reason I’m here, the reason we exist, is to level the playing field. We can accomplish anything–we can conquer and overcome. We refuse to corroborate double standards, delusional stereotypes or archaic notions of feminism and what it should look like or what it should be.

Last night, my daughter sat with me as I worked on the web site, and we both read Jayne Martin’s piece, Together aloud. After the first few lines, my eight-year-old smiled wide and said, “I like this already!”

After we finished reading it, Nikki looked at me and asked, “Why did they have to pretend?”

“Because they weren’t allowed to be who they were.”

“That makes me sad. Everyone should get to be whoever they are!” she shouted.

“Let’s re-read the last line though: what does it make you feel?”

“That picture really is perfect. The path ahead. They’re together,” she said.

I told Jayne via e-mail on Friday that her writing was the epitome of what we’re about here at SLM. Her short story was so powerful, so poignant and truthful that not only did my daughter understand the story, but it made her feel something. [I should note here that Nikki is in her school’s Gifted and Talented program and reads at a high middle-school, early high-school level]. See her below, dancing like no one’s watching.

 

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Let’s all dance like no one’s watching and write like no one’s criticizing. And give your work a fighting chance to be seen. To be read. And to make someone feel something.

Cheers, 

Peace and Love,

Editor in Chief

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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*Send all submissions, questions and inquiries to: sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com* Or, visit our Submissions page, here: SUBMISSIONS

P.S.: Happy Father’s Day! The featured image is of my late Grandpa Fitzharris, who passed in 2006. Rest in Peace, Grandpa. Happy Father’s Day!