Published

Amy’s Face

This is a character study of a dark relationship between a photographer and his former muse. They meet again years after their collaboration brought them both fame. Originally published in October 2020 in Siren’s Call eZine, Issue #51.

Amy’s Face

by DL Shirey

Syren met my glance, then didn’t. One blink was all, as if the very sight of me reminded her of the person she no longer wanted to be. But for one instant it was Amy behind her eyes.

I concentrated on the irony instead of my feelings. Syren still looked like my Amy: thin, disheveled and sad. Syren’s makeup was perfectly applied to look trashy. Who knows how long it took a stylist to create Syren’s quintessential mess of smudged shadows and eyeliner mistakes? When I knew her as Amy, she would glop on makeup by feel, smearing the hollows of her eyes aimlessly. It only took two minutes before the mirror, but she’d reflect on the results for an hour. Few were allowed to see Amy’s naked eyes. Sometimes I did, briefly, before the bedside lamp snapped off.

Only once did my camera catch Amy plain. One morning while she slept, sheets whitened by sunlight, I released the shutter. Even in dreams she frowned. Minutes later she woke and rushed to put on her face.

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Anniversary

Five Years Ago

Five years ago, pre-Covid, my story Tasting Apples at the Edge of Epidemic was published. Aside from it’s prophetic nature, this may have been the first story where I started with a twist already in mind. To this point, my storytelling style was to go wherever the writing took me. This one was calculated from the get-go: the story’s narrator laments about his wife, but her fate is not what the reader is lead to believe. The story sprung from an annual apple tasting at our local garden supply store. My speculative brain engaged and projected the event into a future where… well, where we are in ’20-21 with the pandemic. Goes without saying that those apple tastings have been cancelled in recent years, just as my story foretold.

The other published story, Barbarism, was the first of many 50-word microfictions to come. I enjoy the challenge of creating a complete, satisfying scene in an exact word count. Thankfully, there are a number of publications out there that look for these tiny tales.

Published

Body Neutral

This story had an interesting affect on a member of my writer’s group. She walked out halfway through my reading. Granted, the main character is objectified solely on appearance. But that’s the whole point of the story. I urged the woman to wait for the big reveal at the end, to see if she felt the same disgust. I guess I’ll never know. I never saw her again. And I doubt she’ll click over and read it in The Chamber Magazine.

Published

Cathuranjalee

image : mvslim.com

Of all my stories, Cathuranjalee is the most satisfying. Like the title character, the tale had a rough road to freedom. Quite a bit of research went into it because I wanted authenticity in the characters’ clothing and locations in the Nubian desert. I dashed off a 2,000 word first draft and my writing group advised me that the ending was abrupt and unsatisfying. A couple of rewrites later, length tripled, it was ready for submission. Almost immediately, it was snatched up by a publisher of fantasy fiction. I signed a contract and waited. It never saw print, but I was contractually obligated to wait a full 18 months before I could submit elsewhere. When I did, Inked In Gray Press published it in “What Remains,” an anthology of excellent short stories available on Amazon.

Published

Mourning on Calendas

Here’s another sci-fi tale that packs a lot of story in a small space. It tells how a moon got its first homesteaders and how society grew. It’s also about a mother teaching her son about death. All in 1,462 words. Published in September 2020 by the speculative fiction magazine All Worlds Wayfarer. To buy the issue, find a link on my Amazon author page.

In an interesting addendum, writing this story lead to an author interview.

Mourning on Calendas

by DL Shirey

“There.” Lalin’s first word since I explained the rules of quiet.

He had been emulating other mourners he’d seen today: their slow, exaggerated strides, prayer-hands folded beneath chins, heads tilted downward. Now, Lalin remembered the path from a year ago and ran up the switchback to the top of the slope.

When he looked back and saw I hadn’t altered my lockstep, he flattened his palms together and pulled them to his chest. When he bowed his head again I could see his silvery blond hair needed cutting.

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Published

Stone Man & Statue Boy

Mt. Tabor is a park atop an ancient cinder cone, within walking distance of my house in Portland, Oregon. It is quite a climb up that hill. There is used to be a statue at the summit, of a newspaperman pointing west. The trek up to the statue was the inspiration of the story. In actuality, he stands alone. For the story I invented Statue Boy, to add an element of surrealism and to have another character to interact with the protagonist.

I don’t know the politics of the newspaperman, but Oregon has a history–to be polite–of not being particularly welcoming to minorities. This is also a theme I wanted to touch on in the story. This piece was first published in September 2020 by Fleas on the Dog. And, by the way, this is the second Portland statue that inspired a story.

Stone Man & Statue Boy

by DL Shirey

Alone at the top of 79 stairs, only my footprints follow. Each step below has a concrete space kicked from the steep, powdery incline. I pause to catch my breath, feel the rasp at the back of my throat from cold air and tired lungs. SUVs will soon brave the snowy streets, depositing children and sleds and romping dogs in the parking lot below this hillside park.

Even though I’ve stopped walking, there remains a sense of forward motion as clouds push fast overhead. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any wind down here in the park; nothing to help the trees shrug off their burdens of white.

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Anniversary

Five Years Ago

Less than a year had gone by since I started writing pretty much every day. I was really into flash fiction by then; virtually all the stuff I was cranking out was 500 words or less. Monocle is for M was 500, Surf Guitar was 100 and Spat was 350. With these publishing opportunities under my belt, I was sharing a new story to my writing group practically every week.

At the same time I was having issues tracking all of my submissions. I was keeping an Excel spreadsheet (which eventually became The Short List) and trying to log those few acceptances along with the many, many, many, many, many rejections. I vividly remember the “personal note” from an editor, telling me that I had duplicated a story submission and that he didn’t like it the first time he read it.

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Published

H__NGS

This story was prompted by my own neglect and/or stupidity. On my first night vacationing in Scotland, I looked the wrong direction (the right way in America), saw no cars and stepped into the street. Nothing happened, but when I looked the other way, a big double decker was halfway up the block. I stepped back before the driver could honk his horn.

The “what if” became H__NGS, published in September 2020 by Potato Soup Journal.

H__NGS

by DL Shirey

The American looked tired. The paper band of airport codes wrapped around the handle of his luggage told of boarding at La Guardia and deplaning in Edinburgh. He had caught the local rail here, to Waverley station. He was unfamiliar with the city in particular, Great Britain in general, and all of Europe, in fact. It was his very first business trip traveling abroad.

He exited the train. The only person on the platform was a young woman in a slicker, her blue hair plastered down from the rain. The American pulled out a phone and the directions to his hotel: cross the one-way street, left for two blocks and turn right. Hungry, he consulted Yelp, saw the sign for HONGS across the street and re-pocketed the phone. Looking left for oncoming cars he saw nothing, so he popped open his umbrella, regripped his rolling suitcase and stepped off the curb.

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Published

Sugaree

Back in the day I was a fan of the Grateful Dead and one of my favorite songs was (and is) Sugaree. There’s another tribute inasmuch as the title character wears a GD T-shirt, but that’s as far as the nostalgia goes. This story is about headaches and a cure that’s pure speculative fiction. Published in Issue One of the Australian journal Curiouser Magazine.