With some short stories, persistence pays off. Curveball has been searching for a home for nearly four years. I knew the characters were interesting and plot was good, but the story didn’t fit neatly in a genre; it touched the supernatural and a crime was involved, but it fell somewhere in-between. Submitted 25 times and rewritten twice, this tale finally found an editor who liked it enough to publish it on their website.
Everyone who reads this piece asks if it’s true. Thankfully, no. The story is fictional and was originally submitted to Reflex Fiction in April 2019. It didn’t win the contest, but they were moved by it and decided to publish it anyway.
by DL Shirey
The boy beams when finished. Beams. Like the face of God’s son whose name I no longer invoke. For eleven years he’s smiled whenever he sees me. Smiles when I feed him yoghurt. Smiles as I clean up shit and vomit. Gabe is a happy child. Happiest when he finishes a drawing.
Horror Tree has assembled all stories previous published in their 2018 “Trembling With Fear” column. That’s 204 tales of fright and weirdness (I counted). Stories are listed by the month they were published. Mine is in December.
Despite the title, this story is more horror than sci-fi. (And as horror goes, fairly mild.) As Corner Bar Magazine editor Garry Somers told me, “It’s like a Twilight Zone episode, only without the preface by Serling that warns you that you’re about to be freaked out.” Being a TZ fan myself, that is high praise.
Published in February 2019 by the Oregon-based journal Cascadia Rising Review, this story can be categorized as creative-nonfiction-ish because it’s written about actual events. Truth be told, though, liberties were taken to enhance the drama. Since these characters are based on my relatives, but not 100% pure, their names have been changed.
I must give a shout out to Alle Hall, whose editorial prowess helped shape the story. Even though I withdrew it from consideration for her journal, some of the rewrites she requested definitely made the piece better. Thanks Alle.
Marine Corps Chow
by DL Shirey
If a machine gun expelled staccato laughter instead of bullets, that would be the sound my uncle made after every joke I heard him tell. HA-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh followed the punch line, a clipped rat-a-tat-tat before anyone else could laugh.
He was used to people doubling-up from his stories. Franklin Chandler Penney was a Marine, a commander of Marines, a full-bird colonel once in charge of an airbase in the Pacific theater. I never saw him in his Marine Corps cap, but there was no hair for it to hide. He had thick brows, constantly stuck in the frown position, which gave him a hawkish squint. He was tall and held his backbone at attention, even in the most casual occasions. Whenever he laughed, his jaw would barely unhinge, as if it was a Herculean effort to unclench his teeth.
This story is written in first person, which is weird because it’s from the perspective of an alien creature native to the planet Mercury. It’s also short. But somehow I was able to squeeze in the creature’s entire life cycle in 300 words. Published by Local Train Magazine.
They say “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” The hero in this horror story finds out that these words are more than an old saying when he discovers a mysterious object that grants wishes. My novella originally appeared in the debut edition of The Society of Misfit Stories Presents… along side more great speculative fiction.
What The Lord Giveth
by DL Shirey
A.D. 1988 – Brant Egan always tackled the worst job first when his shift started at eleven p.m. He ran the city’s incinerator, torching everything from hospital waste to old car batteries, but at the top of his list were the containers from Animal Control. According to policy, euthanized dogs and cats from the animal shelter were put in 50-pound bags, so Brant didn’t have to see the contents. He hefted the black bags by their handles and tossed them in the batch loader. The most unpleasant task came in barrels marked with biohazard labels. They contained road-kill that Brant was forced to unload with a pitchfork. The smell was bad and seemed to get worse with each raccoon, opossum or chunk of unidentifiable meat he pierced. There was the occasional deer carcass and when he struggled with its weight, Brant couldn’t help thinking of that old Bambi cartoon.
Although only 24, most of his muscle had gone to fat, but Brant was still quite strong. If only his stomach had the same strength. It was all he could do to push back against what threatened to rise in his throat when Brant recognized a clotted mound of fur as a house pet. He had to swallow hard with each dog and cat because Brant could not help but visualize them whole: fetching balls, romping and playing, dozing contentedly on a couch. He wished he could close his eyes to do this part of the job.