Before she started proofreading this story, I remember cautioning my wife that this one was quite twisted. So when I saw that there was an anthology looking for “body horror,” to be named Twisted Anatomy, I had to submit. Please do not venture into this anthology unaware: there are more than two dozen stories, some of which should be labelled with warning stickers. My story, “Under the Avatars” is right at home among them. Available for purchase on Amazon.
And check out my author’s page for other publications in which my stories appear.
Four or five years ago, on a trip to New Mexico, I went to a museum and saw an exhibit of paper clothing. Actually, there were more than clothes on display; many everyday objects were also represented—laptop, guitar, bicycle—all made from colorful crepe paper. They came from Vietnam, handmade in tribute to people for whom those objects held special significance. Now, I won’t reveal anything more, that would be spoiling the story.
Learning about this lovely tradition stayed with me and was the key to writing “Sunday Dress.” First published by the UK journal ink, sweat and tears in March of 2020.
by DL Shirey
Ileana loved to make clothes. Afternoons after school she sat at my worktable, arranging patterns like jigsaw pieces to fit a length of fabric. These skills I taught her, daughter of my daughter, because her mother was not around to do it. Ileana made better choices. Ileana was a good girl.
It pains me now to sew, my fingers stiff with age. I can abide with the ache for my granddaughter, imagining the light in her eyes when Ileana slips on the dress. Every year, come winter, I make her one for spring.
If a road trip can be divided by the destinations visited then it can be further subdivided by those long stretches inbetween with nothing to do. Fingernails is a 50-word snippet from one such subdivision. Published by Vine Leaves Press in 50 Give or Take, available by email subscription.
This piece was bare-bones from its inception. It started as a 50-word story for another publication and was rejected. So, I took a hard look at a revision, added a whopping 14 more words and voila. The good folks at dreams walking published it in their second issue, back in June 2020.
by DL Shirey
The push of air caused litter to rustle. Brakes squawked, water splashed up the curb. I looked up and saw nothing, yet still stepped back from the sidewalk’s edge.
“Don’t you know the rules?” a foul breath voiced, “Make way for exiting passengers.”
I waited, then a cold grip cupped my shoulder and shoved me forward. “Well, what are you waiting for?” it said, “Get on the bus.”
As horror goes, this story is rather tame. There is no gore, there are no grisly monsters. There is the Harv itself, but it’s just barely hideous. The real horror comes when one realizes that a story like this is possible.
And then there was the writing of it. I first concocted the plot and submitted it to a few journals with no takers. The rejections were understandable, the creature was abhorrent in the abstract, but needed to become real. In a major rewrite, I objectified the Harv even further by giving it a number (H3JJDx617) while showing glimpses of the creature’s emotion, curiosity and love of mangoes. Published by Teleport Magazine.
I once attended a wedding that had a ring warming ceremony as part of the service. This was new to me. The wedding bands were circulated among those attending and the guests were supposed to say a little prayer or extend good thoughts for the lucky couple. Ultimately, the rings made it up to the altar, warmed by all the happy wishes. In my version of the ceremony, this didn’t go smoothly. Published by 96th of October.
Here’s a speculative piece that’s a departure from my other stories. It’s told in the voice of an eight-year-old child. From his perspective, he may have otherworldly powers or it just might be his imagination. First published in February 2020 by Bewildering Stories.
by DL Shirey
My legs don’t work right. Mommy says my muscles are little-boy size and will catch up to me some day. I am eight and a half. Daddy thinks I should go out and play more, but it’s hard to keep up. I can run without my crutches on flat ground pretty good, but I still fall too much. Daddy takes me to the park a lot and says I don’t need to use crutches when I play on grass. He says Mommy’s right about sidewalks and streets, to always use my crutches or I can fall down and skin my knees.
I have a wheelchair but Daddy hates it. He said that it will make my body lazy and to use the crutches and keep strong. When he takes me out on Daddy Weekends, he leaves the wheelchair in Mommy’s garage. He tells Mommy I get around good enough without it, but Mommy thinks I need it sometimes. Grown-ups are funny.
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. Published by Siren’s Muse, it appears in their 2020 Halloween issue. Download the PDF to find dozens of speculative stories and poems. Amy’s Face is on page 14.
If more people are born than die, how are souls reincarnated? This flash fiction tells all. First published in January 2020 by Grey Sparrow Journal.
Why Whales Beach Themselves
by DL Shirey
And God said to Phelan, “You know the rules. Every human baby must include a resurrected soul.”
What else could Phelan do except nod in response; her long, platinum curls bobbing as if confident the problem would be solved. As Angel-In-Charge of reincarnation it was her job. Not to mention, the higher echelons of divinity had too many perks for Phelan to admit that quality control had slipped in recent centuries. So many soulless newborns had snuck through already, and the world was beginning to feel the affects from their lack of empathy, forgiveness and cooperation.
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 by the speculative fiction magazine All Worlds Wayfarer.