Source Material by Jake Williams

I found a new vein. I think it runs deep. I imagine it running from the black jagged wall all the way to the core. The pickaxe sank into something soft and red pulp burst out. I checked over my shoulder three times before I pocketed a wet clump to take home to Mary. Ten years and some buried part of me is still moved by the texture, how it reflects the glimmer of the lantern, the congealed malleable batter that fills the folds in your hand.

Bob barks his orders from where the light gets in until a new discovery is announced and he scurries in. He makes notes for head office and focuses our combined efforts to where the newest batch is unearthed. Each glob I bring home, the worry builds and simmers. Mary says I’ve been talking in my sleep. In that brief window of rest where my thoughts give up I murmur about Gary. Slow Gary who tried to trade it at the company store and hasn’t been seen since. We’ve been careful, the secret nest egg in the faded plastic cooler, nestled in the shed.

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Flash Showcase: The Beast by Stephen Oram

Like a continuous line of ants, they come and they go. Squeezing through the gap in the protective covering created by the bio-build bots. Dashing across the tarmac track. Scrambling up the slope of the grass mound in the centre of the dome to find a patch they can call their own. Breathing in deeply. Sucking down the thick air. Waiting to catch a glimpse. The girl and her grandmother are no exceptions. Rubbing shoulders on the crowded slope they chortle in anticipation. They tingle with the thrill.

Four shiny diamond-like eyes pierce the smog that clings to the floor of the bubble. Pinpricks that gradually grow. A silver mesh stretches between the two largest eyes like a mouth guard for the most ferociously dangerous animal. They both feel a rush of excitement through their veins. A smaller daintier eye sits either side of the larger eyes, one on either side. A rumbling noise with an undercurrent of a steady beating thump increases in intensity.

Glints of sunlight that pierce the skin of the dome reflect off the approaching beast, shooting beams upwards to delight the crowd with the cross of a kiss above them.

The roar is immense as it rushes past them, spewing its internal gases into the air and into their lungs. The girl shrieks with delight and her grandmother chuckles with the incredible joy of reliving her memories. Memories of the bygone age of petrol fuelled automobiles. The power that is barely contained within its shell is exhilarating.

“To feel alive, you must taste the poison of death,” whispers the grandmother to her transfixed granddaughter.

The girl licks her lips and swallows.

“I taste it,” she says and lies back on the grass to savour the sensation.


Stephen Oram’s near-future fiction has been praised by publications as diverse as The Morning Star and The Financial Times. He is published in several anthologies, has two published novels and two collections of sci-fi shorts. www.stephenoram.net


For detail of how to submit your own flash piece. To our Showcase, please visit the Submissions page. We also now accept short stories for online publication.

Flash Showcase: Bridget Set the Table by Elyse Russell

Bridget set the table because she always set the table.

Every evening at six o’ clock, she laid out the dishes, the silverware, and the glasses. She put out a fresh vase of flowers for a centerpiece. Every evening at six o’ clock for the last forty-seven years, Bridget set the table.

Then she would go into the kitchen to bring out supper. A roast, stew, or ham; she had several cooking staples and she rotated through them like clockwork.

One day, she brought out a salad with homemade dressing, chicken parmesan, seasoned green beans, and warm rolls. Bridget made everything from scratch; there was nothing out of a box on her table. She was a wonderful cook: she knew it and took a measure of pride from it. That was why she worked for the most prosperous man in the county. And Mr. Tiller liked his dinner to be punctual.

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Flash Showcase: The Puzzle by Anthony Kane Evans

I.

I wasn’t sure I was in the puzzle until I bumped into a young man on the trail I was taking to the beach.

“Excuse me, can you help me?” he said. “I’m looking for the town centre.”

Then he put his hand up to his mouth and laughed a thin, reedy laugh. One of the thirty-six signs of the puzzle. I kept a straight face. I didn’t want the puzzle to know that I knew I was in the puzzle.

“Keep going in the opposite direction to me and you’ll get there,” I said.

“Thank you,” the young man said. “It’s a good day for the beach, I can see that. Perhaps I’m going the wrong way, after all.”

“No doubt you’ll find out when you get there,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

II.

He did move off. I felt the puzzle’s grip lessening. I found I could think again. I’ve heard that you can sing nursery rhymes to yourself, thereby confusing the puzzle, keeping it busy, as it were, so that it doesn’t interfere so much with you. I sang Humpy Dumpty. I tried not to think of the beach but clutched my towel a little bit tighter.

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Flash Showcase: Telescope by Joe Howsin

Eyes open, fists clenched; teeth grinding, limbs limp; a shape, a shift; a whimper, a cry; a scream. This is how I wake up each morning. With routine, the terror I feel towards the shadow in the corner has dulled. No longer sharp, it is merely an ache. Yet still, each morning, I scream.

These days I don’t know why I get up at all. There is no job to go to, no friends to see. Maybe it’s for the coffee, or to escape the shadow.

Have you ever sat completely still because to move would be to hurl yourself into a rage? My blood thickens, lapping in viscus waves against straining eardrums. Electricity arcs across my muscles and burns me from the inside out. I twitch and jitter, shaking the cupboards, rattling plates, smashing a mug. I sink to my knees and collect the shattered rabbits lying in pieces on the kitchen floor. Their blood is thin and watery: a light brown fluid smelling faintly of earth and milk. I cry in shuddering tides over ceramic wildlife as the electricity continues to burn.

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Flash Showcase: After this period, screaming should be minimal by Leonie Rowland

Cracked, I think, from the moment it starts: one foot on the pavement & one in the canal, saying, I could get used to this. My feet, speaking, conscious; considering you, twisting away, walking with strange inflections. That photo I sent, where I am in a bathroom, and they are almost on their side. The buckles on my shoes touching the floor. Get used to it. Get used to being half here and half there; go for dinner with someone I love (not you (not you)); listen when they say, you are always gone after speaking to her; nod and know that I was gone already, eating somewhere else, fading into vacancy and viciousness, expressed somehow as compassion (towards the distance, which pulls us together and keeps us apart). I am shoulders and shockwaves, limbs I don’t want, texts floating to you across the sea. Cups of water between us, flooding everything, all we talk about: look at the body, watch it yawn and take me whole. My feet shouting synergies, my hands scratching the shore. Fingers holding you. 

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Flash Showcase: Thief by Lindz McLeod

Crooked trees beckon you like fingers. Bark wrinkles like elderly hands in motion. You walk on the path, lemon sherberts crunching under your boots. Yellow shards, coating your soles. Cherry drops coo from high above; their young are barely more than red dots, hiding behind their parent’s wrappers. Foil coins hang from branches as long as school rulers. You fill your pockets with strawberry bonbons until your blazer weighs as much as a lie. Cram mint humbugs into your mouth, between gum and cheek. Class hamster-cute.

On the beach, a pink piggy bank—twice the size of a truck—naps, half-buried, in the sand. It is labelled. This is not your name. You drop to your knees and scrape away the wet sludge. The coin slot is exposed. You fit your arm inside. You grope around. It is empty.

Twenty yards out from the shore, another pink piggy bank is drowning. You wade into the creamy waves. The cola water fizzes around your calves. You dive down. You pick starfish off the sides, peeling them back limb by limb. This piggy bank is labelled too. This is not your name. Nothing rattles inside. No sunken treasure. No chest of dark jewels or gold coins stamped with different kings or strings of milky pearls or silver goblets or gem-encrusted daggers. Nothing you can sell or trade. Breaking the surface of the waves, you stumble to your feet. Your face dripping with carbonated shame.

You glance back at the shoreline, wondering if it’s not too late. It is too late. The trees have lurched onto the beach to watch. Faces made of nested leaves. Each expression shucked from the last like dead skin. Scabbed wounds, which have never really healed. Too dense to understand your drive. Too compact to understand your need.

You were greedy, once. You were greedy. Weren’t you?


Lindz McLeod is a queer, working-class, Scottish writer who dabbles in the surreal. Her prose has been published by/is forthcoming in Hobart, Flash Fiction Online, the New Guard, Cossmass Infinities, and more. She is a member of the SFWA and is represented by Headwater Literary Management.


To submit your own flash piece to our Showcase, visit our Submissions page.

Flash Showcase: Houseplants (Love Spores) by Eric Farrell

Kathy Harrison bursts through the Green Lovelies entrance. Cocobolo beads rattle against the glass door. The steely-eyed clerk is dressed head to toe in selvedge denim. She stares Kathy down, inhaling imperceptibly. She knows what’s coming. The woman’s going to start yelling.

“Everyone just stop!” Kathy hollers once fully inside the plant shop’s showroom floor. A few Green Lovelies shoppers freeze in their tracks. The clerk eyes her from beyond the small forest of hanging macramé plants in the middle of the retail space. She’s got everyone’s attention. Part one of her mission successful. Now for part two…

“Citizens of Long Beach, I am warning you as a fellow neighbor, not to buy any of these plants! None of the succulents! None of the pathos! No tropical dwarfs at all! Because you know why?!”

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Flash Showcase: Vertical Time by Jesse Hilson

Doxological bells form sonic latticework your soul is meant to climb. Ropes of incense rise around the mercy seat, no one smells the right day, no one allowed inside the tent. Toxic mistletoe dangles like a surveillance camera hung by a corrupt king. A child’s balloon has a much longer string, so there’s more time to catch it should it slip away. A vertical dream of Herod redirects a horizontal flowchart of Magi, one of a series of dams raised inside synoptic valleys. Strategically dropped dream-bombs sprout walls to shape the future Ascension. How do you avoid influencing the sequence of life events penetrated at hidden points by the dream? How do you clean the dust off the dream button without pushing it? The time traveler has to fall asleep staring at the picture of his target day the day of. He goes to give a gift to Neanderthals, a pre- historic spoiler about gold. He goes back to buy the time travel book but someone had beat him to climb the bookstore ladder and had bought it already. Himself. The book of myrrh perfume can’t be taken from the bottom of the stack. It needs patience, till it comes of its own accord to the top of the pile.


Jesse Hilson is a writer living in the Catskills in New York State. His writing has appeared in AZURE, Maudlin House, Pink Plastic House, ExPat Press, Windows Facing Windows Review, and elsewhere. His crime novel Blood Trip will be published by Close to the Bone in 2022. His poetry chapbook Handcuffing the Venus De Milo will be published by Sparrow’s Trombone in 2022. He can be reached on Twittter at @platelet60


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Flash: Colour Bleeds Out/Only Birds by C.R. Dudley

Colour bleeds out, sounds wind down. Muffled, blind. Straight lines, thick and thin, washed in white and grey. It is winter here. Gentle snowflakes fall, though they strike as something sinister. Am I the only one conscious, the only one not a golem made of meat? Playing pieces for cruel gods. This pawn has slipped through the gaps, into the liminal. I call out, and I see my words, my breath, in emanating waves. Mirrored in the puddle surface a boot hovers above, paralysed by my downcast thoughts. Happily it would have splashed, a small pleasure on the way to work. But now all of that is tainted, and we see, the boot and I, what really lies beneath.

Whole buildings erased, replaced by sea. Wave after wave of attempted communication washes away the humanity stored in my flesh, strips me to my cartilage and cleans it thoroughly. Now I match the snow, barely seen at all and becoming flatter all the time. A whisper on a slate of white noise. No pavement below me, no sky above. Only birds, angry that they are suddenly no more than ink blots on a damaged canvas, furious that the screeches they thought they owned have been supplanted in an instant by silence. In the absence of direction, of anything else at all, they gather to peck at my bones, and I am glad.


C.R. Dudley is author of metaphysical science fiction collections Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap. She is also a visual artist and mind explorer, fascinated by the human condition and the inner worlds we create. She considers every project to be part of one continuous artwork. You can follow her blog here.

She is also owner and editor here at Orchid’s Lantern press.

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