#ShortShortStories

a cure for the common block

Hero

Tabitha Snodgrass sat at her desk to compose the latest review for her weekly food column. She had never intended to review the sister-city sub shop “Bub’s Dubbed Subs”; while she had no opinion about the states decision to legalize marijuana, she was appalled by the shop’s crude allusions to the substance and its pandering to potheads. Unfortunately, when it gained local attention for a roving food truck she was overwhelmed with requests and forced to patronize the mobile eatery. While mentally crafting a scathing takedown of the establishment before she even ordered her food, she was surprised by how good some of the sandwiches sounded. Eager readers, especially fans of the vicious verbal evaluations for which Ms. Snodgrass gained loyal followers, were taken aback by the delightful tone of her review. She all but demanded everyone do themselves a favor and experience the delicious subs for themselves, exalting the Maui-Wauie and Yellow Submarine especially.

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In the Dark

When Toby was a child his brother told him about a local ghost story, The Whistler. It hit all the familiar beats about such legends: a man torturing and killing his family, dying in a house fire, mysterious disappearances, and an eerie whistling accompanying an unidentified scraping sound. Although his brother’s attempt to frighten Toby wasn’t particularly successful there was something unnerving about the story he couldn’t quite place. Years later he was recounting the tale to his friends at college when he finally identified what bothered him so much: the source of the scraping sound was never revealed – the punchline to every scary story ever – identifying the sound moments before the victims demise, was denied. Toby was visiting his hometown for his mother’s funeral, staying in a hotel when he jolted awake to the sound of scraping coming from the bathroom. He had always imagined the whistling and scraping to be monotonous, but in fact it was one long drawn out hooooo alongside several short scrape-scrape-scrapes. This continued for almost an hour as cold sweat soaked Toby’s bed, until the sounds suddenly stopped. Toby’s sweaty palm clasped the handle of the hotel door and turned it carefully, trying to make a silent escape. He opened the door to reveal a pitch black hallway; the haunting sounds resumed as a figure in the shadows rose, whistling and

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Judgment

The Dictator dismissed the guards and allowed the girl to speak at his side; it was necessary to occasionally challenge the image of an oppressive regime. The fair-skinned child spoke and the Dictator entertained her pleas up to a point. When she entreated him to release her father from the mines his patronizing half-smile melted into disgust as he realized he had been duped. His guards immediately seized her, while assistants took to removing any garments she had touched, and vigorously cleaning everything else. He was angered that his security had allowed a Worm – however deceptive its appearance – into his palace. He did quickly release her father from the limestone mines, but only long enough to witness her public execution.

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Sense and Sensitivity

Tycho strolled through the halls running his fingers along the painted concrete cinder blocks and intermittently pausing to listen to the music emanating from the rooms. He could see the chords as they were plucked; beats pounded; notes chirped; floating and vibrating in the air before him, a colorful array of sheet music only he could see. Tycho was a synesthete, what he saw was not a reality, but merely the confusing of aural and visual senses creating an hallucinatory effect. He slid onto a bench and his head cocked to one side, his ears picking up a rapturous melody. Rather than notes or words usually formed when he listened to a song, her voice formed one of the most beautiful faces Tycho had ever seen. While it didn’t resemble her at all, when he lifted his head to peek through the window, it was all he could see; he was in love.

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Through the Looking Glass

Zalthea Galford’s debut novel, “Pygmalion’s Lament”, focused on the concept of physically manifesting fictional characters. However, where other authors simply used it for wish fulfillment or a means to raise the stakes for battle, Zalthea took a sharp turn toward hard sci-fi; a niche based in actual science without inventing jargon and simplistic analogies to handwave anti-gravity, cryonics, and other staples of science fiction far out of reach of even hypothetical physics. She laid the groundwork of the multiverse, including universes which would inevitably abide by different laws of physics – physics that could allow for the psychic projection of the imagination into the material world. The exposition in the book used a brilliant professor writing a series of calculations with foreign notations and delved into their intricacies. What bored casual readers but intrigued some physicists were the extensive footnotes explaining what undiscovered particles and formulas the notations referred to, and hypothesizing the actual science required for such a feat.

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You’re Welcome

The Woman gave a smile to the boy at the booth as she ushered her daughter along with a playful remark, “C’mon Tinkerbell.” Her bemused daughter rolled her eyes and exited the lobby of the box office. Stanley immediately pulled out his notebook and jotted down the exchange. Stan was a storyteller and this was his book of ideas; the notebook with his stories was altogether separate. This was for little flourishes: moments of humanity, relationships, habits, defects. They were mostly witnessed firsthand, glimpses of impromptu scenes with people, not scripted scenes with characters. Little did he know that the daughter was a figment created by the Woman, and the moment was the exact opposite of impromptu. The Muse had planted the seed perfectly in Stan’s head. Weeks later, helping a woman find her seat after intermission, the staging for the first scene inspired a perfect story for the playful exchange.

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Unleashed

The Jungle teemed with life. Moths pollinating orchids, pythons pursuing prey; evolution moved forward slowly, but no less a force of nature. Life adapted together to survive until a Creature entered that did not evolve from the Jungle, had not adapted to the heat & disease, the venom & poison, or the fangs & claws. It crept through the shadows on two legs and did not cower from the tiger that approached the looming figure. The tiger bore its teeth and growled. They circled each other, the tiger trying to intimidate and ward off the intruder, but it saw no fear behind the eyes of this strangething; it saw nothing at all. The tiger closed its mouth – still circling – attempting to detect if this was friend or foe. The Creature stopped and reached above its head, wrapping its hands around a thick tree limb; the tiger bent its hindquarters preparing to attack with full force. Two strikes with the limb of a tree! The tiger was down. It was the Creature’s turn, it bore its teeth – a maw of razors – and it roared, sending a quake of fear throughout the Jungle.

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Reunion (Offspring Pt. III)

Nova had always known she was different. She had an innate understanding of what her body was doing at all times; circulation, metabolization, she could even sense the process of forming memories. When she turned twelve (her actual birthday, not the day assigned to her at the orphanage) she knew it was time to begin preparing her body for change. A few days before they left for the cottage Nova was primed, there was only one more thing that she needed. She explained to her disbelieving parents what happened that day: she dove into the water; swam down to the floor of the lake; buried herself, coated herself in silt, mud, minerals and began to hibernate. As she explained the first step in her metamorphosis she flared her gills to demonstrate; she could sense them about to faint again. She reached out to their hands and revealed that her name wasn’t Nova, “That’s what I am, something New.”

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Redefinition (Offspring Pt. II)

The summer of Nova’s 12th birthday brought many changes. Nova grew more mature, gained new admirers but she still only found time for swimming; thankfully, most of her friends were other swimmers. A change the Prestons never thought they’d see was in Nova’s appetite. The former house plant that barely needed sunlight and a mist of water became a shark with a bottomless pit in place of a stomach. They chalked it up to needing the energy to keep up her championship pace, because the food didn’t appear to go anywhere else. The family carved out two weeks of vacation to spend at their cottage on a nearby lake, and the first thing Nova did was run into the water. It was also the last thing that she did that summer. The search for her missing body went on for three months until a woman appearing to be in her twenties knocked on the Preston’s door and introduced herself as Nova.

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