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Ferdie's Christmas-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Dead Meat-Fiction by Morgan Boyd
Twisted Love-Fiction by Mandi Rose
Run, Robby, Run, Part 4-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
All I Want for Christmas-Fiction by Carly Zee
Arterial Spray-Fiction by J. Brook
Murder Boots-Fiction by Jim Farren
The Blueberry Muffin Girl-Fiction by Michael Bauman
Standoff-Fiction by Lester L. Weil
Guns 'N Money-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Fester-Fiction by Mark Renney
The Start of a Bitchin' Year-Fiction by Luke Walters
Reprisal_Fiction by John W. Dennehy
Elevator-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Jamie, with the Blue Eyes-Fiction by Betty J. Sayles
All for the Love of a Good Burger-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Multiple Choice-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
Karma-Flash Fiction by Dr. I. M. Irascible
That Poe Story-Flash Fiction by Chris McGinley
Nome-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Underestimated-Poem by Marci McKim
The Stream of Life-Poem by Aiki Mann
Christmas Tale-Poem by Joe Balaz
In Loving Memory Of-Poem by Michael Marrotti
The Tattooed Man-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
You Got a Friend-Poem by Jerry Vilhotti
70,000 Birds-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Migrations #1-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
at the crest-Poem by Meg Baird
Gottingen Street 1998-Poem by Meg Baird
a subtle karate pose-Poem by Mark Young
The chains coil up into helical structures-Poem by Mark Young
Dream I'd Like to Forget-Poem by Alan Britt
Near Dawn-Poem by Alan Britt
Mischievous Ghosts-Poem by Alan Britt
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017


by Kenneth James Crist


Carrying my backpack and keeping to the shadows and doorways, I move up the street, toward the setting sun. The sun is up there. I know it is, even though I haven’t seen it in a year. The cloud cover keeps it hidden and also keeps it cold here in the city all the time.

The trees and everything else in the plant kingdom are now dead, never having enough sunlight to survive. Animals that lived on plants are mostly gone now, too. Some predators survive and, of course, rats. Rats and cats. Rats because they are om . . . let me look it up . . . the dictionary I found is in my backpack. Here it is . . . omnivorous. It means they can pretty much eat anything. Cats survive because they can catch rats.

Back to the sun and its problems. Late in the day, the cloud cover will turn orange, and I know it will soon get dark. Then it’s time to get barricaded in somewhere, before the monsters come out.

The monsters are just like anyone else, except things have gone wrong in their heads, and the food has just about run out, now. The monsters will eat humans, if they can find any. I once saw four of them, roasting a gutted human fetus over an oil drum fire. I once also thought they could be helped. Now I know the best thing for them is my crossbow. I use it because I never liked guns, and gunshots will bring the monsters.

I’m not very big. Maybe a little small for a fifteen-year-old girl. I know I’m undernourished, and sometimes I don’t get my period at all, for months at a time. I just started getting boobs last year. I know if I don’t get barricaded inside at night, they’ll find me, and I’ll be raped, and probably killed and eaten. But that’s the reality of the world.

I’m sure there are others like me, somewhere, but I haven’t seen any, and the presence of the monsters makes me distrustful. How do we define normal, anyway, after six nuclear exchanges, nuclear winter, and lives shortened drastically by radiation?

I call myself Nome. Because I can no longer remember my name. Or my parents. Or where I lived. There is little I do remember of the old time. I remember my dog, Pete. He was a black Lab. The dogs died early, when the war started. Dogs sniff everything, so most all of them picked up a lethal dose right off the ground. Bald, bleeding dogs dropping all over the place. I remember petting Pete as he was dying, and his fur coming out in wads, sticking to my hands. When Pete died, that was the last time I cried.

I’m good for tonight. I found an apartment this morning that had hardly been looted at all. I’ve got my backpack filled with canned stuff, and I hid a bunch more. I never go back to a store or apartment once I’ve been there and made it out alive. Sometimes monsters set traps for people like me, baited with food or other things needed for survival. My crossbow has saved me three times, when I wasn’t careful enough.

Getting darker now. I go inside a building that looks like it was once a bank. Desiccated bodies still behind the counters in the tellers’ cages. Vault standing open. Money scattered like so much trash. Worthless in this new world we created. Maybe I’ll sleep in the vault tonight. If the time lock still works, I can set it for eight hours or so and get some good sleep for a change.

Outside, I hear a sound so out of place, I move carefully to the door and listen, then, fascinated, I move out to the street. Above the cloud cover, I can hear bells. Tiny, jingling bells.

Hastily, I dig into my backpack and find my calendar. I have been marking off the days, but I may have missed a few. But I’m pretty sure it’s December 25th. The bells are fading now, moving away.

In spite of everything, I think that may be the loneliest sound I’ve ever heard. . . .


Kenneth James Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop from Wichita, Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and has since written four more novels, several novellas and a butt-load of short stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories, Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, and Kudzu Monthly, to name a few. Recently, he appeared in two of John Thompson’s anthologies at Hardboiled. They are Hardboiled, and The Undead War, both available at Dead Guns Press on Amazon.com                                   

He also has four books up in Kindle format, for sale on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.

Having turned 73 last June, he still rides his big Harley every day that weather permits and is now officially “retired”. He also operates Fossil Publications, publisher of Black Petals and Yellow Mama.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017