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Back in the Day-Fiction by A. F. Knott
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Headhunters-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Holiday Season-Fiction by Don Stoll
Milky Way Galaxy. Solar System. Earth.-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Angel-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Backpage Baby-Fiction by Robb White
Elegant on the Outside-Fiction by Bruce Costello
A Life Examined-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Run, Baby, Run-Fiction by J. Brooke
The Pursuit of Presley Penguin-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Neighbors-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Strange Attractors-Fiction by Jeff Houlahan
The Ghost of Christmas Never-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Best Enemies Forever-Flash Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Glitter in the Dark-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
Spirit Intoxicating Babe in the Woods-Flash Fiction by Monique Saier
My Only Christmas Story-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Ode to Old Brooklyn-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Bacardi Taillights Machine Gun Farewell-Poem by John Short
Pearl Diver-Poem by Wayne F. Burke
Abandoned Sofas-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Kafka Museum-Poem by Henry Bladon
Elegy for Frank-Poem by David Spicer
Schmoozy-Woozy-Poem by David Spicer
Dangerous-Poem by Marc Carver
Eternal-Poem by Marc Carver
The Race has Just Begun-Poem by J.J.Campbell
The Endless Nightmare-Poem by J. J. Campbell
The Last Word-Poem by Meg Baird
Vision of Steel-Poem by Meg Baird
Zen-Poem by Meg Baird
Estrangement-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
First World Herd-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
Christmas Morning in an East Hollywood Hovel-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
A Season of Bailing Wire and Duct Tape-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
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 Kevin Duncan 2019

Milky Way Galaxy. Solar System. Earth.


Kenneth James Crist



Lying awake at night while someone you care about suffers is really not my thing. I had met Sissy Bowman at Marfa, Texas, while on a motorcycle ride with Bonnie, my Jack Russell terrier.

We had met under strange circumstances at the viewing area for the Marfa Lights, a phonied-up tourist attraction where supposedly, one could view “ghost lights.” What we had seen were actual lights of a UFO, and later it had come to Tucson and abducted her. Things got stranger when we encountered a “Men in Black”-type, who seemed to be keeping track of us everywhere we went.

During this strange vacation, she and I had become lovers, and we wound up back at my place in Wichita, and we had been living together for a couple of months. It was now the Christmas season, and those who really got into the festivities had decorations up, and the neighborhood was lit up every night.

And Sissy was suffering. Nightmares every night, acid reflux every day, and never knowing when the next page in her strange adventure would turn.

Of the abduction in Tucson, she claimed to have no memory. She had been snatched right in front of me and returned before morning, unharmed, but still scarred in some way, too deeply strange to understand. The only time she seemed to be able to let it all go and find some comfort was when we made love, so we did that a lot.

After the throes of orgasm, and in the afterglow of good sex, she could often get several hours of deep, restful sleep before the demons that plagued her psyche would get revved up again.

Now, as she mumbled in her sleep, her voice rising gradually to a breathy, screamy pitch, her feet and legs twitching as she fled in her sleep from the things that haunted her, I got up and used the bathroom, then came back to bed. She was approaching the end of a predictable cycle, when she would finally sit straight up in bed and scream, sometimes repeatedly, and she would sometimes wet  herself, and we’d have to change the bed.

I had learned just where to break into her dream cycle to prevent this, but this was also not without its dangers, as sometimes when awakened during these dreams, she would lash out, swinging and fighting. She’d managed to smack me a few times, some pretty good blows, but so far, she’d never drawn blood.

I waited beside her, getting my timing just right, then wrapped her up in my arms and got control of her hands as she woke up. The final scream died in her throat, then as she realized she was once again safe, she turned into me, her body hot and damp, her breath sour and her hair sticking to her forehead. She buried her face in the side of my neck and whispered, “God, Barry . . . fuck me. Hold me and fuck me till I can sleep again. I need it, Baby. Can you love on me some?”

I didn’t answer her. I usually didn’t, as actions speak louder than words. When this whole sequence occurred, she was almost always aroused and wet, and she wasn’t interested in foreplay. She wanted me inside her, the sooner and harder and deeper the better. I was more than happy to oblige. If sex was the medication, I could certainly be the doctor. Usually, she would climax several times during an hour of slow lovemaking, and I had conditioned myself to hold off as long as possible.

This night was just a little different, though. At 3:35 AM, when we were finished, she lay there for a little while, and I thought she had gone back to sleep, but then she said, “They were very tall and thin. Their faces were thin, and they had no noses. Their eyes were huge, and I felt like they could see through me all the way down into my fucking soul. They kept telling me that everything was all right, but they never spoke. It was all in my mind. They . . . put these probes in me . . . up my ass, and into my vagina . . . down my throat . . . into my ears. There was no pain, but it was the most frightening thing . . . because I was totally helpless . . . couldn’t move, or speak, or anything.”

I kept silent. This was the first time she had admitted to being able to remember any of her abduction, and she was on a roll, so I kept my yap shut and let her ramble.

“I’ve read about a drug that doctors use to paralyze patients so they can intubate them. It’s called succinylcholine. This was the same thing. It was horrible. I could hear, smell, feel, and see, and other than breathing, I couldn’t do shit.”

“Do you remember being picked up?”

“No. I remember going to sleep in the motel, then I was awake and the . . . beings were . . . hovering over me . . . and the nightmare started.”

“And that’s what your nightmares are about . . .”

“No. In my nightmares, I am one of them. One of those tall, skinny, alien things, and I’m being hunted, and chased, and abused by something worse . . .  infinitely worse . . . monsters from a different world, or maybe a different dimension. Horrible things that I can never quite see. It’s the dread . . . and the certainty that they will get me, and there’s nothing I can do to survive. . . .”

Again, she turned to me, and I held her until she finally slept again. I didn’t sleep at all the rest of that night.

When dawn came, I got up quietly and dressed. Went out to get the paper. Yes, I still take the Wichita Eagle, even though I can get fresher news almost anywhere. I don’t think what you get in 8-to-15-second sound bites and news stories really has any depth to it. For that, you need paper. Besides, I like crossword puzzles.

The black Chrysler was a block and a half away, to the west, where the street curves around West Millbrook Park. Apparently, this weird fuck thought he was being sneaky. Half the car was visible, looking through the trees and bushes. I was careful not to look. In Tucson, he had tried to make friends with Bonnie and he’d also called me by name. We were apparently his assignment and, dedicated asshole that he was, he was still with us. Fuck him and fuck his horse, too. I went in and put on coffee.

Sissy was still in bed, and as I drank coffee, I paced the kitchen and stewed. It wasn’t so much the fact we were being watched, or maybe even stalked, it was the arrogance of these people, or entities, whatever they really were. As though people were no more than bugs or worms. Bugs and worms that needed to be watched.

Finally, I slipped a Glock model 22 into my waistband and went out the back door. My backyard is completely enclosed by rose of Sharon and trumpet vine, but it was December, so the cover wasn’t as thick as I would have liked. I stepped out to the back fence, in the southwest corner, where I had the additional cover of a lawn shed, and stepped over the four-foot chain link. The property behind the house had recently been turned into a Frisbee Golf course and, during its first year, it had drawn a lot of players. Now, not so much. It was cold out, for one thing. Frisbee control suffers when you can’t feel your fingers.

I set off across the park to the south, moving further east all the time, skirting neighbors’ backyards until I reached the creek a third of a mile away from the house. The banks of the creek were high enough that once I was down in there, I was out of sight. I walked west until I reached 119th street, then I worked my way back north, using trees and shrubbery as cover until I was right behind the right rear corner of my weird friend’s Chrysler.

I was all ready to just step up and open the passenger door and slide right in and make myself comfortable, when I realized the guy wasn’t in the car. As I started to turn and look around, I smelled Old Spice and felt cold metal against the back of my neck. I froze in place, not hard to do when the temps were in the thirties, and waited to see what was next.

“Good morning, Mister Wilder.” Again, that slight hissing sound with the voice, perfect English, spoken by a Puff Adder. “Please leave the Glock pistol right where it is and go ahead and get in the car. . . .”

Suddenly over my snit and more than a little humbled, I stepped forward and tried the door. It was unlocked, and I slid in, as my friend came around and got in under the wheel. I decided I would just bore right on in—damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. As his ass hit the seat, I brazenly asked, “Just who the fuck are you people, anyway? What gives you the right to watch me all the time?”

“You need to relax, Mr. Wilder. We’re not watching you. We’re watching her.”

“Why? What’s the point? You already took her and did every kind of examination you could do. What’s the point of the harassment?”

“The point? Then you don’t know the full story yet, do you Mr. Wilder?”

“I’m not sure I know anything about any of this. What’s it all about?”

He turned to me, and I looked at his pasty white complexion, no evidence of a beard at all. Lips that looked fake and a nose that might have been glued on. He pulled down his sunglasses and looked over the dark lenses at me. His eyes had the same irises you see on a rattlesnake, black and elliptical against a gold-yellow background. “She’s the same as me, Mr. Wilder. Only different. . . .”

I felt the hair on my neck stand erect, and my blood ran cold. I jumped out of the car and ran.

*     *     *     *     *

I took Sissy to breakfast at Jimmy’s Egg, a breakfast and lunch place about four miles from the house. Over a Popeye’s Revenge Omelet, I listened as she prattled on about some movie she’d watched on Netflix the night before. When she realized I wasn’t really paying attention, she stopped, then said, “Okay, what’s goin’ on, Barry? You’re off in la-la land. Did I keep you awake all night, or what?”

“I had a conversation with our friend in the Chrysler this morning.”

“A conv—whataya mean you had a . . . what the fuck, Barry? You tryin’ ta get us killed?”

“Yeah? Why would that get us killed?”

She pushed her plate away and hid behind her coffee cup. Giving herself time to think. . . .

“I—I didn’t mean literally get us killed. . . . I just—”

“The fuck you didn’t. I didn’t just talk to him. He showed me . . . what he is. He’s alien. I saw his eyes. I got right up in his face. He’s not from here. Not from this planet . . . or this dimension, whatever. And he said you were ‘the same’ . . . only different.”


“Yeah, right, Sissy. It’s time, Babe.”

“Time . . . for what, Barry?”

I threw some money on the table and got up. “Time to tell me just exactly what the fuck’s goin’ on. And no bullshit. Either that, or when we get back to the house, you pack yer shit and get on down the road.”

I walked out and headed for the pickup. As I started it up, she came out and ran for the truck, piled in. Her makeup had started to come apart, tears cutting through face powder, mascara not far from disaster.

I jerked the truck into reverse, and she grabbed my wrist and said, “Wait. Please. Just wait—a minute. . . .” I shifted back into park and listened to the heater fan running. Finally, she reached for me and took my face in her hands, turning me toward her. She looked into my eyes, her pretty dark eyes brimming and then she blinked and they changed. Her pupils changed and they were like the Chrysler guy’s, elliptical black against a gold background. I recoiled slightly, my breath catching, and then she blinked again, and there were her own pretty eyes back.

“Jesus, Babe . . .” I was speechless for a moment, then I said, “Okay. Tell me.”

She was digging Kleenex out of her purse, and she said, without looking at me, “As best I can determine, I’m some kind of hybrid. Maybe an experiment, I don’t know. When they . . . took me . . . it was just to see how their lab rat was holding up. I think . . . this is what they want to do to all of us. They want to breed out regular humans and prepare us for . . . what they do.”

“What they do? What do they do?”

“They travel the cosmos. Across space. Across time. Across dimensions. They have enemies, and they have friends. They are at war, and they have been, for thousands of years. Some of the races they are at war with would enslave our planet, if they could. When they have made enough hybrids, our race will be that much safer.”

I put the truck in reverse again and backed out. Turned and headed for home. About halfway there, she sighed and said, “So where does all this leave us? Gonna kick me out, now?”

I reached for her hand. Felt the desperation in her grip. “No,” I said, “I’m not kickin’ ya out. It just leaves me curious, that’s all. Makes me wonder how many other . . . hybrids there are. And when did you . . . know you were . . . different?”

“There are thousands, Barry, scattered all over the world. And . . . sometimes I can feel their minds reaching out, trying to find others. It’s kinda creepy. When did I know? Not until after they took me. I looked in the mirror one morning, and there were my eyes . . . changed. It scared the fuck outta me. I thought I was losin’ my fucking mind. But then I started havin’ the dreams, and I finally started to get it. I figured it out.”

“So, does this mean I’m gonna get picked up next, and they’re gonna do this shit to me, too?”

“It doesn’t work that way, Hon. My mother had to have been implanted with their genetic material for this to happen. And it’s probably the reason I never had any kids. Maybe the genetics wouldn’t carry to the next generation, so they made me sterile. I don’t know. That’s just speculation on my part.”

We arrived back home, and I pulled into the garage. The black Chrysler was gone from its place down by the park.

We sat in the truck a few moments more, and I said, “So the normal humans, people like me, will eventually die out and be replaced by hybrids?”

“I think that’s the plan. And I really don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.”

“Do me one favor, okay? Try not to show me those eyes while we’re in the bedroom, boinkin’ our brains out? I think if anything could cause me to have ED, that would do it. . . .”

*     *     *     *     *

Four nights later, just about bedtime, Sissy walked out of the bathroom, already in her oversized sleep-shirt, her teeth brushed, her makeup off, and she suddenly stopped. She stood for almost a full minute, her head cocked to one side, a look on her face that one gets when listening intently. Then it was over, and she came to bed.

“What was that?”

She snuggled in against me and murmured, “What was what, Hon?”

“You just . . . kinda stalled there for a minute, like you heard something strange. . . .”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell ya in the morning. We’ve still got a little time….”

“Time for what? What’s goin’ on, Babe?”

“Never mind. . . .” She slid a hand down to the front of my shorts, and in no time at all, I forgot all about it.

The next morning, I awoke to the smell of coffee and the shower running. I went to the kitchen, got a cup, then went and joined her in the shower. No messing around, though. She seemed in a very business-like mood. After we were dressed and sitting at the kitchen table, she said, “We need to pack a bag and get on the road.”

“Get on the road? Where we goin’?”

“Somewhere east of here. I’m not sure where, but I’ll know as we go.”

“Know as we go? Sounds mysterious.”

“Not really. You know how you use a Garmin when you travel? Well, it’s like that. Something is . . . calling me. Needs me . . . to be at a certain place, at a certain time. We don’t need to hurry, but we do need to get started.”

“What about Bonnie? Do I need to board her?”

“I . . . don’t think so. I think she can come. We might need a pet-friendly motel. Or maybe not. It’s not clear yet.”

“Dang, Girl. You sound like one of those magic 8-ball toys—‘Answer not clear, ask later.’”

“You know, I had one of those growing up. Used to ask it all kindsa shit. Never did me much good, though.”


An hour later we were getting on the Kansas Turnpike at the east Wichita terminal, Bonnie already curled up in Sissy’s lap. We were in my truck, and some Scott Joplin ragtime piano was on the CD player. We were both in a festive mood, and I wondered if we were possibly whistling past the graveyard. I had a foreboding that this would not turn out well, but there was really no reason.

Three hours later we were into the Kansas City sprawl, looking for a motel to check in for the night. It was just past noon, and most places let you check in as early as twelve. We found a place on the Missouri side of the river that allowed pets, as long as we didn’t mind paying an extra twenty bucks. I decided Bonnie was worth twenty dollars any old day, and we got a room with two queen beds. We got some lunch and then took a nap.

At 6 PM, Sissy woke me up and said, “We hafta go, Barry. Right now. C’mon, get up.” Bonnie was already at the door, her nose pressed to the crack.

“Better let her out so she can do her business,” I said.

“She’s already been out. Twice. She’s just excited. She’s probably picking it up off me. . . .”

“You’re excited?”

“I am . . . and I don’t know why. I also have a feeling of dread. Again, I don’t know why.”

We piled into the pickup, and Bonnie took up her usual station, her back feet on the back seat and her front feet on the console between the front seats. I called it her copilot position. Sissy provided directions, and we moved deeper into eastern Kansas City, eventually into a dark and dreary warehouse district. Up and down three different streets before she suddenly said, “There! That one. . . .”

“It’s all dark, Babe. Doesn’t look like there’s anyone there. . . .”

“Pull around back. Let’s see what’s what.” I drove down a grubby alley, barely wide enough for the truck, hearing broken glass crunching under my tires. They were Michelin steel-belted radials, but still. . .

Behind the three-story building, there were about forty cars squirreled away in the dark. No one around at all. As soon as I turned off the truck, we could hear a deep, throbbing beat of music, coming through the dank, dirty brick of the old building. It was so loud, I could almost feel it in my teeth. As we got out, I made Bonnie stay in the truck, telling her, “Kill anybody that fucks with the truck, okay?” She wasn’t happy being made to stay by herself, but I wasn’t about to take her in there, not knowing what we’d find inside.

Sissy took my arm, and we walked around toward the front. Halfway down the alley, a door popped open and a huge man looked out. He said nothing. Trying to speak over the roar of the music would have been futile, anyway. He motioned us over and looked closely at Sissy’s face, particularly her eyes, then he stepped back and motioned us inside.

Wishing for earplugs, I followed Sissy into a huge room painted totally black. Or maybe it was just filth caked on the walls. Lasers in every color flashed with the pounding beat of a live band, if it could be called that. The stage, at the far end of the room, was raised two feet off the main floor. Speakers as big as garage doors were stacked to the ceiling, being powered by the biggest amps I had ever seen. The band consisted of four skinny, white pencil-necks in black grunge wear, two on guitars, one on an electronic piano, and a drummer. A banner behind them announced, “Last Day on Earth”. Maybe the name of the band, or maybe a statement of fact. There was a bar to our right, where four bartenders were free-pouring drinks and sweating their asses off. On the dance floor, about a hundred people gyrated to the music, not even attempting conversation. Sissy nudged me and headed for the bar. She didn’t even try to speak to anyone, just pointed and made a stirring motion with her fingers.

In a minute she came back and handed me a somewhat sticky glass filled with something too sweet and too loaded with rum. I drank it, anyway. It had been a while since I’d poured anything down my throat that made me cough and made my eyes water. Pretty wicked shit. I decided right then I wouldn’t be having a refill.

Sissy and I didn’t dance. In fact, we avoided the dance floor completely, opting instead to find an unoccupied corner and hang on each other and smooch. There was a lot of that going on, both on and off the dance floor. After we’d been there about half an hour, I moved my lips right against her ear and asked, “See anybody you know?”

She shook her head, and I moved in on her again and asked, “Okay, what are we doin’ here?”

“I’m not sure. But something big is going to happen, and everyone here knows it. . . .”

“I know,” I said, “you can feel the excitement.”

It was about twenty minutes later when there was a rumble that shook the floor, and the music abruptly died. After the din we’d put up with for over an hour, the silence was deafening. The big guy from the door came out onto the dance floor and yelled for everyone’s attention. When he was satisfied he had it, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please clear the floor. Stand by the walls and say any goodbyes you need to. It’s time.”

 We moved back to the walls and suddenly, with a ripping and squealing sound, a hole about eight feet in diameter opened in the ceiling. There were gasps and a few screams, but no one moved. I put my arms around Sissy and said, “What the fuck? What is this?”

“We’re going away, Barry. We’re being taken up. Just like the Rapture, I suppose. . . .”

“Damn. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have brought Bonnie. . . .”

“No. Not you, Barry. Just us. The hybrids.” There were tears in her eyes and at the same time, they looked like snake’s eyes. “I . . . I don’t think we’ll be back….”

Just at that moment, a small, pretty teenage girl walked out into the center of the dance floor, directly under the hole in the ceiling. A sharp, hard blue beam of light snapped down, and the girl looked up and suddenly shot straight up through the hole and out of sight. The light remained, and I watched as, one by one, the people all walked into the beam and were taken up. It got down to the last few, and Sissy grabbed my arms and stretched up for a last kiss. Her mouth tasted coppery.

“Goodbye, Barry. Thanks for everything. I love you.” She turned, waited for another woman to go ahead, and then stepped into the beam, and was gone.

The last to go up was the huge doorman. As he stepped into the beam, he turned and looked at me and placed his finger over his lips, in the classic librarian’s motion for silence. And then I was alone. . . .

The blue beam went out, and I was left in the great empty building, the only sound the humming of the amplifiers. I walked over and stepped up onto the stage and found all the electric plugs and pulled them. I left the laser lights on so I could find my way out.

As I walked back to the truck, I wondered what the cops would think when they found all these abandoned cars behind the warehouse. Then, as I unlocked the truck and Bonnie greeted me, I said, “Fuck it. Not my problem. . . .”

She jumped in my lap, and I petted her for a while. She kept looking around for Sissy, and I knew it would be a while before she stopped that.

We drove to the motel and collected my bag and Sissy’s stuff that she wouldn’t be needing anymore. It felt almost like it feels when someone you care about passes away.

Almost. . . .

Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 74, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. On June the ninth, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.

Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books. 

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019