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Dick and Jane, Together Again-Fiction by Marcy Dilworth
Lay Down Sally-Fiction by Jack Coey
Cleaning Up After the Narc-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Faith-Fiction by Don Stoll
Cigarettes-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Blood Will Bloom Like a Watercolor Flower-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Toast, Jell-o, Tea-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The PLacebo Effect-Fiction by Paul Smith
Aftermath-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Just Like Fish-Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Waterworks-Fiction by Sue Cmileski
Saith Me-Fiction by Robert Ragan
The Return of the Ladykiller-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Fire Man-Fiction by Terry Butler
Lost in Greenwich Village-Fiction by Dr. Mel Waldman
Never, Ever Bring This Up Again-Flash Fiction by Ralph Benton
Hip-Hop Baby-Flash Fiction byJ. Brooke
Idylls of the Queen-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
Looking Cold-Flash Fiction by Stanton McCaffrey
Camera_Flash Fiction by Leyla Guirand
Ashes and Dust-Flash Fiction by Janet Hartwell
Family Man-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Heads-Poem by John Grey
The Architect-Poem by Marc Carver
economy class-Poem by Meg Baird
She Knows-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Rain-Poem by Maddisyn Condora
Counter-Intuitive-Poem by Henry Bladon
An Eerie Journey Down the Invisible Staircase-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
A Sonnet for Elvira-Poem by Juan Perez
Unforeseen Endings-Poem by Michael Keshigian
When Her Kisses-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
In Your White Cadillac-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Love in the Time of Wolves-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
I Do-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
a bite better-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
hot afternoon-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
registry-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Dirty Pink Lipstick-Poem by Ian Mullins
Wrestlin' Gal-Poem by Ian Mullins
Between Takes-Poem by Ian Mullins
Banjo Bob and Cassy-Poem by David Spicer
Neurotic-Poem by David Spicer
I Imagine It's Goodbye-Poem by David Spicer
A Date with Destiny-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Under Moonlight-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
2020 (The Heart and the Thorn)-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
She Loves You-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

78_ym_ashesanddust_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2020

Ashes and Dust

 

by Janet Hartwell

 

 

I struggle to breathe in the frozen, gray air. Sandy is holding my hand, gently encouraging me to continue. We run and then walk for a long time before we stop and rest. I am so cold, tired, and weak, I want to sleep, but Sandy will not allow me.

Sandy tells me to try not to think about the horrors of the past two weeks, the man grabbing me off my bicycle, tossing me into his van. Sandy tells me to think about my mom and my cat. Sandy knows I will see them again. I need to keep going.

Sometimes, Sandy carries me and tells me stories. Her stories are about little children overcoming great adversity, becoming people who feel safe, simply because they are who they are.

We are looking for a road. I want to stop and rest again, but Sandy says no, he will come after us as soon as he realizes we are gone.

Sandy helps me climb up a steep, slippery embankment and then lifts me over a snowbank plowed against the guardrail. She tells me that when a vehicle comes up the road, we must jump up and down and wave our arms to get attention, to get help.

When headlights finally approach, we hop around, shout, and wave. The car stops. Sandy drapes her necklace around my neck, holds my cheeks in her hands, and kisses my forehead.

An older man approaches with an alarmed look on his face. Sandy steps away.

The abduction was two decades ago, when I was ten. I went to the convenience store to get candy, and I ended up over a thousand miles away. The police never caught the man who grabbed me. They never found Sandy, or any evidence of her. They say the man who abducted me gave me the necklace, or I found it along the way.

I have discussed Sandy with therapists. I tell them she was seventeen, had blonde hair, and was from California. They tell me my mind created Sandy to help me cope with extreme danger, calling it Third Man syndrome, or bicameralism. I show them the necklace, and they try to identify the material.

 

My Grandma believes Sandy was an angel. My mom says she was the best imaginary friend ever. A psychic told me that Sandy was the spirit of another victim. The woman who babysat me after school said Sandy sounded like the teenager I wanted to become.

I can still see her smile and hear her gentle voice saying, "You're such a good girl!" I think about her every day, and I always wear her necklace.

It appears I live a normal life. I've had boyfriends, hung out with girlfriends, and joined bowling teams. My relationships seldom last long. They intensify my longing for something I cannot identify.

I wake up one day, and I cannot find the necklace. I panic and rip the house apart, looking for it. I cry when I finally locate it. I walk past a mirror, and I glimpse Sandy looking out at me.

I make up my mind to go back to that forest. I request vacation time, and I leave.

A couple of days later, I drive along the road where the elderly couple found me and locate the point where they believed they picked me up. I know this is not the correct spot.

I drive further until I feel a wave of relaxed knowing, then I park the car and walk into the woods. I hear a stream and walk toward it, then I see a group of boulders, and I know which way to head.

I am aware of someone else being in the forest, near me, shadowing me, but I feel safe, not because I am who I am, but because I have a Glock 19.

I walk for hours before I come to his cabin. I crouch behind some blackberry bushes and study the thin smoke escaping the stovepipe. I hear the door open, and I watch him step out. I remember the hair and sneering facial expression.

I stand, and I empty the Glock into his chest and his crotch as I walk closer to him. He sinks to the ground and rolls on his back. I look down at his death face, and I feel complete as Sandy steps inside me, and my lips move when Sandy says, "You're such a good girl."

I pull the necklace from my neck and watch it turn back into ashes, dust, and tears in my hand.

 

 

 

Janet Hartwell lives near the Rocky Mountains with her dog and cat. She enjoys reading short stories and flash fiction, and was recently published in Shotgun Honey. Janet is also an AFOL (adult fan of Lego) and occasionally travels in an RV.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/                                             

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020