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Oklahoma-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Claire's Disposable Distraction-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Doing the Trash-Fiction by Sean McElhiney
Kinks-Fiction by Don Stoll
Heads or Tails-Fiction by Ambrose McJunkin
Brother Smith-Fiction by Bruce Harris
Designated Driver-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Dr. Flytrap's Home for Women-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Bhopal 2-Fiction by Doug Hawley
There He is Again-Fiction by Thomas Bailey
Genital Pulp-Fiction by Matthew Licht
There is Nothing-Fiction by Rick McQuiston
La Mere Mauvaise-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
One Dark Quiet Night Disturbed-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Prankster-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Petal World-Flash Fiction by j. brooke
Reading Bukowski-Poem by Bob Kokan
Preparing the Children for Grandma's Visit-Poem by John Grey
Marble-Sized Raindrops-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Never Any Good at Magic-Poem by J. J. Campbell
Red-Poem by Meg Baird
Spigot-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Wrong-Poem by Ruth Ticktin
In the Backyard-Poem by Holly Day
Harry the Hippie-Poem by David Spicer
Michelangelo's Handshakes-Poem by David Spicer
Flaxen Hair-Poem by John Short
Once Every Four Years-Poem by John Short
A Recap of the Main Points-Poem by Mark Young
Morning Raga-Poem by Mark Young
Corona-Poem by Marc Carver
Pandemic-Poem by Marc Carver
The Secret-Poem by Maec Carver
Consideration-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
The Apartment-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Holiday_Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by A. F. Knott 2020



Kenneth James Crist


Four months later . . .

Bonnie and I drove straight back from Kansas City, back from the strange “happening” in the old building with the throbbing music and the sudden stillness, the hole that opened in the ceiling and the hard, blue beam of light, the tractor beam, or whatever they might call it, that took Sissy Bowman away.

Bonnie was anxious and whiny for the first fifty miles or so, constantly pacing the back seat and standing up on her hind legs to look out the windows. I knew it would be that way and any efforts to try and soothe her and make her understand would be a wasted effort. Some things just take time.

I am always amazed at the loyalty of dogs. Sissy had only been with us for a couple of months, but Bonnie had claimed her as a friend and, in her world, that meant for life. I knew that as time passed, Bonnie would settle in and more or less forget all about Sissy, unless Sissy was to reappear. Then, with just one sniff, Bonnie’s world would at once be filled with joy. That’s the way dogs are. Sometimes they seem to forget, but they don’t. Not really. They never forget a friend and they never forget an abuser.

When we got back to my place in Wichita, I didn’t do anything about Sissy’s stuff for a while. I needed to let it sink in that she was really gone. Besides, her property was not really mine to dispose of. Her car was occupying half my garage and her clothes took up a little less than half my walk-in closet. I would need to deal with all that eventually, but I was giving myself time. Getting back to living the bachelor life would be tough enough. I felt that having her stuff around would be almost like she wasn’t really gone.

I spent my time as bachelors do, taking care of a house and yard, going out to dinner occasionally and getting Christine out for a motorcycle ride at least a couple times a week. Sometimes Bonnie went along and sometimes she just didn’t seem all that interested.

For the first couple of weeks, Bonnie jumped at every sound. The doorbell would just about give her fits. She was waiting for Sissy to do that miraculous thing that humans do—just magically appear from wherever they’ve been for so long, acting as if they haven’t even been gone for long at all.

After a few weeks, she seemed to calm down and things got back into a more or less normal routine. Sometimes I would find her, though, back in the walk-in closet, if I had forgotten to close the door, sitting among Sissy’s shoes, with Sissy’s clothes hanging above her. Sometimes I’d have to pick her up and carry her out of the closet and close the door to get her mind off the missing friend.

It was almost four months to the day when I took a ride to Tulsa. I was restless and I needed to get out and move. There was a BMW dealer in Tulsa, the closest one to Wichita, and I had been thinking about trading bikes again. I’d never owned a Beemer and I thought maybe a change was needed.

I went by the dealership and spent an hour browsing expensive bikes and shooting the shit with salesmen who didn’t seem to really care if I bought anything, or not.

I rode home, arriving late in the day. I moved the truck out of the garage and pulled the bike in. Put her in her regular spot. Pulled the truck back in and went into the house. Killed the alarm on the way in. I looked out on the sun porch and saw Bonnie, patiently waiting, sitting by the steps, watching the door.

I turned to my left and Sissy was sitting on the sofa in my family room.

I was shocked. But then, in light of everything that had been going on with her, I shouldn’t have been. I walked directly to her, expecting her to jump into my arms . . . or at least expecting her to acknowledge my presence. What I got was a fixed stare that looked right through me. I waved my hand in front of her face, snapped my fingers, spoke to her. Nothing.

I backed off and went to the back door and let Bonnie in, off the sunporch. Bonnie shot in the door and flew into the family room, yipping with joy. She ran in circles and then leaped into Sissy’s lap; then she stopped abruptly and jumped back down to the floor. She eased back up and sniffed Sissy’s ankle and then backed away in confusion. Then she began to bark. I knew something was very wrong and now, Bonnie did, too.

Sissy never even glanced at Bonnie. She was still as a statue, in a trance-like state. My mind was spinning through questions and possibilities: How did Sissy get here? The alarm was still set when I came in the house. Was she beamed through the roof? Reduced to energy and then reassembled here? Was she . . . God help me . . . still human? Still Hybrid?

Not knowing what else to do, I approached her cautiously and sat beside her. I heard her draw a shaky breath, and I automatically reached out for her and pulled her into my arms. At first, she was rigid. Not resisting exactly, but not, I sensed, wishing to be held, or maybe not wishing to even be touched.

I moved my lips close to her ear and whispered, “Sissy . . . Sissy . . . are you there? It’s Barry. Are you okay? Where are you, Sweetie?” I felt I was babbling, but I had no idea what else to do.

After several minutes, a shudder seemed to run through her, and she suddenly was grabbing at me, as a drowning person would, and then she was pressing against me, tighter and tighter, almost as though she wanted to climb inside me. When the tears finally came, I held Sissy for a long time. . . .

Days went by and Sissy and Bonnie became best friends again. I expected that Sissy’s nights would be filled with nightmares again, but she seemed to sleep peacefully. In fact, she slept too much. The bedroom became almost like a sick room, where a patient was wasting away and slowly approaching death.

She seemed to take no interest in much of anything, and I was actually looking into finding her some professional help. My problem with that was, who would believe her? Whatever she told a psychiatrist, it would not be believed on the face of it. It would be taken as the ravings of someone deeply disturbed, in effect a total whacko.

Our best times during this period were not in bed, like in the past. In fact, she seemed to have no interest in sex, or any kind of close contact. The best I could hope for was a hug and an occasional kiss. During this month-long funk she was in, our best times together were just sitting on the sunporch, usually in the porch swing, watching birds and squirrels and laughing at Bonnie’s attempts to chase down and capture critters that were too fast and too wily for her to rule.

Sissy didn’t eat much and seemed to have little interest in what she ate. Whatever was set in front of her, she picked at and sometimes ate enough to sustain life, but there was no joy in eating or drinking anything, as far as I could tell.

I worked steadily at trying to get her to talk to me about whatever had happened to her, but at the same time I was trying not to be intrusive, or overbearing. I knew from experience that if she was ever to confide in me, it would happen when she was ready, and not before. Trying to drag information out of her would be an exercise in futility.

A couple times a week, I tried to get her out on the bike, and sometimes that seemed to help a little. The speed and wind and motion seemed to satisfy something within her, and it was after a three-hour ride, upon our return home, that she unexpectedly took me by the hand and led me to the bedroom.

Once there, she was suddenly desperate to get out of her clothes, and to be held, and kissed, and caressed, and loved. It was a long session, and each time she reached orgasm it seemed to make her more desperate to get there again. Late in the evening, having worn each other out, we collapsed into sleep.

In the morning, she was gone.


During the night, Sissy had removed all her clothing and property from my house. Her car was gone from the garage. She had made it as though she had never been there at all. She was not answering her phone.

I spent two days debating whether I should call the cops. I finally did, and reported her as a missing person. A description of her and her car was broadcast, and her information was entered into NCIC, the national crime information database.

Four days later, her car was found at Cheney Reservoir, twenty-five miles west of Wichita. There was no park permit on the vehicle, which had prompted the park officer to run the tag. Responding officers found the car unlocked, the keys in the ignition and all of her property inside the car. Her purse and ID were sitting on the seat. There was no note or other indication of what had happened or her state of mind at the time. Speculation was that she had committed suicide by merely swimming out until she became exhausted and drowned.

I wanted to have her car towed to my house, but the County Sheriff, whose jurisdiction that part of the reservoir fell under, declined, stating they would hold her car and property as evidence, pending further developments. They also processed the car for fingerprints and blood, or any other evidence of foul play. They found nothing interesting in their search.


Then began a series of dreams, or maybe nightmares might be a better term, in which I saw Sissy, sitting in a patch of sunlight, on a creaky old straight-backed chair, in a shabby living room of an abandoned, tumble-down house somewhere. She did not speak or move in these dreams, but merely stared at the floor. There never seemed to be anyone else there, and she did not seem to be in any immediate danger.

But the same repetitive dream occurred each night for six nights in a row and each time I dreamed of her, the sunlight patch moved further across the floor, which was littered with cigarette butts, used condoms, and drug paraphernalia, the old carpet filthy and stained with God-only-knew what foulness.

When I awoke on the sixth morning, I’d had enough. Even though I had no idea where Sissy was, I could no longer ignore the dreams. Somehow, I had the feeling that if I would just undertake the simple action of finding her, I would be guided in the completion of my quest. And inaction was worse than uselessly burning up gallon after gallon of fossil fuel. I made a meager breakfast for myself and also cooked an egg for Bonnie and added it to her kibble. I put a case of bottled water and a few clothes in the truck and headed out, with Bonnie parked on the passenger seat.

I drove aimlessly for a while, trying consciously to let in any “vibes” that might come my way, but nothing seemed to enter my mind that was of any help. In two hours, I was near the Kansas-Oklahoma border, on a farm road I had never seen before. I came up to a tee intersection and stopped. Just for the hell of it, I looked at Bonnie and said, “Which way, babe? Find Sissy! Where’s Sissy? Find her!”

She immediately looked to her right, toward Oklahoma and barked, three sharp yips, then looked at me, her tail going ninety, and did it again.

“Okay,” I said, “works for me. . . .”

I turned south and hit the gas. Drove for a half hour, with Bonnie standing on the seat, front paws on the dash, staring straight ahead. When I came to another tee intersection, I again said, “Okay, which way? Where’s Sissy? Find her, Girl!”

Again, she looked to her right. More enthusiastic barking. I turned west and somehow, it felt right to me, too. Another twenty minutes brought us to highway 281. I pulled up to the stop sign and made my third inquiry.

This time Bonnie bolted across the seat and into my lap, looking south through the driver’s side window. More yapping and tail-action. I turned south on 281 and hit it.

We drove down 281 and made a brief stop in Alva, Oklahoma, for gas and some beef jerky we shared, and some water. We continued south and passed the entrance to the Little Sahara sand dune area, where people who loved dune buggies spent their weekends tearing hell out of the terrain.

Soon enough, we were in the “Glass Mountain” area. The Glass Mountains, also called the Isinglass Mountains, are red in color, with a wide, uniform band of selenite crystals toward the tops. Selenite is actually crystalized salt, but settlers to the area thought the crystals were isinglass, also known as mica.

It’s a desolate area, and I was starting to think we were on a wild goose chase, or maybe a doggie pipe dream. I had slowed, looking for crossroads, and I passed one, at which point, Bonnie went apeshit, spinning and barking in her seat.

I stopped and backed up. Bonnie looked west, so I went west. Four more miles and I pulled up to a four-way stop. Bonnie jumped in my lap and looked south.

“Are we close? Is she down there?”

No barking this time, but my hand on her back could feel her quivering with excitement. I turned south on gravel, and we cruised slowly along another two miles. Found a side-road, not much more than a dusty track between fields.

Bonnie went to her side and stared down the track. I turned that way and far ahead, I could see a house. Bonnie was beside herself, jumping into the back and back up front several times.

When I got to the house, I knew it was the right place. There was an old, rusty chain across the weedy, grown-over drive. I pulled up to the chain and stopped. Shut off the truck and reached into the glove box for my Glock model 22.

I let Bonnie out, and she shot for the house, barking her squirrel and bunny-chasing bark. I took it a bit slower, as I made my approach. I saw unpainted siding hanging crookedly, a roof ravaged by weather and full of holes. A tree growing out one window. A front door hanging on one hinge, which screeched horribly as I pushed it open.

Inside, the straight-backed chair I’d seen in my dreams. The nasty beige carpet. The abundance of butts, needles, and condoms. No Sissy. But it was the right house.

I heard dog feet hollowly plunking down some stairs and more barking. I continued through the house and found a stairway into blackness of a cellar. At the bottom, I could see the eye-shine of my dog looking up at me. I said, “Wait. I’ll be right back. . . .”

I turned and went outside, sprinted to the truck and grabbed a powerful tactical flashlight. Cursed myself for overlooking it in the first place. Trotted back to the house and went to the cellar stairs. Looking down with some decent light, I saw the missing stair tread that might have injured or killed me. Made my way carefully down, and I could hear snuffling over in one corner.

Sissy was lying supine on a filthy mattress, clothed in jeans and a sweatshirt, equally nasty. No shoes in evidence, and no sign of injury. I looked at her and the first thought that went through my head was, I’m too late . . . fuck me, she’s dead….

Then, she opened her pretty dark eyes and said, “Barry? I had a dream. You were coming to find me. Where am I?”

I sat down on the mattress, and pulled her to me, and she immediately began to weep, burying her face in the front of my shirt. Bonnie crawled into her lap, and we sat for a long time like that.

Soon, I got her up, and walked her up the shaky stairs, and outside to the truck. Stood her there and made her change into some of my clothes, which were grossly too large but at least they were clean. I chucked her clothes into the back of the pickup, under the tonneau cover.

Once parked in the cab of the truck, I handed her a bottle of water, which she opened and drained. I handed her another. It went down a little slower. I fired up the truck and we headed for home. Bonnie settled in her lap and seemed inclined to never lose sight of her again.

We made a stop at a drive-through burger joint in Alva, and I fed both my girls. Sissy decided that was the best food she’d ever had in her life. I had a million questions to ask, but I knew if I bided my time, I would eventually get the story. And if I pushed, I might not.

As we pushed on north, Sissy tilted her seat back and snoozed. We arrived home as dusk was settling in. When we pulled into the garage, she asked, “Where’s my car?”

“It was found out at Cheney Lake, babe. The sheriff has it. We were afraid…well, that you’d committed suicide, or someone had killed you.”

“I don’t remember going there. I don’t know what happened. I know I was picked up again. I know I didn’t make the cut, and they let me go. . . .”

“Wait . . . what . . . you didn’t make the cut? What does that mean?”

There was a long silence, and we finally got out of the truck and went inside.

“I need a shower, Barry. I need to be clean. Then we’ll talk, okay?”

She went off toward the bathroom. I parked on the sofa with Bonnie, and we waited. Watched the news. Watched Jeopardy.

Finally, Sissy came out, combing her damp hair. She sat beside me on the sofa and curled her legs up under her.

“They had room for four hundred people. Hybrids. Whatever we are. Were. They had four thousand of us and they could only take four hundred.”

“Where? Take you where?”

“To the universe, Barry. They took us up and out and showed us wonderful things. They can cross space. They can cross dimensions. They can cross time, Barry. And they had all these . . . hybrids they had created. But when it was all said and done . . . all the testing over, and everything, only four hundred got to go with them. I wasn’t one of the four hundred. And I was just cast aside. Dropped off. I found myself at that old house, and I didn’t have the will to do anything. If you hadn’t come to find me, I’m sure I would have died there.”

“Okay. In a way, that sucks. But I’m glad they didn’t take you. I’m glad you’re safe, and you’re back. I’m pretty sure Bonnie’s glad, too. You know she’s the reason I found you.”

“Well, I’m back to just being an ordinary person now. You won’t be seeing the weird eyes or anything again. They gave me something that . . . reverses the process. I’m no longer a hybrid.”

“And they told you this?”

“Yes, and I can feel it. I’m just a normal person now. I won’t be immortal, like . . . like them.”

“Immortal? Really?”

“They live for thousands of years. And when they get too old, they just clone a new body and . . . kinda move in. They go on forever. . . .”

“Hmmm . . . not sure I’d care for that. . . .”

“Yes, you would. If you were chosen. But that was the last batch. At least for a few hundred years, anyway.”

“Okay, well, in the morning, we can go see the sheriff and get your car, and your purse, and ID, and stuff . . .”

“I don’t care about that, right now, Barry. I want a good bed, and a good man, and I want good lovin’ . . . can ya take care of that?”

I took her in my arms and said, “I can only try. . . .”

And I did.

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, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.

A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage artist focused on book layout and book cover design as well networking in conjunction with Hekate Publishing, one of its missions, bringing together artist and writer. Sometimes seen selling in New York City's Union Square Park. Work can be found on 

flickr.com/photos/afknott/ Any exchange of ideas welcome: anthony_knott@hekatepublishing.com

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020