Black Petals Issue #97, Autumn, 2021

The Epistolean
Editor's Page
BP Artist's Page
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A World of Sensations-Fiction by Michael Dority
Goddess Deva-Fiction by David Starobin
Hunting Ground-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Love Letters-Fiction by S. J. Townend
No Content Available-Fiction by Richard Brown
Phantom Smell-Fiction by Daniel G. Snethen
Predatory Peepers-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Visit-Fiction by B. E. Nugent
The Working Man-Fiction by Christopher Hivner
The Extermination-Fiction By Dominique K. Pierce
Win-A-Burger-Fiction by Glenn Dungan
Counting Time-Flash Fiction by Ramon F. Irizarri
Terry and the Techo-Frog-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Epistolean-Flash Fiction by Harris Coverly
Labelled Rocks-Flash Fiction by Holden Zuras
Along Side of the Road-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Beneath the Weeping Willow-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Half-Life-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Liquid Darkness-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Lost-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Succubus Seductress-Poem by Carl E. Reed
The Crime of Frankenstein-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Brother's Keeper-Poem by Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar
Razor Beak-Poem by Jessica Heron
The Fall of Vampire Hunters-Poem by Matthew Wilson

Art by Cynthia Fawcett © 2021

The Epistolean


by Harris Coverley


The Germans had fallen back from the town of Rien-Lieu, some twenty miles west of Lille, and it was the job of our platoon to search the place for any survivors, soldier or civilian.

It was in the corner of a ruined church where we found him, scrunched up like an unborn baby, his hands wrapped tight about his knees, his head buried between his legs. His uniform was torn up, and his skin covered with deep cuts.

All he could repeat, over and over, was: “He needs to mail his letter… he needs to mail his letter…

Our lieutenant had the authority to right there and then drag him to his feet and shoot him for cowardice, but he took pity on the boy and decided to take him back to our dugout as a wounded. We identified him through his tag: Corporal Charles Herbert Stratton, of the Fifth Brigade.

Each of us took turns watching him; by the fourth night it was my turn, and Stratton was finally talking with more sense.

“He needed to mail a letter he did,” he mumbled unprompted as I fed him some stew from a bowl, still in that way like a baby.

“Who did Stratton?” I asked, desperate to get an answer to the mystery.

“Private Alfred Williams,” he said. “He kept going on and on before the advance… he had to get a letter to his fiancée… ”

“What happened to Williams?”

“Dead. But… ”

“But? But what?”

Stratton shuddered. I told him he did not need tell me now, but he carried on: “Williams was right in front of me when the shell hit… it was right in front of him. I fell to the ground, and when the dust cleared… his head was right there before me.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that Corporal… ”

“But then someone picked his head up… ”


“It wasn’t just anybody though; it was a… thing… ”

I put the stew bowl down and asked, “What thing?”

“Williams’ headless body,” the Corporal replied in a whisper. “And I remember what those bloody lips said to me as I looked up: ‘I’ve got to get that letter to my sweetheart’. It then just wandered away into the mist… ”

I finished feeding him and then wrapped him in a blanket for sleep, putting the Corporal’s experience down to the by now familiar hysteria of war.

The next morning Stratton was missing, having slipped away in the night. He was never found. Our lieutenant reported him as missing-in-action, as opposed to him being a deserter, to save his family some grief at least. My failure however to notice his escape was given a severe reprimand, although luckily not a court-martial.

This was, nonetheless, not the oddest thing. Years later, at the start of the Second Great War, I was told by a former lance-corporeal who had been in our squadron that the fiancée had in fact received a letter from Private Williams, in his handwriting, dated 11th November 1916—two days after he had supposedly been killed in battle. I originally characterised this as hearsay, or a mistake on Williams’ part, but as I now reach the end of my own life, I am not so sure.



 Harris Coverley has short fiction published or forthcoming in Hypnos, The Periodical, Forlorn, The Centropic Oracle, and Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, amongst many others. He also has verse in Polu Texni, Star*Line, Spectral Realms, Flying Fox Flash, Scifaikuest, Yellow Mama, and elsewhere. He lives in Manchester, England.

Site maintained by Fossil Publications