Black Petals Issue #101 Autumn, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
BP Artists and Illustrators
Dig Deep, the Therapist Said: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Dinner Club: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
God of the Winds: Fiction by Scáth Beorh
Head Pot: Fiction by Spencer Harrington
His Deadly Muse: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Patrick Hatrick: Fiction by Bruce Costello
Squawking Chimes: Fiction by Robert Pettus
The Courier: Fiction by Billie Owens
The Midnight Sonata: Fiction by David Hopewell
The Wolves are Coming: Fiction by Mauri Orr Stone
Abduction: Flash Fiction by Laura Nettles
I'm Your Garlic:Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Ho/Ma:i - (Ho-maaa-ee): Flash Fiction by Rani Jayakumar
Mona Wants to Die, but She Lets the Weather Decide:Flash Fiction by Riham Adly
The Cookie Crumbles: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Right Knife: Flash Fiction by David Barber
A Devilish Matter of Disinvitation: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Abhor the Light!: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Shadow House-A Writer's Retreat: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Accursed Personae: Three excerpted Poems by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Remember When We Watched "Kill Bill" Together: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
I Die, You Die: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Northbound Train: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Haunted Liquor Cabinet: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Candlelight Killer: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Wooden Soldiers: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Curse of Verse: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When a Star Dies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker

David Barber: The Right Knife

Art by Noelle Richardson © 2022

The Right Knife


by David Barber






You do not know me, so why should you care? But the circumstances, the circumstances! It was the end of the world, the last of us fleeing like lemmings to save ourselves.

I was lucky to find another survivor. Beck hadn't relied on luck, he'd survived by skill and experience. I was clearly no threat, and though a brooding silence came naturally to him, he was glad to hear a human voice again.

He'd never been one for reading. While rabbit cooked over the campfire, or fish sizzled in the pan, I entertained him with stories, singing for my supper, I suppose. His taste was limited to tales of adventure. His favourite was Brown on Resolution.

Having taught English Literature before, it is curious how books have earned me a living twice over.

I found Beck a boorish man, and he did not hide his contempt for my education. Still, he missed the old world, and I reminded him of it. Who knows how long we might have gone on like that, my Fool to his Lear, before irritation or boredom made him abandon me.

Then we encountered the woman.

A bullet struck dust from the path at our feet. Beck rolled into cover, leaving me standing.

"Get down," he hissed.

"I didn't miss," a woman called from the farmhouse. "That was a warning shot. Go away."

But after hearing her voice, neither of us could leave, though each had his own reasons for staying. Which was why I stepped forward, my hands raised.

"What are you doing?" Beck cried.

"Give us a chance," I called out, expecting a bullet. "You've no reason to trust us, but we might be all there is."

After a while I opened my eyes.

I sat on a convenient stump, while she remained a shadow at a loophole. She could always shoot me later, I said.

Her father had fortified the farmhouse and made her practice with a rifle. When he did not return one day, Amy survived by hunkering down. He'd taught his daughter many useful skills, but not how to cope with solitude.

So a day or two passed between us.

"How much longer?" Beck demanded. In his mind I was like some useful breed of dog, sent to winkle the woman out of her burrow.

He assumed Amy would be his, but said there was no reason why the three of us couldn't rub along.

The only time he tried talking to her did not go well.

"I don't like him," Amy told me afterwards.

"You deserve the truth," I confessed. "He has... plans for you. I will not be part of that, so I'm moving on."

I waited.

"I don't want you to go." Her voice was muffled. "I'll let you in, but not him..."

"Amy, he wouldn't allow that."

I let an exquisite moment pass, like a caesura in music.

"Are you prepared to use that gun? Or was it all a bluff?"

That evening, Beck seethed. "We're not leaving. Why did you tell her we're leaving?"

"To force her hand. She dreads being on her own again. She said so. It turns out the problem is you."


"She's afraid of you."

I grew impatient with his brutish silence.

"You have to reassure her," I told him.

Next morning, I kept out of the way as Beck stalked up to the farmhouse. Time passed and I began to think I'd miscalculated, when I heard the shot.


Stepping over Beck, I called again.

I smiled encouragingly as she came out the farmhouse. I took the rifle from her trembling hands and she held me in an awkward embrace.

She was plain, with glasses, and frizzy hair that might have been red in her youth. Not the type of victim I usually select, but beggars at the end of the world can't be choosers.

There would be lots of knives in the farmhouse. Plenty of time to decide on the right one.




The End

David Barber lives in the UK. His poems have sometimes appeared in Star*Line, Apex, Strange Horizons and Asimov’s. (He framed the cheque). Though nominated, he has never won the Rhysling Award.

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