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Christmas with Stanley-Fiction by Robert Kokan
Gravedigger Sunrise-Fiction by Zach Wilhide
Billy at One O'clock-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Christine's Tune-Fiction by Andrew J. Kolarik
Paid in Full-Fiction by Bill Baber
Is Today the Day?-Fiction by Thomas X. Cross
Dead Bodies Everywhere-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Murphy's Law-Fiction by Edward Ahern
The Ghost in the Factory-Fiction by Jeremiah Minihan
Communication Breakdown-Fiction by Joe Surkiewicz
So Long, and Thanks for All the Texts-Fiction by Jay Adair
Time-Share-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
It's Xmas and Maureen Feels Like Death Warmed Over-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Uncle Andrew-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
In a Nearby Church-Flash Fiction by Bethany Cody
What Happened after His Head Oozed-Flash Fiction by Michael Dioguardi
Prospero's Last Party-Flash Fiction by Jacqueline Doyle
Slick-Poem by David Spicer
Word Cruncher-Poem by David Spicer
The Life that Lives on Man-Poem by John Short
Pet Shop Story-Poem by John Short
dear tom-Poem by Meg Baird
the canvas-Poem by Meg Baird
A Killing-Poem by Ian C. Smith
Green Grass-Poem by Ian C. Smith
No Joke-Poem by Ian C. Smith
a soft landing-Poem by JJ Campbell
going through the motions-Poem by JJ Campbell
the shotgun still rests in the corner-Poem by JJ Campbell
an earthy affair-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
death loves the deep-space pirate-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
robotic mistress-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
A November Morning-Poem by John D. Robinson
Hard & Heavy-Poem by John D. Robinson
The Storm-Poem by John D. Robinson
The Earth Keeps Sabbath-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Obituary-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Rock Whisperings-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Longing-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
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No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Henry Stanton 2020

Prospero’s Last Party


by Jacqueline Doyle



 “The red death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.  . . .  But Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless . . . It was toward the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual significance.”


                      Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”



Prince Prospero assures us daily that we are safe, and no one dares contradict him. We’re the lucky elite, secure inside the castle, or so he claims. For months no one has ventured beyond the second wall he built outside the moat. There’s no news of the peasants outside, no news reports at all, anymore.

Today our attendance was required at the grandest of the Prince’s grand balls—all of us masked, a new edict. Prince Prospero has been circulating for hours among the revelers in a garish orange mask, surrounded by the usual entourage of sycophants and toadies. “Merry Christmas to all!” he proclaims, glass held high. Champagne began flowing at noon, when most of us were still bleary-eyed and hungover from last night’s party. The Prince’s wife, who is nowhere to be seen, has decorated the ballroom in mournful black and blue streamers, instead of the traditional red and green. There’s no Christmas tree this year.

Waiters offer caviar and other delicacies on golden trays, though they say the Prince eats nothing but greasy peasant fare. He looks bloated and unhealthy, but no one says so, of course. Prospero waves his tiny hands, and we dance like mechanical dolls. Every hour, our forced revelry is momentarily interrupted by the chiming of the enormous clock.

When the clock struck one, we all froze in place without knowing why. Perhaps some had secret instructions and the rest followed. Is it a party game, like the children’s game “Giant Steps,” adapted to show us Prospero’s power? Or some tacit acknowledgment of the power of Time itself?  

Two. Again, the music and dancing ceased. Six months ago, there were a thousand of us in the castle. Most of us know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who has disappeared.


We haven’t seen the royal physicians for some time. Have they died? Been imprisoned? Executed? “Fake news,” Prospero declared, proposing outlandish solutions to the rumored contagion. “Don’t believe what you hear.”

Three. And again, all movement was suspended. Some of the dancers were doubled over, gasping for breath.

Four. The musicians began to repeat the same merry Christmas airs. “Jingle bells. Jingle bells.”

Five. Dancers were reeling and staggering. A few carolers sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Six. Bodies clad in gay colors began dropping to the floor, but we pretended not to see. What could we do?

Seven. More bodies. We looked the other way, aghast.

Eight. Prince Prospero seemed unaware that anything was amiss, and no one wanted to risk his ire by speaking up. The musicians played an instrumental version of “Silent Night” on violins.

Nine. The Prince asked us whether we’d ever seen a grander ball.

Ten. His minions began to clear the corpses away, as we danced on.

Eleven. A masked figure dressed in black and dabbled in blood stalked through the ballroom toward Prospero. A stranger, cadaverous and unusually tall, though no newcomers have been admitted to the castle for months.

Some of us rushed to the exits when the specter appeared, but we’re trapped here. All the doors are locked. We whisper to each other, confiding the secret fears we’ve left unvoiced, describing the strange dreams that have plagued us for so long. Our whispers are becoming louder; hardly anyone is dancing; the musicians falter but play on.


By now we’re sure of the stranger’s identity. Prince Prospero is the only one of us who didn’t believe that Death would crash his party. We all knew he was mad. But who knew the Prince’s ignorance could be fatal to us all?


Jacqueline Doyle is the author of The Missing Girl, available from Black Lawrence Press. Her flash has appeared in matchbook, Wigleaf, CRAFT, Little Fiction/Big Truths, Juked, and elsewhere. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be found online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.

Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020