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Lisa's Revenge-Fiction by Janet Hatwell
Her Passion-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Threes-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Ruby in the Red Hoodie-Fiction by Ryan Priest
No-Fiction by Bruce Costello
Fat Trucker, Hot Wife-Fiction by Matthew Copes
Between the Sheets-Fiction by K. Marvin Bruce
Hearts in Retrograde-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
From a Buick-Kind-of-Place-Fiction by Darrell Petska
The Map-Fiction by Jan Christensen
Old Mules-Fiction by Mickey J. Corrigan
The Right Tool for the Job-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The War Against Stuff-Fiction by Fred Andersen
The Handyman-Fiction by Bobby Mathews
Till Death Do Us Part-Fiction by Justin Swartz
Deadville-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Huggermugger-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Mortuary-Flash Fiction by Doug Hawley
Inside Room 107-Flash Fiction by Dustin Walker
Gatophobia-Flash Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Daybreak Over I-15-Poem by C. W. Blackwell
Confetti and Juicy Fruit Gum-Poem by Kenneth James Crist
Night in Cumming's Cove-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Scar-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Graveyard Love-Poem by John Grey
Plan but No Really Plan-Poem by Joe Balaz
Audible Sigh-Poem by John Tustin
Erica-Poem by John Tustin
Heartbreaker-Poem by Meg Baird
La Guitare-Poem by Meg Baird
Parking Garage-Poem by Joel Matulich
Vintage Trade Paperback-Poem by Joel Matulich
Perpetual Motion-Poem by Stephen J. Golds
The Best Ones Are the Crazy Ones-Poem by Stephen J. Golds
Black Widow-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Out of My Skin-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
The Terrible Shadows-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Lucky Number Seven-Poem by Bradford Middleton
The Old Routine of Dreaming and Blasting-Poem by Bradford Middleton
F**K It, Let's Listen to the Ramones-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Our Open Window-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Wandering Woman-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Winter's Twilight Sky-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
You, I, Together-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Each Day-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Ghost Dance-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
He Paid For-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Winter Woman-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
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 Mike Knowles 2021

Hearts in Retrograde


Hillary Lyon




Sheryl pulled on the elbow-length black rubber gloves and smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Perfection! Combined with the knee-length white doctor’s smock, buttoned at the left collar bone, and the indigo-tinted oval glasses, she was a dead-ringer for a mad scientist from a 1930’s horror movie. Sheryl pulled her mousy brown hair back into a smooth, tight ponytail to complement the look. The object of her desire, Jerry, would be impressed! He was a big fan of the old school shockers, anything starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, or Boris Karloff.

On her way out, she stopped short. The heart! She skipped back to her dressing table and opened her grandmother’s jewelry box. It was a beautiful thing, this little heart-shaped coffin, hand-crafted polished mahogany trimmed with silver filigree. The lock on the lid was broken long ago, as the old woman lay dying and Sheryl just had to get to her hands on Grandma’s onyx ring before the rest of the family appeared. The ring she currently wore beneath the rubber gloves, causing an unsightly lump on her left index finger.

She pawed through the jewelry, growing more and more inpatient, and—there it was! A ruby-red, cloisonne heart-shaped pin, about the size of a silver dollar. Sheryl pinned the brooch to her smock, over her own beating heart. Now her look was complete. She dumped the contents of the jewelry box on the dresser, and shoved the box into her black doctor’s bag, where it nested among many mysterious and sharp, stainless steel things.

* * *

“Get a load of crazy over there,” Albert nudged his friend with his elbow. Jerry had his back turned, scooping punch into a red plastic cup. He looked over his shoulder. Albert snickered, “Do you think she forgot this is a community college Valentine’s dance? She looks more like a Halloween goth nightmare that—”

“Stop it,” Jerry interrupted. “She’s not so bad, just, ah, unique. And kinda cute, in her way.” He took a sip from his red plastic cup, and frowned. “This potion needs a kick.” He reached inside his blazer for his flask, but Albert grabbed his wrist.

“Nah, bro,” Albert giggled. “I dosed it myself.” He crossed his arms and shook his head with smug satisfaction. “This party’s about to get wild. Get these losers out of their comfort zone.”

Jerry’s shoulders sagged. “You just had to make sure they don’t have this party again—ever—didn’t you? Why do you always have to sabotage everything?” Albert turned to Jerry and grinned, but before he could say anything, an arm in a long black rubber glove reached between them and snagged Jerry’s cup of punch.

“Hey, I don’t think you want that, it’s—” Jerry started, but it was too late. Sheryl had chugged the whole thing. Albert slapped his hand over his own mouth to muffle his laughter. Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes.

Great, Jerry mourned internally. Now she’ll freak out. Because I’m a nice guy, I’ll babysit her the whole evening, until it wears off. So much for romance. Damn you, Albert.

“Hold my bag, Albert,” Sheryl commanded as she handed it over. “Jerry and I must dance! This is my favorite song, and he’s my favorite guy.” Jerry actually blushed, though under the colored disco lights, it was hard to tell.

“I don’t want to guard your purse, you—” but Sheryl was out of earshot, dragging Jerry onto the dance floor. “Fine,” Albert hissed. Sheryl's black bag was heavy, and lumpy. He couldn’t pry it open; there was a small lock keeping its contents secret and secure.

Two very attractive young ladies—twins, maybe—both dressed in red velvet, sidled over to the punch bowl. With luscious, glossy cherry lips, they both smiled broadly at Albert. One twirled a strand of her long blonde hair, while the other leaned forward and whispered, “You should never sample your own product.” They looked at each other and laughed manically before melting into a fine red mist.

Albert looked down into his empty cup. When did I drink this punch? Don’t remember doing that.

“Hey!” Sheryl shouted over the dance music, to a distracted Albert. “Your turn.” She snatched her doctor’s bag and roughly grabbed Albert by the arm. She’s really strong for such a little thing, Albert thought. Must be the drugs. Sheryl led him not to the dance floor, but away from the party, and out through a side door.

They were in a narrow linoleum tiled hallway, lit by a single sad light fixture. “In here,” Sheryl directed. She opened the door to a small classroom. 

“First, kiss my ring,” Sheryl ordered, holding her left fist in Albert’s face. He obediently kissed the lump under her glove. Is she a dominatrix? Well, this is kinky, Albert mused.

“Now, lie down on the floor,” Sheryl commanded as she pointed to an area in the center of the room. An area lined with black plastic garbage bags.

No wonder Jerry likes her, Albert decided, she’s into all kinds of crazy grown-up fun. “Hey, when did you put those—” Albert began, but with surprising force, Sheryl pushed him down. Albert saw stars when his head hit the hard floor. Before he could sit up, she jabbed a loaded hypo into his neck. The stars returned, exploded into fireworks. Albert heard metal clinking, clanking against metal. The edge of the knife was cold, the actions of the wielder, confident and quick. For Albert, the stars winked out, one by one, and were soon no more.

* * *

Jerry still lingered by the punch bowl table, looking lost. He perked up when he saw Sheryl walking his way. She does look pretty cool, Jerry thought to himself. Like a super villain in an old movie. She raised her tinted glasses. When their eyes met, they both smiled.

“Where’d you two go?” Jerry asked with a tinge of jealousy in his voice.

“Don’t you worry about that!” Sheryl chirped. “I have something for you . . .” Jerry noticed she carried a wooden heart-shaped box in her black-gloved hands; a box that dripped something dark and syrupy. He also noticed she’d added wine-red splotches and streaks to her smock—what a perfect outfit! So creative! I wonder how she dresses for Halloween? I’d love to see that! She held up the box to Jerry, like a supplicant with her dearest offering. What’s this? Chocolates? For me? Jerry wondered.

He took the box, a little embarrassed. “Hey, Sheryl, I didn’t get you anything, I didn’t know if you’d—”

She touched a slick, gloved finger to his lips, leaving a coppery-tasting wet smear. “Sshh. Just open it, lover boy.” Sheryl leaned close enough to Jerry to breathe in his ear, sending a delicious shiver down his spine. “We’ll share.”

With an MA in English Literature from SMU, Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her speculative, horror, and sci-fi stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications such as Night to Dawn, Tales from the Moonlit Path, Sirens Call, and Theme of Absence, as well as in multiple anthologies. She is also an illustrator for horror/sci-fi, and pulp fiction sites.

Mike Knowles has spent over 40 years working mainly in comics, along with contributions to TV, Radio, animation, gonzo-style journalism for a “top-of-the-shelf” magazine and odd spells as a digital artist. Not to mention three gruesome years writing gags for comedians (even though they begged him not to. But what did THEY know about humor? 


I wrote for the comic papers.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021