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Venom!: Fiction by Pamela Ebel
A Case of Paracosm: Fiction by Bruce Costello
There's More then One Way to Catch a Bank Robber: Fiction by Roy Dorman
My Addie: Fiction by Daniel G. Snethen
Trans/Figure: Fiction by Michael Steven
Secretary to a Serial Killer: Fiction by Robert Jeschonek
The Big Well: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Sooter: Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Heidi: Fiction by Tony Ayers
A Spider Among the Flies: Fiction by Gary Earl Ross
He Wore a Purple Heart Inside a Gray Uniform: Fiction by John C. Mannone
So Bright They Were, So Bright: Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Coyote-Murder-House: Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Spring Cleaning: Flash Fiction by Mikki Aronoff
Chuck Cody: Flash Fiction by Fred Zackel
While My Mother Dreams of Judge Judy: Flash Fiction by Tina Barry
Snoopy: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Afternoon on the Beach: Poem by Elizabeth Zelvin
crowbars and middle fingers: Poem by Rob Plath
Lavender: Poem by Cindy Rosmus
Insouciant: Poem by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Fire: Poem by Bernice Holtzman
7 ways of Seeing a Scar: Poem by Jack Garrett
Freddy on 14th Street: Poem by Jack Garrett
Peace, Baby: Poem by Meg Baird
The Light: Poem by Meg Baird
The lunatic equation and the lemon revolution: Poem by Partha Sarkar
A knife with three wheels: Poem by Partha Sarkar
Belle in the Bottom: Poem by g emil reutter
Glint: Poem by g emil reutter
Marathon Key: Poem by Damon Hubbs
Pretzels: Poem by Damon Hubbs
Times Argus: Poem by Damon Hubbs
Phillip: Poem by John Doyle
The Indiscretion: Poem by John Doyle
The Sadness and Beauty of Car Boot Sales: Poem by John Doyle
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Strange Gardens
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Michael Steven: Trans/Figure

Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2023



Michael Steven



    He’s here, always. He’s handsome, devilishly so. He’s dangerous and dirty. Delicious. Delightful and deranged. I need to get away from him. They say you can’t run away from yourself. I try, but he’s here looking down on me, whispering ‘Beth.’

    There’s no escape. He arrives at night, arms wrapped around me. Throwing me to the bed, hand around my throat. I want his lips, but I cannot have them. He forces me down. I want it, all of it. I push him away, but he returns, tighter. Forceful. He wants the belt; I know he does and so do I. His hands, rough, pin my shoulders back, deep into the bed.

    Morning comes, he’s gone. Damp bangs fall to my eyes, hair matted and rough at the back. Throat tight, bruised, arms ache and chest ravaged. My clothes, scattered like a picked over yard sale. The belt worn and faded, silver buckle stained red, sits discarded on the floor like a coiled viper. I cover my body with one arm as the other reaches for something, anything to cover the damage. A robe, virgin white on the outside and gored on the inside, we are what we wear, and I wear it well.

    Makeup: cover up, blush, eyeliner, dark colors, hair down, cover, undercover. Work is a cover. The house, shoes, friends, the way I laugh, all a cover. Hidden behind a computer at work with walls, hammering bruised fingers into white keys, dull. The days are as dull as the night is frightening. Would I trade one for the other?

    Home: lock the door, keeps strangers out. Locking the door only keeps the stranger in, close, at arms reach. I want the makeup off to assess the damage. Dull lights glow a sick yellow on my skin. Sick, if only there were a pill I could take and not a bullet. Could I get a prescription for a bullet?

    Our eyes are the same, his and mine. Dark chestnut browns flutter from side to side. I feel his eyes, always, they wash over my scarred skin like a dirty rag. When will he arrive? I feel him coming, not now but soon.

    I tidy the house, busy work to keep my mind at ease. Fold clothes, scattered remains of a harsh night. The belt he will find, no sense in tucking it away, he always finds it. It’s late but not too late. What if I went out, would he show up? One night wouldn’t matter, one night leads to another and another. My tongue flicks and mouth waters.

    A knock at the door. Someone I know, not him, but who? Strangers ring bells, friends knock. Should I let them in? What if he shows up? Last time it got ugly, last time should have been the last time. Another knock. Answer it, just shoo them away but answer it.

Henry stands in her doorway with a bottle of wine cradled in the pit of his elbow. She always thought Henry was handsome in the way a new dad is handsome. Reliable, stable, cooks dinner, makes love, dull but handsome.

“Henry? What are you doing here?”

“Well, it’s Friday and Tyson is already in bed so I thought maybe you would wanna?” rocking the wine back and forth in his arm like a new baby. “Unless of course you’re busy?”

He shouldn’t be here; he can’t be here. Send him away happy if you can but send him away. He’s cute yes, very cute in the fading sun. Would one drink be so awful? Perhaps a drink or even a few would lessen the later blows. “I’m busy. But I think I could squeeze you in.”

    Henry pours two glasses half full and swirls them around like he might know what he is doing. He does not know what he is doing. The kitchen is neutral ground. Sit across from one another, talk politely, discuss neighbours, discuss his neck and how it sticks out when he leans back for a sip. His neck; my belt, his body, my blood, his blood, our danger.

My arms prick with numbness, my ears ring with soft whispers “Beth” the voice calls “Bethany.” He’s coming.

I stand quickly against the kitchen table, knocking the glasses and a half bottle of wine to the floor. “You have to leave Henry.” My eyes strong push the information hard against him. He looks scared, he should be scared.

    His reply muffled by the sound of my feet connecting with the floor and the dull voice in my ear as I bolt for the bathroom. That dull voice dimming and glowing, dimming and glowing, soft then loud then louder until it makes me beat against my head to make it stop.

    I strip off my shirt, then bra, pants and anything else holding in the immense heat from my skin. My shoulders are soft and slim, riddled with blonde peach fuzz that dances on gooseflesh skin. My arms and elbows milky white from lack of sun, bruised slightly but still feminine with dainty curves. This is where my body ends and his begins. Powerful, leathery tanned forearms, covered in black coarse hair, bulge above my now giant hands. Not my hands, these are his hands, the hands of my tormentor. They reach for me, but I pull away, I know what they want.

    Henry is at the door, pounding furiously, screaming furiously. I cannot answer. I fear my voice will come out deep and vulgar, he weaves himself through me. Those hands, his hands, Hyde’s hands, now reach for the door. I can fight but not for long. I bite down, he loves it, he wants more. Pain is pleasure and how he loves to pleasure me. Fingers, his and mine, trace and pull at my skin. Around my neck and walking slowly inside my mouth. They pull and pry my mouth apart, one finger then two then many more. I choke back the wandering hand as I press my lips tight and force him out as he forces himself back inside. Inside, he is now outside as he bursts back through the bathroom door.

    Glasses shatter, tables turn and screams echo for help, no help will come, no help has ever come. Henry hides in horror as the muscle-bound hands pull and claw and drag him away. Kicking and screaming like a child, I was once that same child, he begs helplessly as the bedroom door slams behind him, behind us.

    I have lost control; I have lost the fight. Henry lies sprawled and bloody on the bed. Like a dog he awaits his command. He must obey or the belt he will get, I have seen it, I have done it. I become hot and flush and eager. Some part of me begs for punishment. Perhaps it is he who sparks this fire or perhaps he and I, these hands are more the same then I care to believe. The belt slips through the clasp and I moan with excitement and fear. I allow it around my neck. The length of the belt reaches and wraps around the pillars of the headboard. He and I pull down tight with leverage and feel the belt bite into my neck. I buck my hips as the tormentor’s free hand grasps the back of Henry’s head and pulls him in deep. His mighty hand and thick forearms grab without mercy as Henry gives up the will to fight his way out.

    Henry will join the others. Used and useless now, we have taken all we can from this dull man. The hands will discard him. Away he will go into tiny pieces, scattered among the others out back. Will his son know that each walk to school he brushes as close as anyone could against his father’s remains. Will he ever know that, I or us, forced him down and used all that he had to offer. That I will always offer a friendly smile in the day and a hidden toothy grin at night. None have.

    These hands, dirty and delicious, carry deranged thoughts and perverse delights. He’s here, always. I know what he wants, and I want them. They say you can’t run away from yourself. I try, but he’s here with me and I am with him too.

Michael Steven’s stories have been published in Yellow Mama and Black Petals. Suffering from chronic anxiety and night terrors, Michael has found comfort in writing. It was through telling stories he was able to unburden himself of the fears that plague his sleep. What had started as a sort of therapeutic release has now been a 3-year journey of telling stories. With a nightmare journal bursting at the seams, he sees no end in sight. 

Sophia Wiseman-Rose is a Paramedic and an Episcopalian nun. Both careers have provided a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She is currently spending time with her four lovely grown children and making plans to move back to her home in the UK in the Autumn.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems in the last edition of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2023