You Haven’t Changed At All

Daniel Addercouth

You arrive home from work one Friday afternoon to discover a surprise party has been thrown in your honour. Dozens of people emerge from the living room into the hallway, holding signs, laughing, greeting you. A woman plays an accordion. It’s the wrong time of year for your birthday, so the party really is a surprise.

As the initial shock subsides, you realise the guests are all people from your past that you’ve lost touch with. Your best friends from primary and secondary school. An English teacher you were fond of. Flatmates from university. The man who owned the pub where you worked. The professor who mentored you. Various colleagues from various jobs. Every woman you dated before your ex-wife.

As they come to chat to you, you struggle to remember names. Everyone has aged. You wonder who arranged this and how they got in touch with all these people when you don’t even have their contact details. But you don’t have time to think about that because people are bringing platters of food from the kitchen, opening bottles of beer, offering you glasses of prosecco.

You might have expected resentment, anger. After all, it was you who dropped many of these people. You who didn’t return a call, didn’t respond to an email, didn’t get in touch when you visited your home town. There were neglected wedding invitations, unattended birthday parties, missed school reunions. But everyone is pleased to see you. They apologise for not being in touch, as if it’s their fault. They sing your praises to other guests, trade anecdotes casting you in a positive light. People embrace you, slap you on the back. Old girlfriends flirt with you.

It’s a great party, but then everyone starts leaving at once, as if they’d pre-arranged an end time. There are more hugs, jokes and stories as people make their farewells. Everyone wants to give you their contact details. Your thumbs get tired from tapping email addresses and telephone numbers into your phone.

The crowd thins out until there are just a handful of people left, then two, then one. Eventually you have said your last goodbye, hugged the last friend. You close the front door, open a final beer, sit down on the sofa and take stock. So many memories, so many emotions. So much affection and, yes, even love.

You take out your phone and scroll through your contact list, which has doubled in size. Then you go through the list again and delete each new entry.

Daniel Addercouth is a Scottish writer and translator based in Berlin. This is his first published story. Follow him on Twitter (@ruralunease).

Tourist Trap

Rachel Canwell

One more week and I reckon I’ve cracked it. One more week of digging. Of early mornings and late nights. Of nursing blisters and hiding muddy clothes from Mum.

One more week until I can show Dad. Until I can unveil to him the answer to our prayers. I rest on my spade, close my eyes and imagine it. Me walking into his Amusement Arcade, past the flashing lights and kiddie rides.

Telling him I’ve found the way to keep them here. To keep the good times going through the winter too.

Telling him about our very own tourist trap.

Rachel Canwell is a teacher, blogger and writer, slowly putting her head, story by story, above the parapet. She is falling in love with flash fiction a little bit more every day!

In Search of Gender

Dervla O’Driscoll

I spent my life sitting amidst three walls, each one constructed in decaying stone. I would trace my fingers down the crumbling bricks, caressing their greening edges and allowing their cool surface to lay against my cheek.

As I rubbed each inch of myself against its rough surface, my skin began to dissolve. My eyes watered as they saw the pink grazes stretch around the softness of my belly and reach down between my thighs.

It was years before I felt the cool breeze gently nudge my back, the tenderness of its touch sent a rush of terror down my spine. It was months longer before I drew the courage to even turn. As I spun around, my nails dug deep into my cheeks.

Before me hung a great tapestry, the flag of my freedom. It swayed before me, the sun creeping through its exquisite colours. I knew escape was within reach.

I scrabbled at the floor beneath my feet, pushing the dirt from the ground. The deeper I dug, the softer the mud became. Frantically, I tossed the ground to the side. I would tunnel deeper and find the sun. I would tunnel further and find the sun.

It was the weight of the tapestry that finished me. It was the weight of ambition that finished me. It was the longing for difference that finished me.

I reached up to scratch my way further through the earth. I allowed my fingertips to explore the new land at the crown of my head. My fingernails caught the edge of something soft.

The coloured silk only flashed before my eyes for a second before the darkness engulfed me.

I writhed against the weight of my prison collapsing above me. As the earth stole the breath from my lungs, I craved nothing more than the dull ache those walls inflicted.

Dervla O’Driscoll is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Manchester. She has previously published non-fiction works in The Mancunion and Mouthy Magazine.

Each Morning

Will Musgrove

            Each morning, I let my dog out.

She whines by the door. When I get off the couch, she spins in a circle. We go outside. I hook her collar to a leash that’s connected to a wire that’s connected between two trees. My lawn’s spacious with lots of things to sniff. She bolts off the stoop. She glances back at me. I’m static. She’s kinetic. When she realizes I’m not coming, she transforms into a rocket, back and forth, choking herself to catch a squirrel or a stick or a breeze.

            Each morning, I let my dog out.

I hear barking. Thinking of the neighbors, I peek through the blinds. She’s wrapped around a tree. I go back outside. She untangles herself and brings me her frisbee. I tug the disc from her maw and give it a hurl. When she skips back, instinctively shaking life from plastic, I’m again an eye between two blinds.

            Each morning, I let my dog out.

She’s quiet. I put my ear to the wall. Nothing but chewing termites. This time I raise the blinds. Her leash stretches around the house, so I can’t tell if she’s still attached. I rush outside and find an empty collar. Woof. My dog is standing on the stoop. I step toward her, and she retreats inside. I holler. I pace. I scratch at the door. But she won’t come save me.

            Each morning, my dog lets me out.

I pluck grass. I draw figures in the clouds. Curled in a ball, I nap under the sun. I shout obscenities at the neighbors whenever they hop into their cars to leave. I run back and forth, choking myself, knowing—no, hoping—one day I’ll go somewhere free of leashes, wires, and collars.

Will Musgrove is a writer and journalist from Northwest Iowa. He received an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Versification, Unstamatic, (mac)ro(mic), Ghost Parachute, Serotonin, Rabid Oak, Flash Frontier, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter (@Will_Musgrove).

Like the wind

Ruth Callaghan do Valle

“Race you home!” Makani shouts.

I start after her, fighting to catch up. She always does this, always takes me by surprise, and I end up running in her tail wind with just a view of her back, straight as a rod, arms and legs pumping like pistons, skirts flapping around her knees.

Makani’s not just fast, she’s quick. Quick with a reply, quick to get back up after a fall, quick to make a joke. My big sister will go places, I always said.


They say she would never have seen it coming, never have felt more than a moment of pain. I don’t know about the driver, but I remember Makani every time I feel the wind on my face. 

Ruth Callaghan do Valle lives in rural Brazil with her husband and three year old. Her poetry has been published in TunaFish Journal, streetcake magazine, The Minison Project, Lost Pen Magazine, Off Menu Press and Re-side Zine. You can find Ruth on Twitter (@rufusmctoofus) or on her blog

Thin Dust

Alva Holland

Alter, lengthen hem, shorten cuff, pinch waist. 

Transform, go unrecognisable, invisible. 

Convert, assume another shape, another identity. 

Change, that dreaded thing, that welcome thing. 

Hide fat bones with long sleeves, collars. 

Ignore the weakened teeth, the concave stomach. 

Still see the fat bones, unhidden by sweaters, loose hanging things. 

Absorb the stares, mistake them for admiration. 

Avoid the mirrors, their lies, their misrepresentation. 

Be missing at mealtimes – get better at this. 

Put up defences – walls of fat bones. 

Keep the love out, barricade it.  

Do not weaken resolve. 

Do not cry. 

Change, that dreaded thing. 

Fat bones to thin dust.

Alva Holland is an Irish writer from Dublin. First published by Ireland’s Own Winning Writers Annual 2015 and three times a winner of Ad Hoc Fiction’s flash competition, her stories feature in The People’s Friend, Ellipsis Zine, Train Lit Mag, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed and Jellyfish Review. Find her on Twitter (@Alva1206).

Cleveland National Forest Field Trip

Sage Tyrtle

I’m crouching on the forest floor studying a rock while Rachel tells the other kids that my nose is too big and my mouth is too big and my waist is too big, or I’m pretending to study a rock, really I’m looking at the rock and wishing I was the kind of person who picks up a rock and smashes it into a tiny, exactly the right size nose, someone who bloodies blonde hair, but I’m the kind of person who looks at a rock really hard, so hard that when Mr. Kieler calls for the class to gather at the redwood grove I miss it, and when I look up the whole class is gone and I walk from the rock the way I think they went but no one’s there so I go back to the rock again and again until there’s a starburst of footprints in the dirt starting from the rock and that’s when I hear, far away, too far away, the sound of the school bus, and I already ate my granola bar and I don’t have any water and on the bus they’re all singing On Top Of Spaghetti, on the bus there’s an empty seat in the back but I always sit there by myself, so there’s no one to see that I’m gone, no one to say, turn this bus around.

Sage Tyrtle‘s stories have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She is a Moth GrandSLAM winner. When she was five she wanted to be a princess until her dad explained that princesses live in a dystopian patriarchy, so she switched to being a writer instead. Find her on Twitter (@sagetyrtle).

Only You

Lori Cramer

Only you could say a thing like that at a time like this. I fix my gaze on the frayed brim of your baseball cap, avoiding your expectant eyes as I ruminate on my response. But truth demands expression, so I blurt it out: “I love you too.”

Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in The Cabinet of Heed, The Drabble, Flash Fiction Magazine, MoonPark Review, Truffle Magazine, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best Microfiction. Links to her writing can be found on her website. She tweets (@LCramer29). 

What Went Wrong

Sean Cunningham

What went wrong was that, many years prior to my birth, the planets were situated in such a way that – with hindsight – was perfect for me. As it stands, I was born wrong.

What went wrong was that, when I was younger, I believed too much in everything and too little in myself. I would tell people my name and they would correct me: No, your name is Scooby, or, No, your name is Spud. And it’s true, I was and I am Scooby, I was and I am Spud.

What went wrong was that, when I was younger still, I shared my jam tart – unprompted – with Human Jenny, and the both us began to expect this.

What went wrong was that, at some point, I started reading about how China was like the universe in the way that its borders were always expanding. This was due to large-scale dredging of the seafloor in order to attain material resources for the manufacture of artificial land. By 2045 it will be the largest nation on Earth.

What went wrong was that, long before any of this happened, I dreamt it all up whilst asleep on my cloud, and I have been in a constant battle between remembering and forgetting ever since.

What went wrong was that we began to establish rituals and traditions that we would participate in on certain days of the year for the purpose of celebrating arbitrary milestones and events.

What went wrong was that – if you will, please, turn your attention to exhibit A – as you can see, the instructions were utter nonsense.

[Exhibit A appears to be a nonsense arrangement of cut-up, handwritten words, titled Instructions]

What went wrong was that, after some good, hard thinking, I came to the conclusion that Jenny had been right all along.

What went wrong was that I added too much salt and too much sugar.

What went wrong was that I gave up on you – you never gave up on anyone, anyone at all. All I had to do was pay attention for five fucking minutes – minutes that I need now.

What went wrong was that I overheard things that I should have, about people I will never know.

What went wrong was that – if you will now regard exhibit B – there was never any way in or out. And it could be said that this was the main thing.

[Exhibit B is a seemingly slapdash drawing of a maze. There are entrances and exits, but there are no entrances or exits]

What went wrong was that it all came down to a choice between now and forever, and still I’m not sure it could even be called a choice.

What went wrong was that I said to myself, You can do this, but couldn’t hear a word.

What went wrong was that, as predicted, the ice caps melted. They flooded everything but China’s artificial coast, making it the largest nation on Earth.

What went wrong was that you asked me to be succinct.

What went wrong was that we insisted that everything was happening in slow motion – but we can’t live in slow motion.

What went wrong was that – please ignore exhibit C – we were led to believe our default position was being in the right.

[Exhibit C is a photograph of a photograph of an apparently nuclear family of ‘crash test dummies’]

What went wrong was that I stopped sharing my jam tarts.

Sean Cunningham is a writer of very short prose and poetry, from Liverpool. His work has appeared in publications such as Fugue, Ellipsis Zine, Bending Genres, and Breadcrumbs, among others. He can be found on Twitter (@sssseanjc).

Flamingos in Plastic Heels

Sarah Leavesley

Since having children, I often feel like my brain has turned into a Jabberwocky nonsense and déjâ-vu machine. But there’s no way I can ever have seen a pink flamingo crossing the road before. I mean, what the… I bleep the swear word out of my thoughts, as Tilly tugs my hand.

“Come on, Mummy, we’re going to be late again!” Tilly skips on ahead, then turns to look back, her too-big school jumper drifting off her left shoulder.

I sigh. What I wouldn’t give not to rely on cheap chain stores and others’ cast-offs! Still, second-hands are environmentally friendly, while my kids are bright, respectful and reasonably tidy. That’s what counts, right?

“The others will be playing without me,” Oscar chimes. “They’ll have gone in by the time we get there!”

That’s when it comes to me, the déjâ-vu of my flamingo – the six mothers that gather at the school gate every morning, all feathers and flounce with their long-legged elegance, plastic heels and expensive Radley handbags. Every morning, I shuffle around their flamboyance, flustered by the way they eye up the other mums from the looped-necked height of their immaculate grooming.

But not this morning. I let determination power me as I glide towards them. They’ve kissed their beautiful angels goodbye and are preening their perfection.

“Oh, look,” I say, bending down suddenly while they’re busy beaking away to each other. “I think you dropped this Primark receipt.”

I hand the crumpled scrap of paper to the snootiest, then turn away to watch Tilly and Oscar half-skip, half-fly, to their classroom like chirpy robins. For the first time that week, I smile a smile that doesn’t feel tired.

Sarah Leavesley is a fiction writer, poet, journalist and photographer, with flash published by journals including Fictive DreamEllipsisJellyfish ReviewLitroSpelkReflex FictionFlash Frontier and Bending Genres. She also runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint. See more on her wesbite.