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The Mortal Shackles

Quillen crouched at the cliff’s edge, the barrel of his rifle protruding over the remnants of a jagged stone slab. His elbow rested upon the flesh above one knee, stock pressed into the crook of his opposite shoulder. It was almost time. Three horse-drawn wagons rushed along the dirt road across an endless expanse of […]

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Hunger’s Truth

1. “Hey sexy! Give us a smile!” Danyor had a handful of seconds to decide: a close-mouthed smile, and feel dirty all day; flash pearly white, hope against citizen arrest, and feel dirty all day; ignore, and feel dirty all day. She tongued her broken eye tooth, pressed her lips together, set eyes forward, and […]

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Hand Me Downs

Most days, I love being a troll. Most days I love dancing. Most days I love being me. Today is not one of those days. Having to wear a troll costume for the spring ballet recital when you actually are a troll is pretty bad, but that’s not the worst of it. The worst of […]

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Compost Traumatic Stress

Blistering tongues of immolated fuel spewed from the dropship, sculpting the sterile mudscape into a smear of ragged sumps and ridges as it touched down. Seconds later, the rear hatch fell open and shat 2nd Platoon into the mire. Mort Louka stumbled into his first taste of the war, then sank straight to his knees […]

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Still Life

“And I’m tellin’ you, leave him alone.” The gun pointed at the gang was from a different world: an antique, short-barrelled shotgun, the stock worked in bronze. The bearer of the gun didn’t match the delicate filigree either—a short, stocky woman, hair tied back under a wide-brimmed fishing hat of dubious age, and a filthy […]

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The Shepherd

The cross is bigger than he remembers. Its tumescent beams stand atop the church’s peaked steeple, their size symbolic of great sacrifice, the ruptured cement below roasting in the fire of a four o’clock sun. Carlos sits in the crumbling Chevy, windows rolled up, desperate to feel every inch of the heat. Blood-warm apprehension pools in the […]

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Chrysalis in Sunlight

The thin gray webs stretching across Aunt Melissa’s hand hadn’t been there the night before. Her condition wasn’t supposed to be contagious, but I went to the kitchen for some latex gloves anyway. If these webs were a new stage, all the procedures might change. There was still so much we didn’t know about the […]

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Balloon Man

If it hadn’t been for the camel, Mithun might never have noticed the old balloon seller at all. He almost didn’t notice the camel either. If he’d been looking for it, he probably wouldn’t have. Like so many other parts of Northern India, Qaisarbagh Bazaar wasn’t so much a place that time forgot as much […]

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