They See Us

By Margaret Kramar

“What was that?”

Lydia bolted up in bed, hearing the music again: tinny, distant, like Big Band music from the 1920s played in a darkened theatre. A radio maybe, but now it completely faded out. She strained to hear it. Nothing.

“Did you hear it?” Her husband didn’t answer, just breathed in measured cadences. He always seemed to be asleep when she heard it. But she knew that if Steve weren’t asleep, it wouldn’t have played. She sighed and nestled down into the covers, relaxing into his warmth, snuggling into the bedroom of the old farmhouse encircled by tall pines that reached way up into the heavens. Even in the darkness, the enchantment of these old green wizards was palpable.

Before they moved in, Lydia and Steve had rounded the curve of the road many times, hardly noticing the farmstead. It was only when Steve accepted the caretaker job for the summer camp on the grounds that they penetrated the interior. Following the path of the gravel driveway, a vast panorama opened up to them: verdant meadows, shining ponds, and tall gnarled oaks leaning together, whispering and murmuring their arcane secrets of old.

One building stood out alone from the others, silent in the moaning wind. The chicken house.

“We’re not getting chickens,” Steve read her mind. Continue reading

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Red-Liquid Sipping Ghost

By Mi West

“Damn Santa circus!” I roar, balancing on my toes on the icy veranda railing, and I continue, “Decorative chains are the worn-out ball and chain of dads in December.” I’d rather be balancing on my skis in the Scandinavian mountains instead. I hiss four-letter words toward a snowdrift in the garden.

Once forced into place, the lights don’t work. That turns me off even worse. Enlightened technology has taken astronauts way to the Moon, but geegaws lasting at least as long as a big pack of Christmas ginger cookies are still sci-fi.

Same procedure as last year: I fetch a spare bulb and try some swaps at random. Finally, light conquers darkness, and I consequently suppress the rest of my traditional, four-letter, juicy highlights.

I hear a teen voice behind me, the son of our neighbor Vatnberg, nicked Watson, “What’s up? Need some help?”

The teen has the gift of a detective and mystery solver. I reply while climbing down, “Thanks for asking, Watson. No, just got this monster up and running again, sweatshop junk, you know, a present from my grandma-in-law… What about you? Any cool mysteries around?”

“Our home is haunted.” Continue reading

Sleepers (Part 4)

By Sidney Williams

This is part four of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here.

Renalda and her friends on the message board had to be deluded, and footage could have been faked in the fifties as well as now. The presence of Baraz and Hadia suggested a more recent effort and that coordinated steps were being taken. She didn’t want to think of what it might mean to have them present in footage that really came from decades ago.

Getting Delilah back, trying at least, was more important than any bizarre hoax, and she let her daughter’s face fill her thoughts as she sat on a bus. Ship ahoy. Successful completion of the gig was a step toward fighting Jody. That was her real battle.

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Sleepers (Part 3)

By Sidney Williams

This is part three of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here.

Renalda Coates managed a hair bar—stark white interiors over a hardwood floor in Islington. Stylists aimed blow dryers, taming miles of hair while she hovered near a desk where a clerk worked a phone.

“We can do a beautiful job with those locks, Luv. What would you like?”

Aubrey smiled. “They told me you’re Renalda.”

“Right. Can I help you?”

“I’m curious about Casbah and your grandfather.”

Her features went through a moment of denial.

“Anything I ever posted about that blasted show was a warning. I don’t know how you tracked me down…”

“A warning’s what I’m interested in,” Aubrey said. “Is there somewhere…?”

Minutes later they were in a booth at an internet café a few doors away. More chai, these cups sweet and fiery hot.

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Sleepers (Part 2)

By Sidney Williams

This is part two of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here.

She answered the knock that came a shower and make-up touch up later, adjusting her robe’s neckline to make sure it didn’t conceal too much.

“Welcome back. Glad you’re still on duty.”

“I work most weekdays. We trade off on weekends.”

He gestured to his side, to a woman with skin as smooth and bronze as his, large black eyes and hair equally dark and glossy.

“This is Hadia. An apprentice with me today.”

Aubrey felt her smile fade as her cheeks flushed. She gave a cool hello then found her glass and a formal tone.

“Knots in neck and back if you could help with those.”

She watched him set up the table, watched his biceps and forearms ripple with the effort. Her skin warmed in spite of Hadia’s presence.

“Ready,” Hadia said.

“Would you put this somewhere handy?” she asked as she slipped out of her robe, hoping the look was tantalizing and frustrating since Baraz’d brought the chaperone.

“If you’ll lie face down,” he said.

She complied, and he touched her calves first with the backs of his hands, almost a teasing caress.

“Progress today?”

“Strange. I met a rather odd little man who used to work in the theater. I thought he might have some leads, but it didn’t work out.”

“Did you have any success?” Hadia asked as she watched from beside the table. With a glance Aubrey took in her beauty, white tee and crisp shorts hugging her form, her hair tied back.

Didn’t seem prudent to mention the discovered page, but Baraz’s palms glided across her flesh, moving to the tops of her thighs, brushing against her ass. Something inside relaxed even as little waves of pleasure rippled to her core.

“A partial on what I was looking for.” She wasn’t supposed to say that. “Not a complete song, just the middle page.”

“Intriguing, though. A portion could be played, give you the tune, no?”

“A start.” The last word slid out in a sigh. “Can you go higher? I spent a lot of time sitting on the Underground today.”

“Perhaps Hadia’s touch would be helpful.”

Before Aubrey could protest, the girl’s palms were moving up her legs. But she didn’t have time to analyze. Her thoughts blurred as those wonderful hands began kneading, brushing under the sheet, leaving the tops of her thighs behind.

Was there another question about the music from one of them? Were they working for a competitor or for Amil? Did she answer?

Aubrey’s face pressed the table as her breaths came in slower measures. Her eyes closed tight. Electric ripples of pleasure coursed through her. Both sets of hands were on her, and the girl’s waist-length hair spilled free.

For a while she could forget about everything.

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Sleepers (Part 1)

By Sidney Williams

This is part one of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here

“The client wants assurances the sheet music from Casbah will be in his hands this week.”

Amil Bera’s accent became more pronounced as his agitation rose.

“Why the hell else is he funding a trip to London, he asks me. So, now I ask you.”

Aubrey Slater kept her voice calm and even. “I’ve been all over Kensington and Chelsea, Amil. Part of Camden. My back aches and my feet are throbbing.”

“And for this you have nothing to show?”

Aubrey sipped from the dram of Glenfiddich she’d poured to temper the sense of urgency born with Amil’s “please call” message. Just one, she’d told herself. One.

She put the hotel glass next to the only thing she had to show for her slog, a little covered jar that had once been used to hold sterile cotton balls on the makeup table of one West End actress or another.

Or at least that’s what she’d tell Delilah when she offered it as souvenir of the London adventure.

“I have a lot of shops lined up for tomorrow. Something will turn up.”

EBay and Craigslist have brought a lot of forgotten items out of closets and attic corners, but some collectibles required a hard target search through old shops and flea markets. A few disorganized shopkeepers and auction houses still have treasures, called sleepers, nestled away, forgotten, un-cataloged, and, most importantly, not recognized for their value.

Enter Amil Bera and Bera Imports. For a select clientele i.e. those willing to throw wads of cash, Amil dispatched emissaries for the hard-to-find items. Emissaries such as Aubrey who had discovered she possessed a bit of sixth sense for such matters.

She had no idea what made the music for the final song of the first act of the forgotten musical Casbah so important, but for Amil finding the elusive collectable meant that more business would flow from this middleman who’d approached him, a broker for a number of exclusive collectors

“Tomorrow will have to be better, or perhaps I will need to find someone better,” Amil said. “If your back aches, get a massage, my dime, then go find the music.”

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His Living Wife

By Kathleen J. Woods

I have not seen my husband yet. Each night, I await his footsteps, the rustle of feathers outside my door. I lie with my eyes closed against the dark. I am not allowed to look.

They say my husband is a monster. A winged serpent the length of a river. A lion with the snout of a boar. A death’s head, death’s face, the stink of rot. So said Apollo to my father, my father to me. My sisters wept. He will split my throat and take my hair to bed his den. He will lick the muscle from my bone. My sisters wailed and placed a diadem of leaves upon my head. They draped me in white robes and the plainest jewelry. On my neck, a golden seed on a string.

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