All the Letters in his Van

by Ian Steadman

I almost laugh at the man who steps out. I hear Debbie snort beside me. He’s short and stocky, and his nose sticks straight out like the end of a broom handle. His jacket appears to be cut from blue felt, a row of gold-coloured buttons adorning the front, one of them so chipped and faded the plastic shows through. The trousers are of the same material, cut straight without any semblance of fashion or styling. Then there’s the hat. It looks like a child’s dressing-up outfit, but it’s hard to imagine any child wanting to dress as a traffic warden. Sown inexpertly to the front is a Royal Mail badge

For Ailbhe

by Tara Saunders

Dorchadas Eve they stood festival-watch in their cider-scented kitchen, not knowing it would be their last. Paurig, demanding a man’s share of the watch, standing it with eyes half closed. Ailbhe, curled in her snug of blankets by the hearthfire. Da, standing Paurig’s watch while the man-child snored and never saying a word. Ma, who kept plates overflowing and mugs filled, and who sat her own watch besides. And Murra, dragging through the festival all forlorn, preferring to watch for boys instead of Fiach. 

Stars Above, Stars Below

by Derrick Boden

The doctors call my condition neural hyperextension. Command calls it the Franklin Line, after the first pilot to survive long enough to experience it. Most pilots call it burnout. Whatever the name, onset never takes more than five years of piloting a meteor-class fighter. I made it four, and most people consider me lucky. I don't agree.

Of Milk and Blood

by Vanessa Fogg

The rifle feels heavy and unbalanced in her hands. Her knees are shaking, her arms weak as water. Her world has narrowed to a spot fifteen paces ahead. In the barn’s dim light, what looks like a young man lies stretched on the floor, dark hair spread out like a pool of ink. As her heart clangs within her, the figure groans and lifts its head. Dark eyes meet hers, fever-bright. Delicate features in a face pale as snow. A human face, but what rises from its head betrays the disguise. Winter light washes in through the door behind her and catches on onyx-black horns.

Beautiful horns, glossy and bright, rising straight from the head and then curving back and slightly outward like the horns of a goat. The horns of a demon. The unmistakable sign of devil-blood.

This is not the first time that Alis has encountered a demon.

In the Sight of His Eyes

by Lucy Bignall

What horizons does he look upon now? Is he, perhaps, still travelling across the Great Sea, his ship swept on by the waves, drawn over the depths, where roiling sea serpents and ravenous monsters coil and glide and spurt, up towards the light? Or has he arrived, safe on distant shores and, is, even now, feasting at tables of bounteous plenty?

Travels by Foxlight

by Peter Haynes

There is a fire god out there and it claims all it burns as its own.

It was at night the fire came. Always night. My community of new Presbyterians waited in the valley when it did, cowed in ritual obedience. There they talked of the petty things we had lost: the taste of food unadulterated by smoke, the transit of low constellations, shadows that did not dance in an endless failed escape from the circling wall of flame. Only to themselves did they acknowledge the real hurt: their once-homes, once-loves and nevermore world.


by Joseph Surtees

Beside him on the table is an old-fashioned children’s toy, a wooden soldier in a red uniform standing on a wooden barrel. The wooden barrel has a spring in it, with a plastic base. If you push the base the soldier collapses, when it you let it go again he springs back to attention. Before she arrived he was playing with the toy and imagining there was no skin on his face, with the white bones of his skull exposed and grinning at the world. He makes the toy collapse, then spring back to attention. It’s very cheap. When he bought it he had not wanted the soldier to last forever. 

The Musing of a Misunderstood Scientific Prodigy, Miss Leila Johanson, 1889-1890

by Gerri Leen

It turns out Mother's burns after the ‘Watched Pot’ experiment were only first degree. I now know what third degree burns look like. I have been denied further viewings of the healing process and pain management regime she is under as I have been removed from the house. I find my new surroundings acceptable although I am denied access to materials to continue my scientific studies, but at least they have allowed me to keep my journal.


TFW Fame Comes Knocking At Your Local Lowtown Branch

By Armel Dagorn

I have worked fast enough this morning that I haven’t once had Manager buzz me for lagging behind, but now the shiver creeps down my spine. I must have lingered longer than I thought, reading through the rushing headlines that Stuart Mafokate, that handsome son of a mother, has just pinged in a shoe bar in midtown Finbarrside, Level 3, because the damn Pavlovian nerve tease, deemed insufficient, is followed by a PLACE TRAY ON COUNTER straight into my ear canal.

A Sound Like Glass Raindrops

by Emily McCosh

On my first birthday, a swarm of hummingbirds descended upon the house. They lined the power-lines, shimmered across bushes, feathered our roof. My mother panicked, remembering hummingbirds outside the hospital window the day I was born. But the birds just sat. Just watched. Perched on my nursery windowsill, they blinked their sand-grain eyes at me in my nana’s arms. When my mother entered they shuffled raspy wings and tapped the glass with needle beaks, but did nothing.


by Dan Micklethwaite

This high, the thermals present themselves as pathways, ginnels, labyrinthine strands so intricate and shifting that even he could not design their like and keep his sanity intact. They howl and low at him, around him, beyond him, worse so much worse than the bulls of his dreams. 

The Orrery

by Elana Gomel

Walking from Mars to Jupiter takes me about 15 minutes. It is the scariest part of the journey because this is where the maze becomes totally dark and the wasps begin to buzz around me. I call them wasps but perhaps they are meteorites. So far none have touched me. 

MAKET, or, Alternative Endings for Ivan Ivanovich

by A.C. Buchanan

Before Gagarin, there is Ivanovich. At once a name and not a name, a name that means everyone and no-one. But on this cold day it is your name, and you will fly.

Your plastic skin is perfect beneath your helmet, inside your orange suit, your boots, gloves, helmet. You are not alive, but everyone comments on how lifelike you are, complimenting your creators rather than yourself.