Category Archives: Fantasy, Sci-fi

The Rarest Kind of Mermaid by Katrinka Mannelly

“I think she’s the one, Dad. Please try to be open minded, okay?”

“I’ll try, Dawson, but you’re not making it easy, insisting I meet her out by the swimming pool.”

            “I told you, she’ll be more comfortable this way. She’s nervous about meeting you.”

            “If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make more sense to meet over dinner at Joe’s? Or grab a cup of coffee somewhere? Or a drink, even?

            “Dad.”

            “All right, all right. Let’s just get on with it. How is she not freezing, anyway?”

            Dawson slid the patio door open so father and son could step onto the concrete terrace leading to the backyard. The inground pool beyond their lounge chairs and barbeque glimmered. “I cranked up the heat.” 

            Underwater lamps and knee-level lights around the pool created a soft glow. Wisps of steam curled up from the surface. Paul saw a shadowy figure in the furthest corner, a few feet to the left of the diving board.

            Dawson’s smile stretched across his face and his eyes twinkled. He swept a hand toward the pool. “Dad, this is Penelope.”

            A gentle splash sent ripples across the surface and Paul watched as a silhouette glided toward them—arms outstretched, hands together, hair flowing, and tailfin pumping up and down.

            Penelope broke the surface in the shallow end of the pool close to where the to two men stood. She rested her arms on the tiled lip and let her body float behind her. She looked up at Paul’s face. He saw pleading in her eyes.

            “Hi Paul. It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said in a quiet voice. She lowered her eyes as soon as she finished talking.

            Paul gawked. He scrambled for something to say, but he rejected statement after statement as quickly as they came to him.

            “Dad?” An expectant look flashed in his son’s eyes.

            “Ah, hi. Penelope. That sure is some get-up you got there.”

            “Isn’t it?” Dawson gushed. “Completely custom made. She got it online. It’s one of a kind, just like her.”

            Boy, was it ever. Below her waist, overlapping, quarter-sized, silicone scales sparkled in graduated shades of blue. They covered her lower half and culminated in a feathery fin at least three feet wide from tip to tip. An ornate corset made up of synthetic shells, pearls, and swirling seaweed filigree covered her torso. Classic white clamshells shrouded her bosom.

             Penelope wore a shimmering tiara swathed with pointy whorled shells, sea stars and scallops. Glittering beads and little polished cowries dripped off it over long pale pink tresses.

             This is the one? This shy little thing playing dress up in the back yard? Paul continued to stare.

            “Isn’t she beautiful, dad?” Dawson prompted.

            Paul had to admit, she was. Weird, but definitely attractive in a sweet sort of way.

            “Dad, don’t you have anything else to say?”

            “Uh, I’ve got dinner. Inside. If you’re hungry.”

            “Okay, dad. Let me help her out of the pool. We’ll catch up.” Dawson unfolded the towel and silky garment draped over his arm.

            “Is she going to change?”

            “Of course not. We’ll be there in a minute.”

             Paul waited at the table. He opened the chardonnay and gulped down a glass. He knew it was rude, but he needed to calm his nerves so he didn’t do anything worse. He thought of how ashamed his wife would be of his ill manners. And then wondered what Melody would have made of this whole situation. Maybe he’d found a consolation at last—she was spared seeing their only child not only fail to launch, but now going gaga for a wannabe mermaid. He huffed to himself, amused. Ha, I’m glad meeting in the pool made her comfortable, because it’s made me a wreck.

            Dawson walked in carrying Penelope. She was small but with the rubber tail and all, Paul guessed she was at least one-thirty, one-thirty-five. He didn’t remember his son being that strong. Dawson carefully lowered her into a chair across from Paul and then took the seat between them.

            Penelope wore a long robe. She appeared dry everywhere except her hair.

            Paul cleared his throat and held up the bottle of wine in offering. Penelope nodded slightly so Paul stood and poured her a healthy serving. He moved to fill Dawson’s glass as well, but his son covered it with his hand. “I’ll be driving her home later. None for me.”

            Paul’s eyes opened a little wider. His son was not one to turn down a drink.

            Paul sat. “I made salmon. Do you eat, uh, fish?”

            Penelope smiled for the first time and let out a little laugh. “All the time.”

            Much to his surprise Paul found himself charmed.

            At some point, Paul complemented Penelope’s tiara. Before she could thank him, Dawson cut in. “Isn’t it great? She makes them and sells them online. You wouldn’t believe how much she gets for the fancy ones. She has a waiting list a mile long. My Penelope is a world-class jeweler when she’s not busy being a mermaid.”

            “Does being a mermaid keep you pretty busy then?” Paul ventured with a smile.

            “Yes,” Penelope answered with a modest nod.

            “I wasn’t serious…”

            “Dad, she’s part of a mermaid community. They do a lot, a lot of public service.”

            “Really?” He arched an eyebrow in Penelope’s direction.

            “Well, it’s not all good deeds. We do photoshoots and get togethers. We support each other, but we also stage meet and greet environmental swims in public places to teach kids about protecting the planet and its creatures. And we volunteer for a couple of children’s charities. Visiting kids with cancer. Stuff like that. It’s actually fun. They get us. They have a way of seeing through to a person’s true self.”

            “Oh.”

            “Dad, Penelope and I have big news.”

            Paul braced himself. What would it be this time? Was she pregnant? Were they buttering him up for an investment in some business scheme? Was Dawson going to whip out a fin of his own? Paul opened a second bottle of wine.

            “We’re moving in together.”

            “Penelope’s moving into the basement with you?”

            “No dad. We found a place, an apartment. It has a courtyard with a huge indoor pool. We got a two bedroom so there will be space for Penelope’s studio. It’s perfect for us.”

            “How are you going to pay the rent?”

            “We could afford it on Penelope’s income, but I need to do my share, so I talked to Blaine and got back on at Craftcade.”

            Paul stopped drinking mid-gulp. Blaine was the most recent in a long line of Paul’s clients who had done him a favor by offering his deadbeat kid work. It never lasted long and the gig at Craftcade was no exception. “Blaine agreed to take you back?”

            “Yeah. It’s not exactly my old position. He’s opened two new stores and really needs the help. I’m working as assistant manager at the newest location on Eighth. I know I’ve got to earn his trust again. It’s long hours helping with the rollout, but it’s worth it.” Dawson smiled at Penelope and took her hand in his.

            Paul found this shocking. More shocking than his son’s girlfriend’s tail.

            “I’m gonna clear some of this away. I’ve got dessert. Key lime pie. And I can put on some coffee.” Paul stood and gathered a few dishes.

            “Did your wife paint that?” Penelope asked, gazing toward a large sandcastle painting in the living room.

            “She did. It’s number five in the series that really launched her career.”

            “It’s beautiful. Do you have the others?”

            “No. Two are in museums, three are in private collections, and the last one she donated to the downtown library where it’s on permanent display.”

            Sandcastle #5 was a masterpiece and had been Melody’s favorite. The subject was a sandcastle on a beach, but a trick of perspective made it unclear if it was a small castle viewed from a close distance or a large castle viewed from further away. It displayed either an enchanted palace jutting out of the ocean or a magical castle further up shore separated from the sea, depending on how the observer saw it.

            “It calls to me. I’d like a closer look. Dawson, do you mind?”

            “Of course not.” This time Dawson lifted her, chair and all, and carried her across the room. Penelope examined it closely. Paul stared, impressed.

            “I’m going to give dad a hand with these.” Dawson grabbed some cups and silverware and followed Paul into the kitchen, where he pounced. “Isn’t she great dad? Don’t you just love her?”

            “She seems nice enough, but don’t you find the whole mermaid thing weird?”

            “No.” Dawson slammed a glass onto the counter.

            “Don’t get upset, son, but what kind of grown woman goes around pretending she’d a mermaid?”

            “She’s not pretending, dad. Jesus. I thought you’d understand.” Dawson’s jaw tightened as red started creeping up his face. “How many times have you, yourself told me, Mom was born to be a painter? You said that. Could you even imagine her being anything else? She was nothing like the other moms. She wasn’t like anyone else and you loved that about her.”

            “That’s different.”

            “Is it? What do you think her life would have been like if Grams and Gramps had forced her to go to nursing school? Or pushed business on her? What about you? What if someone said, ‘You’re not really an accountant. It’s all in your head. You’ll do fine as a builder. Or a lawyer. Or a god damn party planner.’ Do you think you could just turn off being an accountant and be a party planner because people expect it of you?”

            Paul looked at his son, slack-jawed.

            “She’s a mermaid, dad. As sure as you’re an accountant, Mom was an artist, and I’m a man in love. I think we’ll skip the pie. And don’t wait up for me. I’m staying at Penelope’s tonight.”

            After Dawson stormed out, as much as one can storm while holding a mermaid, Paul brought the wine into the living room and finished it as he scrutinized Sandcastle #5.


            Paul spent a couple of long lonely weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. In spite of all the years he lamented his unemployed, basement-dwelling son, he missed Dawson. He called Blaine to check up on him and got a glowing report. “He’s a new man, Paul. He’s happy and hardworking. I’ve promoted him to supervisor of all three stores.”

            “Dawson willingly took on that kind of responsibility?”

            “He jumped at the opportunity. Said he’s saving for a ring. He really loves Penelope.”

            “Blaine, don’t you find the whole mermaid thing strange?”

            “Well, Paul, my oldest and her wife are raising their kids pagan. My middle son pays good money to jump off bridges tied to a giant rubber band, and my youngest practically lives in some online space realm, so who am I to say?”

            There was no denying Dawson’s new lease on life. Paul felt proud and knew he needed to make things right with his son and his future daughter-in-law. Marshaling his strength, he marched to the kitchen, grabbed a glass and fresh bottle of red, and headed to Melody’s studio.

            Paul stood in front of the door for an eternity. He had closed off the room on the day of the funeral and no one had set a foot inside since. Paul squeezed his eyes closed, held his breath, reached for the knob and turned it.

            Paul inhaled the chemical smells of oils and acrylics and felt Melody’s presence. Everything was exactly where she had left it, canvases, paintbrushes of all sizes, and shelves covered with knickknacks—driftwood, shells, and sand dollars. Paul picked up a big bleached conch and put it to his ear. Whispering waves transported him to happier days—romantic moonlit strolls with chilly surf tickling their bare feet, tidepool explorations with their excited young son, and blazing bonfires on the beach.

            He poured a glass of wine.

            “Our son is in love with a mermaid,” Paul announced to the room. “He’s going to marry her. I didn’t make a great first impression.” Paul took a sip, put down the glass, and started sorting through stacks. “I kind of messed things up. Oh, hell. I blew it babe. I’m going to need your help to make it right.”

            Paul spent the rest of the evening rummaging, reminiscing, and drinking. It wasn’t nearly as painful as he expected. Around midnight he found his prize—three rough sketch studies for Sandcastle #5. They weren’t as pretty as the final work but they revealed thoughts, plans, and dreams behind the painting. Paul wrapped them in craft paper, texted the framing company Melody always used, set them on the front porch for the courier and went to bed.


            A sensor chimed as Paul walked into the frame store. A stocky woman with maraschino cherry hair styled into a mohawk fin greeted Paul from behind the counter. “You here for the sandcastle sketches?”

“Yep.”

            “They turned out great. Take a look.” The three drawings shared a single frame, laid out side by side, matted in dark green.

            “It’s fantastic.”

            “Thanks. I do my best work when I’m inspired.”

            “You like them?”

            “Love them. They feel like home. I have a thing for all subjects aquatic though.” She stretched her arms forward and rotated them. Reef tattoos covered every inch like colorful sleeves. Drawn in, Paul spied eels poking out from rocky caverns, orange, yellow, and purple fish darting here and there, swaying corals, and an octopus extending tentacles in all directions.

            “Wow. You’re a regular mermaid.”

            “I sure am. I’m the rarest kind of mermaid. The two-legged variety.” She winked. “There are more of us around than people realize. But we’re easier to spot when you know how to look.”

            Armed with his peace offering, Paul headed to Dawson and Penelope’s place.

            The minute Paul walked through the door, warm air and the clean smell of chlorine hit him. It was just as Dawson had described– a large courtyard with an enormous swimming pool surrounded by two levels of numbered apartment doors. It reminded Paul of a Holiday Inn Holidome they stayed at when Dawson was little.

            Penelope was cowering in the far corner of the pool, turned away from Paul. Something rained down on her. She covered her head with her arms. Paul followed the projectiles to their source and saw two boys on the balcony. The older one tossed Ninja Turtle arms, legs, heads, and shells and yelled, “Get out, weirdo.”

            The younger one launched hard plastic Happy Meal toys and shrieked, “freak, freak, freak.”

            Paul leaned his parcel on the wall and turned to the boys. “What are you doing? Stop it, now,” he thundered.

            The boys paused their onslaught, but the bigger one challenged. “Why should we? She says she’s a mermaid. My mom says she’s looney. Get out, looney. We don’t want you in our pool, looney.”

            “Your mom’s wrong. She’s no looney. She’s a mermaid.” Paul said it with such conviction a questioning look crept into the boy’s eyes.

            Paul doubled down. “You have a real, live mermaid in your pool. Do you know how rare and lucky that is? They’re magical creatures, you know. Offending one is stupid.”

            He extended his arms down so Penelope could grab hold and pull herself out of the water. With a splash, she perched on the ledge next to Paul’s feet.

            The smaller boy looked downright worried. The spokesboy, uncertain. “How would you know?” His voice wavered.

            “I was married to one, although it took me a long while to realize it.” Paul turned to Penelope. “Can I help you to your apartment? I brought something for you and Dawson.”

            Penelope nodded. Paul leaned down, placed an arm around her back and one under the bend in her tail and scooped her up. Paul looked back up at the boys. “Don’t waste time. Learn to spot mermaids now, fellas. It’ll serve you well.”

            He turned to Penelope. Gratitude shone in her eyes.

            “I’m an old guy still figuring things out. I do okay, but I’m not as bright as my son. He’s an enterprising young man with his eyes on the real prize. He knows treasure when he sees it—the rarest kind of treasure.”

Katrinka Mannelly writes and lives in Fircrest, Washington with her husband Brian, daughter Tigist, dog Queenie and cat Riptide. “Triangulation: Extinction,” Parsec Ink’s 2020 annual speculative fiction anthology includes her short story “No One Needs a Chiweenie” Her flash fiction “Twinkle,” is currently featured on https://www.metastellar.com. Her book, “Section 130” is available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.

The Banquet of the Holy Spirit by Seattle Poet (anonymous)

The stars have sputtered into dust –
Frail points of light,
In droves devoured
By a swirling mass of black.
Orion’s arrows flit no more,
And the darkness strips the bear of his hide –
The hand of God has swept the skies of all their light,
And by his hand, the Sun and constellations die.

Yet the blood moon shines in all its garish red –
Though no sun remains to be eclipsed.
The night has disemboweled the light of day,
And its ravenous visage be drenched crimson
In the viscera of its slaughter –
Gaze you now upon the gore-stained face of God,
Peering down with a penetrating stare,
Upon frozen earth and flaming seas,
From a blackened, stellar veil
Of damned, digested souls.

As one veil descends, another be torn.
The powers that be make themselves known –
We are but fodder for the famished ancient One –
The god of Heaven and his many-headed angels
Come down to mortal planes to reap their crop,
Gorge themselves on manly flesh,
And suck out the mind and spirit,
As mollusks from a shell.

Mere repast in the maw of a hungry God,
Both saints and sinners be.
The brand of the heavenly beast
May never be removed,
For he who crafted the stars
May swiftly sweep them away,
To make way for his salivating feast.

All is in vain,
For we are swine, fowl, and cattle all.

 

Seattle Poet enjoys writing poems with horror, fantasy, or science fiction themes and spiritual/religious/occult-based imagery, or — in this case– Lovecraftian imagery and inspirations drawn from the anime/manga ‘Berserk’. Seattle Poet enjoys old-school epic/fantasy poems such as Coldridge’s “Mariner,” as well as rock/heavy metal lyrics. Seattle Poet’s lyrical inspirations include Geezer Butler, Leif Edling, Quorthon, Mark Shelton, and many others.

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Like Butterflies By Lorna McGinnis

Butterflies“I want to forget.” She looked upwards, into its eyes, trying to sound firm.

“Don’t you all.” It raised an eyebrow. It was amazing how human it looked. If she didn’t know better she would have mistaken it for a woman. It wore a tailored suit and a string of pearls. Its hair was blond, going gray at in places, and done up into a neat bun. It was classy without being ostentatious.

“Can you do that? Make me forget?” She smoothed a hand over her blouse and shifted back a little.

“It depends.” It quirked its mouth into something that was almost a smile. Now that she considered, it was the little things that gave it away. There was something in the voice that was just a little too…fluid. The eyes were wrong too. She gave a discreet shudder. She’d never met anyone with eyes like that before. The light in them was too intense, almost burning, like they could see right through a person and out the other side.

“Is there something wrong?” The thing’s mouth widened.

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Circle of Oaks By Ellen Miffitt

Miffitt_image 3It happened in the woods, far from the nearest dwelling. Removed from civilization proper, the forest primeval was deep, dark, silent. So remote, little human contact had been made with this section of forest. It stood untouched, sacred in stance. The eldest trees scratched the sky with tender twigs. The sunlight filtered through this ancient stand’s thick trunks and massive branches to the moss covered earth rich with centuries of leaf droppings.

She sat still, frozen in place, except for her heaving chest as she struggled to catch her breath. A faint finger of light slide through the tangle of forest canopy brushing her ebony hair barely giving form to her shade cloaked body. The forest sentinels surrounded her, their tight circle hid her from view, not that anyone was watching. She’d eluded them all, managed to find her way into this deep space. Sweat glistened on her pale skin; dark patches on her clothing disclosed her recent labor. Her ragged race was a desperate last measure to find freedom at any cost. Exertion ended, her breath gradually returned to normal. The sound of it whispered off the encircling trees, barely audible to even her. She listened, strained with her whole being to hear, dreading the possibility. When would they come? She knew they would.

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Stripes by Jonah Barrett

JonahBarrettHeadshot1 Missed Call, 1:25am

Sylvia Zou, 1:26am: Are you asleep? This isn’t anything scary but could you call me?

Sylvia Zou, 2:34am: Okay possibly scary. Not about us but I’m freaking out right now. I feel really bad, and I think your phone is down and…fuck. I’d really love your help right now Megan. I know you hate it when people are touchy feely but you help me a lot sometimes

2 Missed Calls, 2:39am

Sylvia Zou, 2:55am: I’m a little better now. I still wanna talk though. Please. Not for any real reason, I think it would just calm me down, or something. I’m really sorry for this slew of texts. Uncool of me.

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Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? By Christian Carvajal

Carv Author PhotoThe Ninjas were just sitting down when President Mendoza arrived, her Secretary of State in anxious tow. I was there by virtue of being one of the handful of American linguists capable of reproducing the apical velar stops, retroflex implosives, and tonal distinctions of our visitors’ formal dialect. Yes, the Ninjas can sit, though it stretches their pelvic joints backward in a curve that strikes unprepared observers as obscene. We call them Ninjas or Keplings partly because their actual name for themselves contains two lateral trills, and good luck with that. It’s also worth noting that Keplan Tradespeak uses nominative diacritics, so if you don’t know how to incorporate those, you could accidentally call them a similar noun they’d consider an act of war. These creatures bent space and evaded relativity to travel 1200 light-years from Kepler 62-e, so it’s a war they’d win without breaking a sweat. And yes, they do sweat. Their perspiration smells like cucumber. It’s lovely. I mean that.

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Don’t Piss Off the Fairies by Lory French

IMG_20140517_161510He’s there against the wall, straining so hard that the veins on his neck are popping out. Grunting in terror or maybe pain, he’s got his elbows straight out in front of him, hands crossed and against his neck. At first I think he’s strangling himself until I notice that he is suspended about 6 inches off the ground. An icy chill rushes over me from scalp to sole, rebounding back up into my chest. This guy looks like he is fighting for his life against an enemy I can’t even see. My instinct to help is completely embattled by my instinct for self-preservation in the face of a visual I can’t reconcile. I rock on my heels back and forth as if I am going to lunge into the fight, but I can’t muster the courage. I can’t even believe that I’m actually witnessing what I must be witnessing.

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The Case of the Tree Spirit by Teresa Carol

Teresa Carol in Gig Harbor (1)I sat entranced across the table from the golden-haired lady who was explaining to me in detail the unusual occurrences she had witnessed at her home. I was surprised at how extremely beautiful she was. It was not the normal beauty that many women have, rather it seemed almost supernatural. Her hair was like spun silk which shimmered in the bright light of the coffee shop. Her skin seemed to glow with soft dew-like moisture. She was small in frame and light in body. I guessed that she was around fifty years of age.

“Your skin is so lovely,” I interrupted, “Do you mind if I ask what you use.”

“Oh!” she fluttered her hands. “It’s really quite simple,” her soft, pink, perfectly formed lips separated into an amazing smile. “I make it myself using rosewater and honey.”

She looked a little embarrassed. “Since I moved to Steilacoom I became interested in all kinds of salves and teas. It began when I kept discovering new herbs in my garden and at the same time I would come across a recipe using those herbs. I began experimenting. I still find a new plant from time to time and almost daily I come across a recipe for everything from healing burns to removing warts. It’s wonderful how well these natural ingredients work!”

I stared at her. “You mean you have a magical garden that provides you not only ingredients but also recipes?”

She tittered, very self conscious, “Yes, I call it my Findhorn after the place in Scotland where the angels and divas help the Findhorn Community grow the extraordinary large vegetables in barren soil. I nodded being familiar with the project founded by Eileen and Peter Caddy at a garbage dump in Findhorn, Scotland.

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Shattering by Annalise Thomas

DSC_0263-001You can’t see the cave looming ahead, but you can feel its darkness reaching out to strike.

“Are you sure about this?” you ask. Your hand is tentative on the elder’s arm, and you stumble as he guides you over a rocky patch of ground. The sword and heavy bag swing unbalanced on your hips. “I really don’t think I’m suited for this kind of thing.”

The elder pats your hand gently, patronizingly. “I am certain,” he replies. You wait for elaboration, maybe a few worn-out but generous words of inspiration, but he does not bother.

He slips away at the mouth of the cave, his bone-thin arm unsheathing from under yours. He leaves you with nothing but a murmured “good luck” that sounds more like “goodbye” and a lingering boiled-cabbage smell. You immediately decide that if you die, you won’t miss him. You refuse to miss anyone from your village. You almost hope the monster kills you, so the village will be indebted to your memory and forced to recant every mockery they’ve ever made of you—the price they should pay for trying to make a hero out of you. If you die, they’ll remember your sacrifice, but if you succeed they’ll laud you as a hero. There’s no downside, you tell yourself. Even if you don’t get the chance to do it yourself, somehow your story will be told.

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Excerpt of Nightlife Interrupted by Robert Hazelton

Nightlife Interrupted CoverThe game was a bust. Those punk ass brats were on it and my dice went on strike. I’ve never heard a ten-sided die tell me to fuck off in such a meaningful way. I had better luck with Ophelia and considering how our conversation went, I was doomed the second I sat down at the table. My poor minis and I should’ve bowed out after the first blow to my ego.

I wasn’t that smart.

At ten o’clock, I was brooding behind the counter over my failures when I really started to think about Ophelia. She was right about Meredith, I had no idea why I was made. The thing I didn’t know was what it mattered. What made it suspicious? More importantly, why was she so against vampires? I had no answers, only questions but fortunately, I knew someone who might be able to help me out.

Unfortunately, he hung out at Club Eternal. I was hoping Jade would already be gone by the time I got there but it was a big enough place that we probably wouldn’t run into each other. As long as my employees could be trusted to watch the shop, then everything would be fine. I rarely left and none of them were used to soloing it.

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